Good Erev Shabbos everyone!

This week’s parsha-post is dedicated l’ilui nishmas the Lubavitcher Rebbe ZT”L, of righteous memory.  *


At the close of last week’s Torah portion of Balak, we cringe as we recount the display of uncalled-for and forbidden intimacy, between a leader of the Shevatim, and a Midianite princess.  If consequences weren’t carried out, to stop this behavior that would have an extremely adverse effect on the morality and responsibility of the Jewish people, the plague G-d chastised His Children with would’ve continued to ravage, and things would’ve gone downhill from there.  But, Baruch Hashem, someone arose from amid the congregation.  Someone fiery stood up and took action that needed to be done.  Someone eliminated the propagators and their sinful example from the nation’s midst, so no further harm could occur, and thereby made an eternal Kiddush Hashem (Sanctification of G-d’s Name), and G-d accordingly annulled the plague.  This unforgettable “someone” was Pinchas, the Levite grandson of Aharon the Kohen Gadol.

This week’s parsha opens with G-d’s praise of Pinchas’s zealotry in the face of a dark time, and his Divine reward.**

“Vaydaber Hashem el-Moshe laymor:  Pinchas ben-Elazar ben-Aharon haKohein haishiv et-chamasi meyal Bnei-Yisroel b’kano et-Kinasi b’tocham v’lo-kilisi et-Bnei-Yisroel b’Kinasi – Hashem spoke to Moses, saying:  Phineas son of Elazar son of Aaron the Kohen, turned back My wrath from upon the Children of Israel, when he zealously avenged My vengeance among them, so I did not consume the Children of Israel in My vengeance.” {Bamidbar 25:10-11}

The commentary on these pasukim in the Stone Edition Chumash, directs attention to “b’tocham – among them”.  Let’s learn.

The Torah is making an enlightening, and in fact very practical indication, by use of the specific word “b’tocham“.  When one is facing a serious issue, especially when it concerns other people, and he/she is aware that action must be taken to redirect the negative course of an event, they must act from a particular position and with the right perspective, among those involved.  Even when one is compelled to assert themselves with passion and vehemence, to bring justice to an erroneous affair, as did Pinchas, we mustn’t quench the issue with hate or anger or dictatorship.  Rather, when we try to help along a troubling situation, we must work from among the others involved, b’tocham.  Act out of sincere desire to repair the pain and trouble.  Act out of love; love for others, love for doing the right thing together, and enthusiasm for rising up to our full potential as servants of a higher and wiser Guide and His teachings.

Change in a situation is most effectual when you can relate to those who are joined in the situation.  You can’t really make a difference while looking on from the outside.  I am not saying, for example, that you should launch right into a fight and choose a side, or try to taste for yourself what you are trying to stop.  Rather, it’s crucial to recognize that you are a person, one of your brothers that you are trying to help or inspire to do better, and you can grow together, and escape the metaphorical muck you may be stuck in.  Try to understand what the situation is, acknowledge the people concerned, and then you can  truly identify with them, and what needs to be done, to bring about positive and everlasting change for you all.

Wishing you clarity and passion in all of your pursuits, and continue to create a Kiddush Hashem wherever you go!

The Messenger Bird


(* Footnote:  I chose this parsha post to dedicate the Rebbe or righteous memory, for a specific reason.  The Rebbe exemplified this lesson of Pinchas;  That whenever a time or event called for zealous and vigorous action to elevate it, the Rebbe always carefully identified the root of the challenge or trouble.  And when guiding those who sought his advice on numerous matters, he always reached out to the person on their own level, and often finding ‘common-grounds’ on which to relate to the individual.  In this way, I believe, he acted like Pinchas:  He wasn’t not afraid to take action when necessary, yet he considered himself joined to the people.  And with this profound gift, he changed and refined the world as a whole, igniting one soul at a time.)

(**Footnote:  The Divine reward G-d bestowed upon Pinchas for his deed, was declaring him a Kohein.  Rashi explains that the original decree was that Aharon, his sons, and future offspring would take on the Kehuna.  However, Pinchas was already alive at this time, so he was not included in the “future offspring”, and only possessed status of a Levite.  But with G-d’s pronouncement (Bamidbar 25:13), he assumed position of a Kohein as well, aside from Hashem’s promise of His covenant of peace.  Ibn Ezra teaches alternatively, it was a vow that Kohanim Gedolim would descend from him.)