JULY 22-23, 2005 16 TAMUZ 5765
"Pinhas the son of Elazar the son of Aharon the Kohen...avenged my vengeance" (Bemidbar 25:11)
In last week's perashah the Torah tells us that Pinhas single-handedly stopped the plague and saved many lives. Pinhas stopped the plague by executing Zimri and Kozbi, who sinned immorally. Our perashah begins with stating the lineage of Pinhas, that his grandfather was Aharon. Rashi explains: Because the tribes were humiliating him by saying, "Did you see this son of Puti (Yitro), whose mother's father fattened calves for idolatry, yet he killed the prince of a tribe of Israel." This is why Scripture comes and traces his ancestry to Aharon. Rashi is explaining that on the surface it seems that this violent act of killing Zimri was not of pure intent, to defend the honor of Hashem, but an act of violence to satisfy his own personal agenda. If this act came from his gentile lineage it is possible that it was just a low act of killing. Therefore, the Torah traces his act to Aharon, to tell us that the act was pure idealism which stemmed from Aharon. This teaches us always to look deep into ourselves to make sure we are acting out of pure motives.
During World War I there was a great shortage of lulab and etrogs. The cities of Europe were faced with a prospect of not performing the misvah. In the city where the Hafess Hayim lived the people faced this same dilemma. Suddenly someone found an old lulab and etrog set from the previous year, so that year everyone took turns to take the lulab and etrog in their hand. (Rav Pam, who told over this story, says it wasn't known if they said a berachah on it or not.) Now since there was only this one set it was obvious that only one person could hold the lulab and etrog during Hallel and do the required waving. Everyone felt that the Hafess Hayim should be the one to hold it. However, he adamantly refused. With all the urging of the people he wouldn't give in. They finally asked him why he was so against taking it. He answered the most unexpected answer. "I am not the only one praying here. With me are many men who are Torah scholars. I am afraid that if I take it, it would cause others to be disappointed. Causing a feeling of hurt can entail the violation of a number of positive and negative misvot from the Torah. On the other hand, holding and waving the lulab and etrog during the Hallel, as great and holy as this custom is, is only a custom. I am not willing to cause hurt to these people and create this great loss for the sake of this custom."
This teaches us that we must always try our best to examine our motives very deeply time and time again, to make sure we are on the right path. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"May Hashem, G-d of the spirits of all flesh, appoint..." (Bemidbar 27:16)
When Moshe asked Hashem to appoint the next leader, he described Hashem as G-d of all spirits of men. Rashi explains that Moshe was saying, just as mankind is made up of all kinds of people, each with their own mind and personality, You Hashem should find a leader who can relate to each one on his own level. This lesson is not only regarding leadership. We all know that no two people are exactly alike. What we don't realize is that since there are so many different kinds of people, we must have an enormous amount of tolerance and patience when dealing with others. This is where we tend to go wrong and what causes relationships to be strained. We expect others to know how we are feeling and what we need or want, and then we get disappointed when they don't come through. Very often, two people are in the same situation and one thinks it's a great place to be and the other is miserable. When we realize how we are all different from each other, we will be patient and tolerate each other's peculiarities. This will bring us peace and unity. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"The eighth day shall be a restriction for you" (Bemidbar 29:35)
The Gemara (Shabbat 31a) relates that a Gentile came to the great Sage Hillel asking to be converted on the condition that he teach him the entire Torah while he stood "al regel ahat - on one foot." Hillel responded, "That which you do not want done unto you, do not do unto others - this is the entire Torah."
Why did the Gentile make such a strange condition?
In Torah, the holidays are called "regalim" (Shemot 23:14) because of the misvah of making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem by foot. The Gemara (Sukkah 47a) says about Shemini Aseret that it is "Regel bifnei asmo - a separate holiday" - independent of Sukkot.
The Gentile, before deciding to convert, studied Torah and was quite familiar with our holidays, traditions, etc. After comprehending the beauty of Torah, he made his decision to convert. One thing however bothered him: what is the significance of the "regel - holiday" of Shemini Aseret? He knew the reason for celebrating Pesah, Shabuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, but saw no rationale for Shemini Aseret.
Consequently, he said to Hillel metaphorically, "I am prepared to convert, but first you must clear up an enigma bothering me. Teach me all there is to know about 'regel ahat - the holiday of Shemini Aseret' - which I am trying to 'stand on,' i.e. understand, but for which the Torah does not give any reason."
Hillel replied that Shemini Aseret was given to the Jews because Hashem said, "Kasheh alai peridatchem." Simply explained, this means that Hashem is distressed by the leave-taking between Him and the Jewish people after Sukkot. However, precisely explained, the phrase means, "Your separation [among yourselves] is difficult unto me." This can be understood as a reference to dissension between Jews themselves. "That which you do not want done unto you, do not do unto others." Hashem is saying, "I cannot stand to witness strife and animosity between you. Therefore, celebrate this one more day in unity, and may it evoke a spirit of unity within you for the entire year." Thus the essence of this regel - holiday - is to foster unity and Ahabat Yisrael among the Jewish people. (Vedibarta Bam)
"To Yashub the family of Yashubi" (Bemidbar 26:24)
The Ohr Hahayim commented that the tribe of Yisachar was the tribe devoted to the study of Torah. Therefore among the families of this tribe there are hints to different concepts pertaining to Torah study. The word yishub in this verse refers to the quality of reflecting patiently on Torah ideas. One must spend much time on each detail of the Torah until one fathoms a bit of its depth.
Racing through the Torah in order to read it as fast as possible will lead to a person making many mistakes, or one will miss many insights and concepts that one could gain by a more careful study. The trait necessary for this is patience. The goal is to understand as well as possible. Not only will this trait enable you to concentrate longer on any single idea, but it will also allow you to spend more time reviewing what you have learned. The more you review, the better you will understand and the longer you will remember. When you have been patient and have gained greater comprehension, you will see the benefits of this trait and this will motivate you to continue having this intellectual patience in your Torah studies. (Growth through Torah)
This week's Haftarah: Melachim I 18:46 - 19:21
This week's haftarah tells of Eliyahu Hanabi, who was zealous in his efforts to uproot idolatry from the nation. This is similar to Pinhas' zealotry in the beginning of our perashah. Hashem blessed Pinhas with everlasting peace, and Pinhas went on to live a very long life. In fact, the Midrash teaches that Pinhas, many years later, became known as Eliyahu, about whom we read in this week's haftarah.
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
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