צו את בני ישראל ואמרת אליהם את קרבני לחמי לאשי ריח ניחוחי… (כח:ב).
“Command the Jews to bring an offering for me…” (28:2).
Chazal (Tanchuma, Naso 11) say there were three times that Moshe was startled by the command that Hashem had given him. These mitzvos which he was being taught, were very perplexing to him: 1) Hashem commanded each Jew to give one half Shekel calling it, “a redemption for their soul”. Moshe wondered, considering how precious and valuable life is, how could one simply redeem himself with a small coin? 2) Hashem commanded that the Mishkan, Tabernacle, be built in a place where He could dwell. Moshe wondered how mere humans could possibly produce a resting place for the Infinitely Great Hashem? 3) In our Parsha, Hashem commanded that Klal Yisrael bring the karban tamid, daily offering, calling it “an offering for Me.” Moshe wondered how Klal Yisrael could offer anything sufficient enough for Hashem?!
Hashem gave one answer to all three quandaries. It is fundamental to our daily service. “Moshe, I’m not asking you to give according to My standards, I am asking you to give according to the best of your abilities!” Hashem wants our effort and sincerity!
Every person is born with their own potential and abilities. Our job in life is to give it our all. Nothing more is expected, only our best! Chazal say in Berachos (5b), “whether you produce a lot or a little is not important, Heaven only looks at your intentions and efforts! Rabbi Naftoli Amsterdam once bemoaned his deficiencies to his rebbe, Rabbi Yisrael Salanter (1810 – 1883). “If only I had the brain of the Shages Aryeh, the enthusiasm of the Yisod V’Shoresh HaAvodah, and middos (good character traits) like you, rebbe, then I could be a true servant of Hashem! Reb Yisrael set him straight on the proper perspective. “You strive to serve Hashem to the best of your abilities, with your brain, your heart and your middos! That is what Hashem desires from you!”
This idea is found once again in the Parsha when Yehoshua is appointed as the successor of Moshe. Moshe requested from Hashem that the incoming leader possess one fundamental trait and Hashem agreed with him regarding the importance of that trait. The leader must understand each Jew individually, according to his own capabilities!
Every morning we pronounce a blessing expressing our appreciation to Hashem for who we are. “She’asah li kol tzorki, Thank You Hashem for giving me everything that I need!” You provided me with all of my physical needs as well as my spiritual needs. We surely beg Hashem for more earthly care and more divine inspiration, but the perspective is still kept straight. We recognize that Hashem has provided us with all of our needs to serve Him the best that we can!
There is no competition to outdo anyone else! We are all here for the unified purpose of serving Hashem, and each of us possess different talents and capabilities which Hashem has endowed us with. Our job is to bring out our unique potentials and to serve Hashem to the best of our ability!
The Famous Pinchas
Pinchas is well known for his act of zealousness for the honor of Hashem. He watched Zimri sin and brought him to justice without fearing retaliation. Chazal tell us that Pinchas later became Eliyahu HaNavi. The Pirkey D’Rebbe Eliezer teaches us that because Pinchas stood up for the sanctity and holiness of the Jewish Nation, Hashem granted Eliyahu the special privilege to attend every Bris, circumcision, that the Jews make. This is why we have a chair present at the Bris called, “the Kesay Shel Eliyahu”.
Pinchus showed what the fiber of the Jewish Nation is made of. He stood up and did what was necessary despite what others thought about his actions.
The Gemara (B”K 60b) states that when one hears dogs laughing it connotes the fact that Eliyahu has come to town. What does this mean?
The simple explanation is that when Eliyahu comes, it is for a Bris. When there is a Bris, there is left over food put out in the trash and the dogs get a feast, thus they are laughing.
Maharal states (there) another explanation. He says that the dogs are sensitive to spiritual forces and when they feel Eliyahu present they laugh as his holiness is so foreign to them.
Eliyahu represents the Jewish ideal of spirituality and pursuit of truth. The dogs are those that oppose this and live life pursuing food and personal pleasures. Even they recognize how far form the ideal they are when they sense the Holy Eliyahu.
Eliyahu HaNavi is the one that will announce Mashiach to us. His message of truth and self-sacrifice is the one that will bring that announcement closer and in our days.
In this weeks Parsha, the daughters of Tzlafchad are granted land in Eretz Yisrael. Rebbi Akiva states (Shabbos 96a) that Tzlafchad was the Mikoshashe Eitzim, the one who gathered wood in the desert, who was executed for desecrating Shabbos. The Seforim explain all of the great intentions which he had, never-the-less, he went against Hashem’s word and was executed.
The Yerushalmi tells a story of a man that was once walking in his field on Shabbos and saw that his fence made out of trees was starting to come down in one spot. He thought to himself how he would fix it after Shabbos. At that moment, he caught himself and said, “since I thought about doing a prohibited Melacha (work) on Shabbos, I will never fill in that breach. Hashem rewarded his good intentions and made an expensive tree (“Tzlaf chad, one tree”) grow in that gap. Its fruits were so sweet and sought after that the man became rich and supported his grandchildren with the money.
The Yalkut Reuvaini states that that man was a gilgul (reincarnation) of Tzlafchad (as is hinted in the name of the tree) and he had to upkeep Shabbos in order to fix his previous sin and thus he was extra scrupulous about it.
Pinchas stood up and did what everyone else was afraid to do. He saw that someone was committing a horrific sin and he stopped it. The reward that he got was that he and his descendants were granted Kehuna status and he was given the “covenant of Shalom (Bamidbar 25: 12).” What is this all about?
Pinchas’ act at first glance seems brazen and violent. Although it was the Torah law, it seems harsh as it involved taking the life of two people. When someone does something brazen it has a lasting effect on his or her personal character construct. Thus, after this justified act, Hashem wished to instill in Pinchas and his family a deep connection and appreciation of Shalom, peace. This is what the blessing of Shalom is all about.
Our actions define who we are. If we see something violent or immoral, as much as we disapprove and condemn it, the mere experience can negatively influence us and desensitize us to our true inner souls. Chazal (Sotah 2a) tell us that one who saw the Sotah explode needed to do take upon him or herself to stay away from wine. What does this mean? The Sotah committed an immoral act of adultery and this came about through frivolity and the drinking of wine. Thus, the bystanders were instructed that the best thing to do was to become a Nazir and accept on oneself to stay away from wine and sin for at least thirty days. How is this to be understood, he just watched a woman become demeaned and explode in front of his very eyes, what more is necessary to stop one from sinning? The answer is that when one sees sin, one becomes accustomed to it and it is not enough to simply learn to turn away from it, one must do an action that rebuilds his intolerance and objection of the horrible act. By making oneself a Nazir, he shows his abhorrence and intolerance of sin.
I am not in the position to make spiritual suggestions, but I will share with you what is on my mind after this week’s tragic and heartbreaking news about the murder of an innocent and pure 8 year old boy named Leiby Kletzky zt”l hy”d. The outpouring and love expressed in the community as all walks of life joined to search for and ultimately to give comfort to the family is a sight that has brought chills and tears to people around the world. But what am I doing about it? What can I do to show my disapproval and to honor Leiby’s soul? I feel that I need to find one thing that I can accept on myself in order to show that I value human life and appreciate that one person is equivalent to the entire world (Sanhedrin 37a). There is so much to think about as we scramble to find answers to so many alarming and uncomfortable questions. Let’s not forget to come up with one resolution that will make us into better and more sensitive people.
Moment of Truth
It was a most horrific time for the Jewish nation. The Jews were sinning with the Moavite and Midyanite women and a plague hit the Jewish nation claiming thousands of lives. Pinchas watched in horror as the Nasi, leader, of the tribe of Shimon, Zimri, took a Midyanite princess named Kazbi and began to sin with her in plain view of the entire nation. Pinchas got up, determined the course of action, received Moshe’s approval and risked his very life by killing Zimri and Kazbi in the act. At that moment, the Talmud (Sanhedrin 82b) tells us that six miracles took place. More so, Pinchas was rewarded with the privilege of becoming a Kohen for him and all of his descendents. Pinchas put an end to the plague and woke the nation up to stop their sins and to turn back towards Hashem.
An Alternate Version
In Tehillim (106:30) David recounts the story of the Jews in the desert. When he discusses this event he fills in one most important point. Hashem was angry at the Jew’s perverted acts and a plague broke out among them (Tehillim 106:29). “Pinchas got up and he prayed for God to help him (see Targum for this translation) [he killed Zimri] and the plague ended (ibid verse 30).” The great heroic act of Pinchas was preceded by deep introspection and contemplation. Pinchas acted by first davening to Hashem for help! This is a powerful lesson for all of us. All of our actions should begin with a prayer to Hashem begging Him to guide us and to help us succeed.
At first there were those that questioned Pinchas’ motives and people wanted to know what right he had to carry out his zealous act. Hashem defended him and granted Pinchas the ultimate reward thus showing everyone that his intentions were noble and well placed. In our parsha these is a list of the counting of each tribe. It does not seem to belong here? I believe that it is continuing our exact theme. Pinchas knew that he was greatly outnumbered by all of the rest of the Jews. He knew that there would be some who would not approve of his action, especially those from Shevet Shimon whose leader was executed by Pinchas. Never-the-less, Pinchas got up and did what had to be done. He prayed to Hashem for help and he was granted miraculous protection as well. Otherwise, he actually would have been lynched by the crowd. In fact, the Talmud Berachos (56b) tells us that one who sees Pinchas in a dream should interpret it to mean that a great miracle will be coming his way just as how this transpired to Pinchas.
Pinchas was totally connected to Hashem. When we pray we are standing before Hashem in a most intimate way and asking for His guidance, inspiration and help. We are confident that if we are doing what is right, He will help us. We are not afraid to stand up for truth and justice. We pray to Hashem and connect with the deepest truth by which we live our lives.