Back to this week's parsha| Previous Issues
by Daneal Weiner
Welcome to another hair raising, suspense filled edition of Orchards. This
But before that, G-d is keeping me humble. Last week I wrote Balak offered 48 Korbanos when it was 42 and I quoted Psalm 109 which was really 29. (I translated my chaf as a kaf.) Look forward to more corrections in the future.
Rav Wolfson wants it to be clear that Prince Zimri, whom Pinchas killed, was the very same Prince Shelumiel son of Tsurishadai who merited bringing a sacrifice at the inauguration of the Mishkan. To this day we do not say tachanun on the 5th of Nissan in celebration of his korban. Certainly not a wicked man! Not even an average man. The point is that we can't imagine the spiritual level that he was on nor the trials he had to endure. There is no question of what act was taking place, however, G-d forbid we should look at Zimri as just some womanizer. Rav Wolfson speaks in the name of the Satmar Rav zt'l, Rav Yonatan Eibschitz zt'l, Rav Chaim Vital zt'l and other Torah giants, all who praise Shelumiel/Zimri. [He actually had 4 names. Another is Shaul son of the Canaanitess. This means he was one of the 70 who went down to Egypt 250 years earlier! No, no avg. man] So we know what he did but we don't know what he was doing. The aforementioned Rabbonim talk about it but, unfortunately, that's beyond the scope of this paper. (Always wanted to say that.) Either that or I haven't any of their sforim.
The same attitude applies to all Bnei Yisrael of that generation. We know that B'Y failed 10 tests but we won't understand their actions until after the mashiach comes. I did get a hairs breadth worth of help from Rabbi Tatz who explains the word 'midbar.' The definition is desert. ie: sand, barren of life, dry heat. That's fine for when we were 8 years old but what comes next? Every word in the Torah has 70 facets, even the word 'midbar'. For kids over 8, Rabbi Tatz explains a 'midbar' is a place that is SPIRITUALLY barren of all holiness. There are no vacuums, so when the Kdusha isn't there, you can bet your radon detector that tuma is. A midbar is a place devoid of all kdusha and filled with every type and force of tumah in the world. The clouds of glory weren't just the worlds first sun block. They were a cells of healthy marrow transplanted into a cancerous environment. If we could barely pass a test of giving a m'shulach a few dollars with a smile, we are certainly in no position to cast aspersion on our ancestors tests in the 'midbar'.
After this intro, how can anyone say anything bad about Zimri? Didn't he do something wrong? Didn't he deserve death? At least let's be aware that both sides exist. If you pursue and find an answer, haray zeh m'shubach! For now, we'll leave it as a question. No question ever killed anyone. (except in the space shuttle "What's this button for?") So, without further adieu (I don't think there is any adieu left)...
25:11 "Pinchas, the son of Elazar, the son of Aharon the priest..."
Rashi says this lineage was brought down because the people were taunting him saying, "The grandson of one who fattened pigs for worship had the gall to kill a prince of Israel?!?" Pinchas' mother was a daughter of Yisro and Yisro was an idolater priest who had another name, Pituel, which means "fattens for god." After Yisro heard about Kriyas Yam Suf and the fight with Amalek he saw the light! He went back to turn his whole family on to Judaism. His daughter or granddaughter gave birth to Pinchas! This makes Pinchas a son of a BT (Ba'al Tshuva)!!!
Rav Shternbach explains that when it comes to BT's, the general consensus is that they are religious fanatics. They always want to do those...mitzvah things. Not just what get's learned through 8th grade. They take on extraneous stringencies. They pray like they're talking to Someone. Just being plain Jewish isn't good enough for BT's. B'Y was accusing Pinchas of this hot headed zealousness he got from mom's side. Therefore the Torah comes to tells us that Pinchas is the son of Elazar, the son of Aharon! It was dad's FFB (Frum From Birth) side that took action! A grandson of an ohaiv shalom v'rodaif shalom, a lover and chaser of peace. That is the character trait that took action! And we see, measure for measure H' rewarded him. 25:10-12> "Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, 'Pinchas...turned back My wrath...so I did not consume the Children of Israel in My vengeance...say (to B'Y) I give him My covenant of peace.'"
The Chanukas HaTorah brings down an incredible medrish that says H' is giving Pinchas his eternal reward starting now!! How could that be? What about all this 'there is no reward for mitsvos in this world' stuff? There CAN'T be. It's a different currency. Our physical existence limits the soul. Our souls must experience the death of the body, part of the reparation process before being able to receive true rewards. Ok, the more spirituality a person attains the less he is limited by the physical. Still, to start receiving actual reward, how is it possible? There are an elite few who achieve such a state of spiritual perfection that even their physical bodies become spiritual! They become limitless. These people can go straight up to heaven. They don't need to die. (The Gemorah says there were nine such people.)
It would follow that this "by-passing" the death phase means these individuals are already connected to the eternity beyond death, even while alive in this world. Then they're probably fit for the eternal rewards as well. The medrish Yalkut Shimoni tells us that Pinchas was Eliyahu HaNavi. Eliyahu HaNavi who did not die. Who road a fiery chariot up to heaven. If that's who Pinchas was then he would be able to start collecting his rewards right now!
Rav Wolfson asks, how is this reward measure for measure for the action done? We mentioned above that G-d gave peace for peace but what Pinchas DID was to kill Zimri and Cosby. How does the action fit the reward? Rav Wolfson looks at the language of Psalm 106 (not 26) to say that it wasn't the killing of Zimri and Cozbi that stopped the plague but that Pinchas prayed and the plague stopped. Wait! What plague? Moshe just told the judges to kill anyone involved in idolatry. Next thing we know is an Israelite took an Midianitess and Pinchas stopped the plague!? Where did it come from?
Psalm 106:30 says, "Vaya'amod Pinchas vayifalel, vatayatsar hamagaifa." 'Vayifalel' is a lashon of tfila. We are used to seeing 'hispalel' which is the hispa'el verb form. Hispa'el is reflexive. It indicates an action for ones self. That's what tfila is. So why here does T'hilim use a simple verb form? Weren't Pinchas' prayers for himself as well for Klal Yisrael? Well, who were the ones dying in this mysterious plague? They were members of the tribe of Shimon who wanted to kill Pinchas for killing their Prince! That's what and who the plague was about.
Now we see from T'hilim that it was Pinchas' tfila afterwards that stopped the plague. And now we understand why Pinchas is 'falel'ing and not hispalel'ing. Because he's praying to the detriment of himself! It's for Pinchas' selfless praying for the welfare of his fellow Jews at the expense of his own life that H' rewarded him, measure for measure, with eternal life.
G-d gives Pinchas "brisi shalom," "My covenant of peace." H' indoctrinated Pinchas into the priesthood. If you look in the Torah, the letter vav in shalom is written broken. The break indicates that the vav should not be there. This leaves us with 'shaleim' which means 'whole' or 'complete'. The Sha'arei Aharon brings the Gemorah Keddushin which uses this to learn out the law that a priest can not serve unless he is whole or complete (ie: not cripple nor any broken bones).
So why not leave the vav out? Many words are written chaser, missing their vav? The Sha'arei Aharon adds that although we know this letter should be a vav, what we HAVE is a yud with a dash of ink under it. The gematria for shin, lamed, YUD, mem is 380. Pinchas had 380 descendants serve in the Temples. Oh, they didn't serve all together. There was a 'break' in the middle. 80 in the first Temple and 300 in the second.
If you thought any of those were good, this is the one you've been waiting for!
25:14,15 "The name of the slain Israelite man who was slain with the Midianitess was Zimri son of Salu, Prince of Shimon. And the name of the slain Midianite woman was Cozbi, daughter of Tsur..." Haven't we heard this somewhere before? Like the end of last weeks Parsha? Not exactly, though. The first time, all we know is that its a Jewish man, a shiksa and a sin. Now we get names. But it reiterates the event, that he was slain WITH her. Clarification or repetition? Here is how the Arvei Nachal pieces together his explanation:
Anybody ever learn the Gemorah about the beating in the grave? The Gem. says that an angel comes to one in the grave and says, "Excuse me ol' chap, could you tell me your name?" If the deceased is a rasha then he won't remember his name and the angel will start beating him. Any questions?
If he is wicked then why doesn't the angel just come out swinging? Why ask his name? Why doesn't the rasha know his own name? Are all angels British? All good questions. Lets start with answering another question. What is in a name? Everything is.
Parshas Shmos teaches us that the name defines the person. Ok, we could learn it from Breishis as well, when Adam named the animals. Our name is our DNA. Everyone on earth has a specific purpose to help perfect the world. Each has his/her job to do. So our name is our G-dly purpose. Our name is why we are alive! Going a step further, our name is also our umbilical cord to Heaven. Since we our here for His purpose, and since our name is that purpose, our name is also our pipeline for sustenance, our umbilical cord. The more mitsvos a person does, the more he fulfills his purpose, the bigger, wider, greater his name/cord. This makes one capable of receiving more Divine providence. But as one sins, the name/cord shrinks, shrivels, dries up. Pretty soon a letter drops off. Then another. Eventually, a rasha kills himself when he erases his own name. He has cut his own cord.
Next. There is another Gem. (and aren't all Gemorahs gems?) that says that the rasha, even while approaching the gates of Gehenom, doesn't do tshuva! Those who've spent a lifetime rationalizing and justifying their wickedness still can't see the falsehood. It's been ingrained even into their very souls. "What'd I do? It's dog eat dog! Everyone does it! I got him before he got me! It's just business!!!" The only way to impress upon these poor souls that they are wicked is to let them know they did themselves in. "Excuse me mate, could you tell me your name?" When they can't, it makes the point. Also, now see that some angels are from down under.
Another piece of the answer is to know that death has two parts. Some of you may be thinking of Richard Pryor imitating the army seargant, "I killed some! And I was killed some!" These are not the 2 categories I was referring to. We mentioned above a person needing death because it's a reparation for the soul. In this context there are 2 categories, judgment and mercy. How much judgment was enacted by the death and how much else will H' mercifully let it atone for. A death sentence (any sentence for that matter) enacted by a Beis Din, a Jewish court was an atonement for the sin. At the same time, nothing is like tshuva. When it came down to an actual case of life and death, Jewish law does everything it can not to kill the defendant. Our point though, a death sentence by the court is an atonement.
There is one other way a person can achieve atonement, by the way. Death at the hand of a true zealot is equal to death at the hands of Beis Din. "True zealot" is actually redundant but the word 'zealot' has been so badly misused that I feel its necessary to add 'true' to create the right connotation. Websters defines zeal or zealous as "ardent devotion" which has a positive connotation. A Zealot should be that person with that ardent devotion but Websters goes out of its way and defines zealot as "one who is zealous to an extreme or excessive degree; fanatic" which has purely negative connotations. Go figure? And I digress.
Lastly, Jewish laws of zealousy are very specific. The relevant one is that the zealot has to strike at the very moment of the crime. A second early or late and the zealot is nothing but a murderer who will be sentenced to death himself. Now we have all the pieces.
In last weeks parsha, the enormity of the sin of Zimri and Cosbi made it their final sin. It left them nameless in Heaven and nameless in the parsha. Their time was now up. But they didn't die 'naturally', accidentally or as victims of murder. Comes the zealot Pinchas and this weeks parsha points out "...the slain Israelite man WHO WAS SLAIN WITH the Midianitess..." that Pincha s struck at the correct moment. Not only that, "The name... was Zimri son of Salu, Prince of Shimon. And the name of the slain Midianite woman was Cozbi..." along with their execution was a complete atonement!! Their names are reinstated! Complete with titles!
GESHMAK! GEVALDIK!! GRRRRRRRREAT dvar Torah!!! (The delivery wasn't so bad either)
Since 2 pages is the longest I am willing to go over my 3 page limit then I'll reduce my font size and close with this.
27:17 (Moshe is praying to H' for a successor to lead B'Y) "...who will go out before them and come in before them, who shall take them out and bring them in." If the leader is already 'out before them' then why the repetition of 'taking out and bringing in'?
The Gemorah Sanhedrin says that in the end of days the leaders of the generation will have the face of a dog. Rabbi Yisroel Salant explains: What happens when you walk a dog? He runs out in front of you to the length of the leash and periodically he will look back to make sure that HE is heading the right way. If he feels the rope tense and looks back and sees you turning he will quickly change direction and again run out in front. So who is doing the leading?
I once called my Jewish State Senator's office to lodge a complaint. He was written up in an article as trying to do something not Torah sanctioned. The staff member I was speaking to told me that this isn't the Senator's official position. He is still waiting to see where public opinion is. I tried to explain that when a society drags itself down, I would want a leader who will stand on his own morals. The response was "that may be your opinion but the 10 other voters on your block may feel differently." How wise our Sages are.
It wasn't enough for Moshe to pray that his successor is out in front but that he is actually doing the bringing. Like a true leader, and not like Senator Lassie.
Have yourself a howling good Shabbot Shalom!
Back to this week's parsha| Previous Issues