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Parashat Pinhas


In our parashah, Moshe Rabbenu, the loyal shepherd, requests of the Al-mighty, "Let Hashem, the source of breath for all creatures, appoint someone over the community. so that Hashem's community may not be like sheep that have no shepherd." Hashem thus commanded him to place his hands upon Yehoshua, thereby appointing him as his successor. What is demanded of the leader of Benei Yisrael? What are to be his characteristics? Hashem says, "Take Yehoshua, a man of spirit." Rabbenu Avraham Ibn Ezra zs"l asks, "Every living creature has a spirit!" The answer, of course, is that here what is required is an elevated spirit. We have heard about leaders that guarantee peace and security, a lowering of unemployment, a dependable healthcare system, etc. Needless to say, these are all important.

However, even before addressing the question of whether or not these promises have been fulfilled, this is not leadership. These qualities make up a good lieutenant-general, national treasurer or health minister. This does not, however, make one into a "person over the community," a person of vision and high standards, a leader who will look after his constituency like a shepherd tends to his flock.

Who is a leader, a loyal shepherd? The great Rav Avraham Yaffin zs"l, the head of the yeshivot of Nevarduk, told of the war between Russia and Japan, during which the yeshivot were unable to send people overseas to raise money, since the yeshivot would then be suspected of spying and establishing connections with enemy nations. The wicked government sought a "scapegoat" on whom to blame the weakness of the military, and the yeshivot had to do whatever they could in order not to provide any basis whatsoever for suspicion. Soon enough, no more funding was coming in, and the yeshivot's financial situation progressed steadily from bad to worse. Debts piled up and credit was withheld. The students were hungry, plain and simple. The situation deteriorated to such an extent that at nights the students would learn in the dark, without looking into the texts, since the yeshivot could not afford gas for the lamps.

The Roshei Yeshivot convened for an emergency meeting to assess the critical situation. They decided that if they could not send fundraising delegations to other countries, they would have to raise money from within the country itself, among the Jewish communities of Russia. The problem, of course, was that Russia was at war. All the talented workers were drafted for military service, and the economy was at a standstill. Even those who had the means withheld donations, as they feared what tomorrow might bring. The most generous philanthropists had a hard time dealing with the steady flow of requests for assistance. It was therefore decided that for the sake of saving the yeshivot, the Roshei Yeshivot themselves would go around to collect funds from donors. Only they, to whose hearts the students' crisis reached most poignantly, would be able to persuade potential donors to help save the yeshivot. Immediately, lists were compiled of the leading Roshei Yeshivah who would travel around the country in an effort to save the starving yeshivot.

Just as it seemed that this was the final decision, the "Saba" of Nevarduk, who established a well-known network of yeshivot, stood up and said, "True, the yeshivot are facing a serious crisis. The students have hardly any bread to eat, may Hashem save us! I am afraid, however, that if the Roshei Yeshivot themselves go to collect funds, they will come back with bags of bread, but only to find empty yeshivot. You do what you feel is necessary, but I am going back to my students!" He then left the meeting.

His piercing words cast a deafening silence upon the room, and the meeting was adjourned without another spoken word. Nevarduk received a thank-you note from Rav Issar Zalman Melsser zs"l, the Rosh Yeshivah of Slusk, who claimed that the "Saba"'s words saved the entire yeshivah world!

This is a true leader of Benei Yisrael, this is the "person over the community"! This is the "man of spirit." As much as he felt the pain of the hunger, he never forgot that the food is subordinate to the Torah. He understood in the depths of his heart that physical needs are but the medium by which one attains spirituality. As much as he was concerned about the physical needs, and he joined the meeting that convened to find a solution to the financial crisis, he refused to allow these needs to overshadow the central necessity, the spiritual need of a loyal shepherd.

Indeed, this is a shepherd of Israel, a true leader, who concerns himself tirelessly with the maintenance of a Torah educational system that informs Jewish children of their heritage, of their beautiful past, the golden chain that has been spun from Mount Sinai onwards throughout history. This is the leader that concerns himself with the establishment of a network of Torah classes throughout the land, taught at countless Torah institutions. This is the "man of spirit"; may he enjoy a long life of health and happiness, that we may continue to walk in his footsteps.

In essence, each of us serves as a shepherd to his household. Each one worries about supporting his family, working long hours to provide for his home. May each of us learn the lesson of this inspiring story. We must ensure that our work does not come at the expense of the spirituality of the sheep under our charge, that our pursuit of livelihood does not translate into the overshadowing of Torah, Heaven forbid. We must ensure that we still make a point of spending enough time with our families, with our children, so that the Torah remains at the center, and everything else at the periphery.


Rav Pinhas Halevi Horowitz zs"l, known as the "Ba'al Ha'hafla'ah," was a remarkable scholar as evidenced in his well known work. He was a never-ending fountain of novel ideas and insights, many of which appear in his work on the Humash called "Panim Yafot." Communities near and far would ask the great rav to spend Shabbat with them so that they may bask in the radiance of his unique tefilot and brilliant scholarly lectures. Throngs of people would gather to the Batei Midrash where he would pray and lecture.

Unfortunately, however, the people in his town were perfectly content with who they were and never bothered to go to his Bet Midrash. He used to say that for good reason his name was Pinhas, for his fate was the same as the section of the festivals in Parashat Pinhas. When it is read in their proper place, on Shabbat Parashat Pinhas, it is a time of mourning and distress - during the three weeks. In its own place, it is met with sadness. However, when this section is read out of context, on the festivals themselves, the reading is accompanied by great festivity and joy.

Indeed, his comments are not only sharp but also laden with an important message. If the Torah was read only once a year, certainly we would listen with intense concentration and attention. If tefilah would take place only once a year, we would recite it with such emotion and fervor. If we would allow a deceased soul the opportunity to perform a single missvah, it would grab the opportunity without losing a millisecond. Alas, how watered-down have our sensitivities become as a result of the immense wealth of Torah and missvot that we enjoy. We must try to appreciate missvot in accordance with their immense value, and rejoice in the special privilege we have to involve ourselves in Hashem's commandments.

The Wonders of the Creator

The Pelican

The pelican is one of the largest birds in the world. It is generally identified as the "ka'at," a bird listed in the Torah among the non-kosher animals, and in modern Hebrew it is called the "saknai." Among the most obvious of the pelican's physical characteristics is his extraordinarily long beak, which reaches a length of thirty centimeters, under which lies a large, expandable pouch of skin. It is because of this pouch that in modern Hebrew the pelican is called a "saknai." ("Sak" is the Hebrew word for a pouch.) So long as the pouch is empty, it is almost indiscernible. It is only when the pelican goes underwater to look for food that we understand the immense importance of this pouch. The pelican dives with his beak open into a large school of small fish, and the pouch becomes full of fish as well as water. When the pelican returns above water, the water is drained through the edges of the beak while the fish remain trapped inside. They then descend into the bird's belly. Interestingly, despite the pelican's heavy, clumsy appearance, it is actually quite light, thanks to many air-sacks passing underneath the pelican's skin. The bird's light weight ensures that the pelican doesn't drown when it dives. Additionally, the covering of air under the skin helps prevent shock from the outside and serves as a set of automatic safety wheels. The air-pockets also prevent the bird from any harm that could result from its plunge into the water.

The way in which the pelican catches its food, which is made possible by its special build, being heavy enough to dive but light enough not to drown, together with its pouch, render this creature - together with all others - as incontrovertible testimony to Divine Providence. Hashem has granted all its creatures the necessary means for receiving its sustenance. Although the pelican cannot speak, its testimony to Hashem's Providence is as convincing, loud and clear as any. If the Al-mighty granted animals the wherewithal to receive their sustenance, then certainly He did so for human beings, the crown jewel of creation. It is strange, therefore, that some people feel that adopting a religious lifestyle necessarily involves, for some reason, stopping to work. They therefore ask innocently, "What about making a living?" We must understand that this is not the case at all. A Jew can work and still be a fully G-d-fearing individual. One must, however, constantly bear in mind the words of David, "When you eat the labor of your hands, you are fortunate, and it is good for you." The stress here is on the work of the hands. One should not invest his entire being into the attainment of a livelihood. Rather, one must work for a living only through the appropriate means. But the head, the most important aspect of man's existence, must be focused upon Torah study, our lives and length of our days.

The Reward for a Missvah

a continuing saga
Part three

Flashback: The saintly Rav Semah Sarfati zs"l, the rabbi of Tunis, woke up as usual in the middle of the night to serve his Creator. However, he could not find the lighter to light his candle. He took his candle out into the storm and went to the bakery next door. The Arab worker woke up and lit the candle for the rabbi, but after the rabbi left the wind came and extinguished the candle. This happened several times, and the fourth time the rabbi knocked on the door the Arab's patience was lost. He lowered the heavy beam that locked the front door, invited the rabbi inside, and held out the heavy beam.

The worker turned to the rabbi and said, "Please, take hold of this iron beam." The rabbi was taken aback, but obeyed. He took the iron beam and almost collapsed under the weight. The Arab quickly took it from him and said, "Al Paki! All day long I work hard kneading the dough and taking the baked goods from the glowing-hot oven. I finish working at midnight, and only several hours later I have to get up to start working. The rabbi woke me up from my sleep four times, and each time I had to remove this heavy iron beam and then put it back. Will this come to an end?"

The rabbi answered, "First of all, I want to thank you sincerely for your trouble on my behalf. I also genuinely apologize for the trouble I have caused you. Finally, I bless you that the Al-mighty gives you an abundance of gold, the weight of the heavy beam that you had to lift for me!"

The worker's face shone in delight, whereas it was well known that words of the ssadik were heard in the heavens and his blessings were fulfilled. He then offered, "The rabbi doesn't have to carry the candle to his home.

Let me come with you; I will carry the candle and make sure that it is not extinguished." The rabbi graciously accepted the offer, and the worker carefully took the candle and protected it with his hands while the rabbi opened the door to his home. The Arab went inside with the rabbi, lit his lamp, and then returned to the bakery pleased with the blessing he received from the rabbi, which he was sure would be fulfilled.

Several days later, a man entered the bakery to purchase a loaf of bread. He took note of the worker's zeal and devoted work even when his overseer wasn't watching. The man turned to the worker and asked, "Tell me please, what is your salary?"

"Two franks a day," answered the worker.

"Would you be interested in working for me for two months, at a salary of ten franks a day?" asked the man.

"Doing what?" asked the worker.

"It's a secret," came the reply, "and I am not allowed to tell you.".....

to be cont.

The Golden Column

Rabbi Misod Edrei zs"l

Underneath the wide rim of his hat, the ssadik Rabbi Misod Edrei zs"l sewed a piece of parchment which contained the Divine Names of "H-V-Y-H" and "A-D-N-Y," as well as the combination of both Names. In this way, these sacred Names were in front of his eyes at all times, in fulfillment of the pasuk, "I place Hashem opposite me, always."

Indeed, he stood before his Creator at all times, in every way. He stood constantly before the Al-mighty as a loyal servant before his master.

Once, his wife joined him for a visit to Eliyahu's cave, and afterwards they prepared to go to sleep. Rav Misod, however, extended his prayers, and his wife drifted off to sleep. She woke up an hour later, only to see the ssadik still engrossed in prayer. She fell asleep again and woke up two hours later, and her husband still stood in supplication before Hashem.

This continued until the morning, and the ssadik thus fulfilled the dictum, "If only a person prayed the entire day"!

His children tell that they never saw their father asleep. When they went to sleep he was still studying intensely, and in the morning they would wake up to his pleasant voice as he learned. He would learn and conduct prayers until the time for "tefilat vatikin" approached, at which point he would put on his tallit and tefillin and leave the house with his open siddur in hand.

Whereas nobody was out on the street and this early hour, he had no reason for concern that he would see something forbidden. Nevertheless, he feared that the mundane street would interrupt between his hours of Torah study and tefilah, and he wished to establish a continuous progression of sanctity. He therefore kept his eyes focused on his siddur the entire way as he walked from his home to the Bet Kenesset.

From the Wellsprings of the Parashah

"By displaying among them his zealousness for Me"

Rav Ovadia Seforno zs"l explains this pasuk as referring to the fact that Pinhas carried out Hashem's avenge publicly, in full view. This explanation, however, seems to go against the comment of the Midrash that Pinhas went into the tent where Zimri and Kozbi were together, and there he killed them; not in public view! The answer is found in the Targum Yonatan Ben Uziel on this pasuk. The Targum Yonatan lists twelve miracles that occurred when Pinhas killed Zimri and Kozbi. One of them was that the doorway of the tent miraculously lifted, allowing Pinhas to leave the tent, his dagger with the two sinners in hand. Pinhas carried them around throughout the entire camp of Benei Yisrael without tiring. Among the other miracles were the fact that Zimri and Kozbi's relatives saw and did not react and the miraculous sturdiness of the dagger, which held the weight of its two victims without breaking. Furthermore, Kozbi and Zimri remained alive throughout Pinhas' journey around the camp in order that he, who later became a kohen, not become ritually impure. Moreover, their blood became congealed and did not fall on him. As soon as everyone saw Zimri and Kozbi, they fell to the ground and died. Pinhas then turned to the heavens and pleaded, "Master of the World, for these people twenty-two thousand people from Benei Yisrael will die!?" At that moment, Hashem's compassion was aroused and the plague came to an abrupt end.

An obvious question arises. Why was it necessary to ensure that Pinhas would not become "tamei" (ritually impure)? He was not yet appointed as a kohen and as such, it was not prohibited for him to become ritually impure. He could have become "tamei" and then undergo the purification process. Secondly, why was it necessary to ensure that the sinners' blood would not fall upon him and make him dirty. Does the preservation of his cleanliness deserve a miracle?

It would seem that we have here another manifestation of an important principle revealed to us by Rav Hayyim Shemuelevitz zs"l. As we know, Moshe 's mother, Yocheved, was deserving enough to have her son saved and not killed together with the rest of Benei Yisrael's baby boys. Moreover, Pharaoh's daughter brought baby Moshe to Yocheved to nurse, and she even paid Yocheved for her services. Hazal comment in this context, "It is not enough for ssadikim that their lost items are returned to them, but they even receive payment!" We can only wonder, was Yocheved really concerned with a little extra money that she received for nursing? We can imagine the intense love she felt for her son that she raised for three months, the pain she experienced and tears she shed when he was cruelly taken from her, and the intense joy she felt upon his having been saved. She would have paid any sum of money to be able to nurse Moshe - is it of any significance that she was paid to nurse the baby, instead?

The answer is that Moshe's rescue from the river was for the benefit of all of Am Yisrael and in the merit of all of Am Yisrael, whereas he was destined to be their savior. However, the payment Yocheved received came as a special reward for her, a unique gift worthy of note. Imagine a family that loses a precious jewel, and the entire family scrambles about to look for it. One of the small children finds the stone. Although certainly the entire family has reason to celebrate, the child is even happier, having received a loving kiss from his parents. Although they all participated in the search, he was fortunate enough to have found the lost jewel. The same may be applied to Yocheved.

Similarly, Golyat blasphemed Benei Yisrael and terrorized the nation. It was to be expected that the Al-mighty would grant David the strength to defeat the enemy. But Hashem did even more than that. He showed an extra degree of kindness to David by having Golyat fall forward, saving David a few steps when he went to sever the fallen enemy's head. In this way, Hashem demonstrated to all how beloved David was to Him.

In our parashah, too, most of the miracles were performed in order to allow Pinhas the opportunity to carry out his task to completion. However, the miracle that he did not become ritually impure and that his clothing was not stained revealed an added level of affection, a loving kiss from the Heavens, as it were.


We read in our parashah the section of the korbanot, specifically the daily "tamid" sacrifice and the "musaf" offerings that were brought on Shabbat and festivals. It is worthwhile, then, to inform our readers of the publication of the work, "Vegilu Biradah," a collection of stirring passages and essays, including citations from Hazal, regarding the greatness of prayer. The author who compiled the information, Rav Shimon Wanunu shlit"a, presents us with over five hundred pages of material organized into a perfectly logical, easy-to-follow structure. He discusses issues such as proper concentration, places that are valid and invalid for tefilah, the importance of tefilah with a minyan, the general character of tefilah, preparation for prayer, things that get in the way proper tefilah, and much more. The work includes Midrashim, inspiring stories, and comments of the Sages regarding the importance of tefilah and how it takes the place of korbanot (see Berachot 26b). Hazal understand the pasuk, ". and we shall repay cows with our lips" (Hoshea 14:3) as meaning that the prayers of our lips take the place of the animals that we would bring upon the altar as korbanot. (See Pesikta D'Rav Kahana 24:19).

One particularly inspiring story mentioned in the work occurred in the Bet Midrash of the "Ohev Yisrael" of Apta zs"l. He led a kollel of top-level students that gathered around him and studied in his Bet Midrash. The rebbe personally took care of their livelihood. One of the hassidim was named Rabbi Sevi.

Once, as Rabbi Sevi was reciting Shemoneh Esreih, he reached the point where many people recite the tefilah for livelihood, which was composed and instituted by the Ar"i zs"l. Rabbe Sevi was accustomed to reciting this special prayer daily, but on this particular day he thought to himself, why should I recite this prayer? It was instituted for merchants and skilled workers who must pray for customers and successful transactions. I, however, receive my needs from the rebbe, who guarantees my livelihood. Why must I pray for livelihood?

Several days later, on Erev Rosh Hodesh, the rebbe opened the door of his room and entered the Bet Midrash. The students lined up, and he gave each one his sum of money for the month. Suddenly, just as Rabbi Sevi's turn came, the bills ran out. The rebbe returned to his room and came out with more bills, which he began distributing from the student standing behind Sevi.

Rabbi Sevi stood there in astonishment; he felt as though the rebbe had just slapped him across the face. The rebbe concluded his distribution and starting heading back to his room. Sevi garnered the strength to approach the sacred rebbe and say, "Excuse me, rebbe, but I did not receive my portion."

The rebbe looked up and gazed into the student's eyes. "Come into my room," he ordered.

Everyone in the Bet Midrash stood and watched in wonder. Rabbi Sevi had earned the reputation of being G-d-fearing, a man of high moral standards and character, and a diligent, assiduous student of Torah. Could it be that the rebbe discovered some fault with his student for which he decided to cast him from the kollel? Needless to say, nobody was more befuddled than Rabbi Sevi himself. What did the rebbe see with his ru'ah hakodesh? Why did he put him to shame in front of everyone?

"Please have a seat," said the rebbe lovingly. By now Rabbi Sevi was beside himself. Just a minute earlier, the rebbe gave him a piercing, angry stare, and suddenly he talks to him like his beloved son! "I called you here so that you can explain something to me," said the rebbe. "It never happened, until just now, that the bills in my hand weren't enough. Today was the first time this has ever happened. Likewise, I never before overlooked one of my students - certainly not one of the best of the group! Today was the first time. Perhaps you can explain to me what is happening?" What happened? He doesn't know what happened!

"Think for a minute," insisted the rebbe. "Has anything happened on account of which the blessing of livelihood has been withheld from you?"

At this moment Rabbi Sevi suddenly recalled the thought that entered his mind that day during Shemoneh Esreih, that he need not recite the prayer for livelihood since his livelihood is guaranteed. The book may purchased by calling (in Israel) 02-537-0385.


A Series of Halachot
According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch

Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

Taken from the work "Osserot Yossef " Masechet Avot
based on the rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

The Laws of "Bein Hamessarim"
("The Three Weeks")

The period between the seventeenth of Tamuz and Tisha B'Av is known as "bein hamessarim," based on the pasuk, "All her pursuers overtook her in the narrow places" (Eichah 1:3).

Hazal say that these were the days when the enemies made their way into Yerushalayim, our sacred city of glory, and went rioting. These riots continued until Tisha B'Av, when they destroyed the Bet Hamikdash. The Jewish people therefore observe several practices of mourning and anguish starting from the seventeenth of Tamuz until Tisha B'av. The more pious people have the custom of reciting "Tikkun Hassot" at midday during this period, as well "Tikkun Rahel," which includes pesukim of distress and anguish over the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash. This practice is a commendable one.

The Prohibition of Playing Music and Dancing During the Three Weeks

Even those generally accustomed to listening to music on the radio or tape player should refrain from listening to music during the three weeks, even on the radio or tape player. Children capable of learning about this halach ah should also be trained not to listen to music during this period. One may, however, sing without musical accompaniment during this period, not to mention singing during tefilah and Torah study. There is even more room for leniency on the Shabbatot during the three weeks, even on Shabbat Hazon, and even when Tisha B'Av itself falls on Shabbat Hazon (and is observed on Sunday). There is no room for stringency regarding singing on these Shabbatot.

It is likewise forbidden to dance during this period, even without musical accompaniment. We refer, of course, only to dancing that is conducted according to halachah, observing all the laws of modesty that render us sacred as a nation. However, mixed dancing, with males and females dancing together, is absolutely and strictly forbidden throughout the entire year, at all times.

It is permitted to play music during the three weeks at a festive celebration involving a missvah, such as a berit, sheva berachot, or bar missvah on the day when the child reaches age thirteen. (If, however, the bar missvah celebration is not conducted on the actual birthday, then it is proper to be stringent and not play music during the celebration should it take place during the three weeks.) Similarly, it is permitted to play musical instruments at a "pidyon haben" or "siyum."

It is forbidden, however, to play music at the celebration conducted on the night before a berit. Only singing - without musical accompaniment - is allowed. The Ashkenazim have the custom not to allow music at any celebration conducted during the three weeks, including all those mentioned.

Eliyahu Ben Masudah & Yaakov ben Senyar

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