Friday, July 29, 2016
This Week’s Parsha – Pinchas:
This week’s parsha is Pinchas, and at first, Hashem talks about how Pinchas turned back His wrath from upon the Jews, when he avenged His vengeance. As we discussed at the end of last parsha report, one of the princes of the Jews was doing a bad thing with a Midiani woman in public, and Pinchas killed them both with a spear, which was a very great thing in that case. The people who did the sin – their names were Casbi and Zimri. And since they were doing the thing was in public, it could have made the rest of the Jews think that that thing was okay, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid. Pinchas acted with zealousness, and killed them for Hashem. What exactly is zealousness? Mesilas Yesharim (written by the Ramchal zt”l) discusses the fact that a person should be zealous to do a good deed, and that they should think about whether what they are going to do is a good thing or not, and if it is, then you should do it, and if not, not. Pinchas, as we are told, asked Moshe before doing what he did, and then he did it. So he actually acted zealously in a proper manner. By first, maintaining that the thing he was going to do was the right thing, and then he went and did it. A lesson we can take for nowadays from this is that when we see a good thing that we can do, make sure that it is a good thing, and then go and do it! This is very important.
Now on to the parsha: The first two pessukim/verses are: ‘Vayi’daber Hashem el Moshe leimor. Pinchas ben Elazar ben Aharon HaKohen heishiv es chamasi mei’al B’nei Yisroel, bi’kano es kinasi bi’socham, vi’lo chilisi es B’nei Yisroel bi’kinasi/And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying. Pinchas the son of Elazar the son of Aharon the Kohen returned My wrath from upon the B’nei Yisroel, when he zealously avenged Me in their midst, and I did not destroy the B’nei Yisroel because of My wrath.’ First, the Tosher Rebbe (Rebbe Meshulam Feish Lowy zt”l) asks; why is the word ‘leimor/saying’ in this verse? Usually, when the Torah uses the word ‘leimor/saying’ it means that the thing is supposed to be told over for all generations and to all Jews, but this looks like it needed to really only be told over to Pinchas! So he quotes the Or HaChaim (HaRav Chaim ben Attar zt”l) who explains that maybe it was supposed to be told to the Jews to tell them that it was an incredible thing what Pinchas did. But the Tosher Rebbe zt”l wants to give another answer: He explains – based on something from the Zohar – that a Kohen is supposed to convert the middah/trait of Gevurah/strength; sternness, into the middah/trait of Chesed/kindness. Pinchas was rewarded for his deed by becoming a Kohen, as we know. So he explains that the word leimor/saying can go to teach us that this is indeed a lesson for all generations. The lesson being that we all have to try to turn darkness into light, bitterness into sweetness, sternness into kindness, etc. This is a very important thing, as he continues beautifully; we are all kind of like Kohanim, as the word Kohen is sort of a verb, meaning somebody who serves Hashem, and we all should be that!1 What a wonderful lesson!
Back to the parsha: On the second verse which I quoted, there are lots of Mefarshim/commentaries: 1) Rashi quotes from Gemara Sanhedrin 82b and the Midrashim, which explain that the Torah traces Pinchas’ lineage back to Aharon because the other tribes were saying bad things about him, because his mother’s father was Yisro, who, before converting, had fattened cows for sacrifices to idols. Therefore, the Torah traced his lineage to Aharon, maybe sort of silencing the gossipers. 2) The Lubavitcher Rebbe (Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson zt”l) comments on this as well, and, drawing on this Rashi, explains that fattening cows for slaughter to idols is an extremely cruel thing to do, and when Pinchas killed Zimri, the people thought that he had gotten a cruel nature from what his maternal grandfather, Yisro, used to do, and he wasn’t really acting out of zealousness for Hashem, but out of cruelness, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid! So, says the Rebbe zt”l, the Torah traces his lineage back to Aharon, showing everybody that his nature was actually peace-loving, like his paternal grandfather, and so he was acting out of zeal for Hashem for real. Reb Menachem Mendel even continues and explains further that part of the greatness of Pinchas was that he actually went against his own peace-loving nature, by killing Zimri and Casbi, but it was for Hashem.2 We need to be able to go against our own natures as well, if it is a good thing and for Hashem. 3) On another note, many ask why the Torah says that Pinchas ‘zealously avenged Me in their midst’; why does Hashem say ‘bisocham/in their midst’? So, the Kotzker Rebbe (Rebbe Menachem Mendel Morgenstern zt”l) explains that it teaches us that Pinchas, with his act, instilled in the Jews such a hate for that type of bad thing, that it was literally ‘in their midst’; i.e. it was inside of each Jew. It was not just an outer show of hate for the sin, but he instilled it within them so strongly, that it was actually in their insides spiritually.3 This is connected to what it says in Tehillim (97:10) ‘Ohavei Hashem sin’u raa/You who love Hashem; hate evil’. And this actually is very connected to the whole Pinchas affair: He loved Hashem so much, so he also hated evil terribly, and so, when he saw the people desecrating Hashem’s Holy Name in public, he acted with zealousness, and killed them both. Again, this is a big lesson for us – we need to love Hashem, and hate evil. 4) The Tosher Rebbe (Rebbe Meshulam Feish Lowy zt”l) now explains something on this verse: He asks; why does the Hashem say that ‘Pinchas returned My wrath from upon the B’nei Yisroel’? Would it not be more proper to write that he turned away Hashem’s wrath from the B’nei Yisroel, and not ‘returned’ it? So he answers that this teaches us that Pinchas did not really turn away Hashem’s wrath from upon the Jews, but he actually returned it, as the verse says. As Reb Lowy zt”l discussed above based on the Zohar, a Kohen is supposed to turn the attribute of sternness into kindness, and so Pinchas did not turn the anger away from the Jews, he ‘returned’ it, by doing the good thing which he did, and changed the anger of Hashem (which is part of the attribute of sternness sometimes) into the attribute of kindness (and Hashem stopped the plague).4 True, we deserved to all get punished terribly for how bad we sinned, but Hashem had mercy on us.
Back to the parsha: Hashem said that He was giving Pinchas His covenant of peace, and also, because of what he did, He was giving to him the eternal covenant of the Kahuna. This made all of his descendants Kohanim as well. Rashi explains that Pinchas had not been a Kohen until now, because, though he came from Aharon, he was born before Aharon was anointed as a Kohen. We also learn this in Gemara Zevachim (101b), Rashi says. In this Aliyah, Hashem tells Moshe about how we have to cause trouble to the Midianim and smite them, because of what they did to us with the idol Pe’or (the Jews served it a little) and with Casbi and Zimri (at the end of last parsha). Hashem also tells Moshe and Elazar to count the Jews, from twenty years of age and up (up to 60, I believe). The Torah lists a lot of families of the different Tribes, and also the Tribes’ numbers. For Reuven: 43,730. For Shimon: 22,200. For Gad: 40,500. For Yehuda: 76,500. For Yissachar: 64,300. For Zevulun: 60,500. For Menashe: 52,700. For Ephraim: 32,500. For Binyamin: 45,600. For Don: 64,400. For Asher: 53,400. For Naphtali: 45,400. For all of the Jews: 601,730. At the beginning of Shlishi/the third Aliyah, the Torah talks about the apportioning of the Land of Yisroel. The smaller Tribes would get a smaller portion and the bigger Tribes a bigger one. I believe that this teaches us a lesson in life: A person might get a “smaller” portion in something, having less than his fellow, but just like the some Tribes got bigger portions of the Land, and others got smaller ones, and none of them complained, so too with us. The fact is that even if it looks like we have a smaller portion, it is really all fair. Hashem in His Infinite Wisdom apportions everything fairly, and even if it looks to us like it might be “unfair”, it is actually fair, as Hashem apportions what we get in life. We must be happy with what we have, knowing that it all comes from Hashem, and everything which is supposed to come to us, Hashem will send.
Back to the parsha: Hashem says that the Land was to be apportioned through lots, and Rashi quotes from Gemara Bava Basra 122a and the Midrash, which explain that the lots were picked by Elazar the Kohen when inspired with Ruach HaKodesh/Divine Spirit. Also, in this Aliyah, there is a census taken of the Leviim from one month of age and up, and the total number came out to 23,000. Then, the Torah discusses how the daughters of Tzelophchad; Machlah, Noah, Chaglah, Milcah, and Tirtzah, came before Moshe, Elazar, the chieftains, and all of the Jews, and they told about how their father, Tzelophchad, had died in the Midbar/Wilderness, but he did not have any sons. So they asked why his name should be eliminated from his family just because he had no sons to inherit him, and they requested that they inherit him. So Moshe brought their case before Hashem. Hashem told Moshe that the daughters of Tzelophchad spoke justly, and that he should give them an inheritance. Then, Hashem tells Moshe the rules of inheritance: If a person dies, and they do not have a son, then their inheritance is transferred to their daughter. If they did not have a daughter, then it goes to their brothers. If the person does not have any brothers, then it goes to their father’s brothers. And if the person’s father did not have any brothers, then it goes to the family who is closest to the person. Later in this Aliyah, Moshe asks Hashem to appoint a leader over the Jews, and Hashem tells him to take Yehoshua, and He tells him a lot of specifics of what to do to him. In Chamishi/the fifth Aliyah, the Torah talks about different offerings. Each day, two unblemished lambs in their first year had to be offered to Hashem as Olah/Burnt-offerings. One was to be offered in the morning, and one in the evening. There is a very beautiful Chassidishe Gem which I will say on this topic: There is a Chassidishe Master who explains that when the Torah says ‘Olas tamid/a continual Burnt-offering’ it teaches us a very important lesson: The word Olah means to go up, and the word tamid means always, or continual, so this verse teaches us, explains this Master, that a person should always (tamid) go upwards (Olah) in serving Hashem.5 This is a very important lesson for everybody, though it may be sometimes hard, we should always try to take this advice and, B’Eizer Hashem/With the Help of Hashem, put it into action.
Back to the parsha: In the last two Aliyos, the Torah discusses the Holidays and the offerings which you offer on them. Nowadays, when we do not have the Beis HaMikdash, we can only do the special prayers on these days. May Hashem rebuild the Beis HaMikdash very speedily in everyone’s days, and then we will be able to offer these special offerings again, Amein, so may it be His Will!
There are 168 pessukim/verses in this parsha.
Have a great Shabbos everyone!
1 YUTorah Online. Tosher Rebbe - Avodas Avodah: Parshas Pinchas. Shiur given by Rav Gedaliah Jaffe shlita.
2 Chabad.org. Parsha in-depth; Parshas Pinchas.
3 TorahAnytime.com. Teaching of the Chassidic Masters: Stories, Insights, and Customs. Shiur given by Rav Doody Rosenberg shlita.
4 YUTorah Online. Tosher Rebbe - Avodas Avodah: Parshas Pinchas. Shiur given by Rav Gedaliah Jaffe shlita.
5 TorahAnytime.com. Chassidic Gems: Parashat Pinchas. Shiur given by Rebbe Elyakim Rosenblatt shlita.
at 12:31:00 PM