Bilam knows his curse is meaningless without Hashem’s approval and therefore the first thing that Bilam does is to request Hashem’s permission. Interestingly enough, once Hashem then rejects that request, Bilam at first obliges, rejecting Balak’s messengers and telling them that he can not fulfill Balak’s request.
After this the story gets even more bizarre. Bilam sets out on his mission, but is quickly stopped when his donkey inexplicably veers off the road. Frustrated and insistent, Bilam tries to force the donkey back on the path but the donkey just refuses and instead asks Bilam: Have I ever let you down in the past? Before Bilam even has time to comprehend, an angel suddenly appears before him, sword drawn. Bilam sees the angel in his path and realizes that this is what the donkey had seen that made him so fearful.
With this idea in mind, we can then begin to explain the story of Bilam. When Hashem first said no to Bilam, He was telling Bilam that the heavenly decree was that Bilam should not go. When Bilam insisted on asking again, he effectively revealed to Hashem his true will- which explains why Hashem then accordingly adjusted His answer. Despite this, Bilam should have realized his misjudgment on his own and independently decided to repent and adhere to Hashem’s will. Instead, Bilam starts on his way where his donkey soon sees the angel. Our question there was: Why didn’t the angel just appear to Bilam? The answer is because then Bilam would have returned home only out of fear of the angel (and his sword) and not in true Teshuva and deference to the will of Hashem. In the same vain, when the donkey asks Bilam: Have I ever let you down in the past? The donkey is telling Bilam that perhaps the donkey sees something that Bilam does not see; perhaps he is looking out for Bilam’s best interest. Bilam should have then realized the Kal Vachomer– if a donkey can clearly see the dangers of my chosen path, then certainly Hashem can.
I believe this story imparts to us an invaluable lesson. Is what Bilam did really so far from our own actions? How many times do we also struggle between Hashem’s path and what we see as our own visions of our agenda? May the message of this week’s parsha serve as the beginning of our own journey to realizing that, in truth, there really is no other path than that of Hashem.