Pieces of Peace: Parshas Pinchas

1 07 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com class by Mrs. Shira Smiles

As reward for his zealous execution of Zimri, Pinchas is granted a covenant of peace with Hashem, thereby conferring priestly status to Pinchas and his descendants. That peace be offered in recognition of violence seems incongruous. Seeing as
a priest who murders forfeits his privilege to bless the people and serve in the Temple, appointing Pinchas to become a priest is confounding.

To resolve this conflict, we examine both the sequence of events and the motivation of Pinchas. First, this was not a rash act of violence. When Pinchas witnessed Zimri’s brazenness, he remembered what the halacha, Jewish law, dictated: When a Jew sins with a non-Jewish woman in front of at least ten people, a zealot should kill him. But since Moshe himself had not taken action, Pinchas ran to him to verify the law. Only after Moshe’s confirmation did Pinchas pick up a spear and implement the prescribed procedure. After God’s honor was upheld within the parameters of halacha, His anger was appeased and the plague ended.

Now let us analyze Pinchas’ motivation. We have already determined that Pinchas was not motivated by the negative emotions of anger or pride, but overwhelming love for Hashem, and His nation. He could not bear to see the name of Hashem dishonored, nor could he bear to see the suffering of his people. In fact, the S’forno says, his compassion for Bnei Yisroel was greater than his sense of Heavenly justice, and Tehillim tells us that Pinchas prayed for Bnei Yisroel at this time. His intention was pure, to stop the plague and restore the peace and harmony that his grandfather Aharon was renowned for. This is the Torah paradigm of a zealot.

A mitzvah performed selflessly, atones for many sins, even those of others. It creates a bond of love between the doer, Hashem, Bnei Yisroel and all of creation. It was this altruism that brought about the end of the plague. Pinchas understood that if this mitzvah presented itself to him he must fulfill it, even though it was against his natural inclinations. He picked up the spear, and relied on Hashem to help him. In the census that followed this plague, Hashem affirms the actions and motivation of Pinchas by joining His name to the tribes of Bnei Yisroel – Each family and tribe is named with a “Heh” at the beginning and a “Yud” at the end, “Horeuveini,” “Hashimoni”. Hashem
again brought us close to Him through the atonement generated by the pure motivation of Pinchas’ action.

In his love of Hashem and Bnei Yisroel, Pinchas mirrored his grandfather Aharon’s traits. The Torah records the joy with which Aharon went to meet his brother even though he knew Moshe was chosen to lead Bnei Yisroel out of Egypt. Aharon’s love for Hashem precluded any jealousy toward Moshe. Aharon’s reward was the Priesthood. Appropriately, Pinchas too merited the priesthood for his demonstration
of love.

True love of Hashem means loving all people, as when each of us carrys out His will, His Name becomes more glorified. It precludes feeling jealous of another’s accomplishment. There was much Torah study in the Temple era, and many acts of gemilat chassadim, kindness. Yet, each begrudged the other his accomplishment. This was not love of Hashem, but love of self, fear of one’s own honor being diminished, and lead to sin’as chinom, the unwarranted hatred that brought about the destruction of the Temple.

Parshat Korach-Bedrock of Faith

10 06 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Rabbi Hershel Reichman

If we look at how our Sages portray Korach, an intriguing picture emerges.  Korach was a wealthy, respected Torah scholar who was chosen for the coveted position of carrying the Aron, the holy Ark.  According to Rashi, he merited to receive ruach hakodesh (Divine inspiration). How did such an esteemed person steep to a level of fomenting machloket (strife) against Moshe Rabbeinu? Korach and his followers were eyewitnesses to the open miracles that occurred through Moshe including the ten plagues, the Exodus from Egypt, the splitting of the sea, and the giving of the Torah.  How could they rebel against these very truths?  It is written that one who denies the truths of Moshe loses his share in the World To Come. However, the Gemara writes that Korach was only punished in this world. He still merited to receive a portion in Gan Eden. How can we understand this?
Korach and his followers came to Moshe with a tallis completely fashioned of techeilet-blue wool. They asked Moshe if it required an additional techeilet string. They also asked if a room filled with seforim (holy books) necessitated a mezuzah. Moshe answered yes to both questions. Korach really meant to say that the Jewish people were completely techeilet – sanctified and elevated.  They did not require Moshe to interpret the Torah for them. Similarly, just as a mezuzah which reminds a person of Hashem’s Torah, seems superfluous in a room filled with Torah books, Korach wanted to indicate that the holy Jewish nation who had heard Hashem’s voice at Mt. Sinai, did not need Moshe’s leadership.
The Shem MiShmuel explains Moshe’s uniqueness, revealing why he alone was handpicked as a conduit to bring the Torah to the Jewish nation.  Human beings are a blend of body and soul. There is a tremendous conflict between the physical and spiritual side of a person.  There is an instability inside each of us which is related to the physical aspect of our being.  Ancient Egypt was prone to this volatility. Pharaoh and the Egyptian nation were a very physical society. They were the complete antithesis of Hashem and the Torah.  It took 10 plagues for Pharaoh to cease vacillating back and forth and allow the Jews to leave Egypt.
In contrast, Hashem gifted Moshe from birth with unusual powers of stability and steadfastness. This is symbolized by his name, “Ki min hamayim misheseiu”-He was pulled out from the physical side of the world.  Only Moshe, possessing no self doubt,    perfectly at peace in his beliefs, a paragon of stability, could bring the Torah to Klal Yisrael.  He had the power to be an anchor for the Jewish nation.  Moshe never died. A spark of his soul enters every Jew who studies Torah. This fragment brings with it solidity, commitment, knowledge of Hashem, and connection to the essence of this world. A Jew cannot get this without Moshe.
According to the Arizal,  Korach embodied the soul of Kayin.  Korach, like Kayin, was blinded by pride. He held himself higher than Moshe, claiming that he had acquired his elevated level of steadfastness and stability through hard work, in contrast to Moshe who had received it as an innate gift. He demanded that Hashem reward him with Moshe’s position. Korach erred by questioning Hashem’s decisions.
The blue techeiliet strings correspond to din – judgement. White symbolizes ahavah-love.  Korach wanted to tell Moshe that the Jewish people did not need him to be their bearer of justice. Every Jew could achieve stability on their own. In the same vein, the mezuzah is din-judgement. Korach indicated that Moshe’s control was unnecessary in a house filled with Torah. When Moshe did not accept his reasoning, Korach’s raging emotions led him to utter heretical statements. However, fundamentally he was not a heretic, and therefore he did not lose his share in the World to Come.
“Moshe Emet V’toroso Emet”, Moshe is our true living teacher.  He experienced so many tumultuous events throughout his life, yet still remained the model “eved neeman”-trustworthy servant of Hashem.  How can we successfully navigate the myriad challenges and vicissitudes of life? By connecting to Moshe’s infinite, steadfast, faith, and drawing strength from the Torah’s living waters.

Parshat Beha’alotcha Classes

27 05 2010

Check out all of the parsha classes available on this week’s parsha at Naaleh.com!

Parshat Beha’alotcha: Yitro’s Visit by Mrs. Chana Prero

Mrs. Prero analyzes the conversation between Yitro and Moshe when Moshe urges Yitro to join the Jewish Nation on their journey to the Promised Land.

Parshat Beha’alotcha: Triumphant Travels by Mrs. Shira Smiles

Mrs. Smiles focuses on the description of how the Jewish people camped in the desert, and on the topic of the ‘chatzotzrot’, the trumpets.

Parshat Beha’alotcha: Aharon’s Unique Mission by Rabbi Hershel Reichman

Rabbi Reichman discusses Aharon and Hashem’s interchange, in this week’s Parsha, regarding his service in the Mishkan, based on the Shem Mishmuel’s understanding of the essence of a Kohen’s role among the Jewish People.