Published Date: July 13, 2020
This week’s music: Aaron’s Song
Friends what is going on? We call it The Corona Pandemic, but what is it really? I am not proposing for one minute that I can know why this is happening, however, I am suggesting that we try to look it at from an additional angle beyond the laws of the state and government. As we are dealing with a situation that “halachically,” accordingly to Jewish law, has been categorized as “safek nefashot,” potentially life threatening, of course it is important for me to know and adhere to those rules by wearing a mask and keeping to the minimum number of people allowed to gather in a Beit Knesset or wedding hall. The problem for me is that I can’t allow myself to get stuck there. I can’t have all of my Corona focus be related to masks and minyanim.
Of course I can’t tell you why Hashem sent this to the world, but I can state that I believe with a full heart and mind that Hashem is the source of all that happens in our world. Why he chose to send this to us I don’t know, but clearly he is calling out volumes.
What am I hearing? I am hearing that I, Yehudah Katz as a member of “klal yisrael” and humanity, has a responsibility toward God and mankind. Any time there is tragedy or great difficulty, I clearly need to step up my caring level for others. I must care when my brother or sister is suffering. I must take note of the fact that we have all been put in a situation where, for the past four months, we have more often than not been relegated to a situation where we cannot see each other. We can’t get together physically and so the only alternative is for us to get together spiritually in our hearts and souls which will hopefully lead us to understand the value of our ability in the future to develop more meaningful, honorable and trusting relationships with each other, with no exceptions. No more cheating, no more manipulating, no more talking behind your back, no more public embarrassments, simply put, no more hatred for each other toward God, I need to heed His loud call for me to fix myself. I also need to know that often times that which starts out and seems like a strong judgment may in fact end up to be realized as a great “chessed,” act of kindness. Please understand, I cannot relate to this situation in anybody else’s shoes. I am not the one who lost a loved one. I have, thank God not been personally ill and suffering from this disease. However, I do know that I am here and need to use this sign an opportunity to spiritually look inside myself and honestly learn what my shortcomings are.
In this week’s Torah portion of Pinchas, the questions is often asked, why did Pinchas receive a reward of “Shalom and Kehuna,” Peace and priesthood for his zealous act of murder? Reb Levi Yitzchak points out that in the first two verses of the parshah, there is one word that seems to be superfluous. “And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying the following. Pinchas, the son of Elazar, the son of Aharon Hakohen removed my anger from the B’nai Yisrael, with his zealous action on my behalf, within them…” (Bamidbar 25.10-11). Why do we need to add the word “betocham,” within them? Within them, the Rebbe explains, is clearly a reference to the fact that although Pinchas’ act seems like harsh judgment, in reality his intentions were only to bring forgiveness to all of Israel. His intent was to bring ‘chessed,” into the world.
Pinchas was responding to divisiveness in our family. He was looking at a situation that could have become more splitting than the rebellion of Korach and his followers. This plot which was initiated by Bil’am Harasha was set to accomplish two goals. First part , like Haman The Wicked, was to divide the B’nai Yisrael into an extremely splintered group and use this as a means to destroy us. .The seduction of the Midyanite women was meant to separate all Jewish men from their foundation of life. Your nation is no longer important to you. Much more meaningful is your physical connection to this woman. It ripped people away from each other and found them investing their being into women that were totally forbidden to them.
Bil’am understood that the next natural step was to have their connection with these women be used as a ploy to get them away from Hashem. They were now involved in the two aspects of life that could destroy their relationship with God, disunity and division within the ranks of the family, which Hashem loathes and idol worship, the direct smack in the face to God’s being. Seeing this Pinchas felt that he had no choice. His action could save B’nai Yisrael from further tragedy that they were already enduring with the plague of death of 24,000 members of the Jewish nation. Pinchas was moving to take away divisiveness in the family and restore Peace. Unfortunately, we too today often involve ourselves in selfish situations which takes us away from the family of Israel or involve ourselves in causes where we think we are going to fix the world, but in the end it winds up creating more divisiveness than unification. In a sense we are caught in a trap where we often are doing the opposite of Pichas’ deed. When wicked people want to destroy us that is one level of hatred. When we bring it on ourselves we see that this type of hatred can God forbid keep us apart for thousands of years. It is my sincere hope that we can stop allowing society to influence us so often and instead replace that energy and time with us bringing only positive influence to the world.
Thus Hashem says, Pinchas’ reward is to inherit the covenant of Shalom, Peace and Kehunah, Preisthood, by virtue for the fact that he was zealous fro his God and he brought forgiveness to his people the B’nai Yisrael (Bamidbar 25/12-13). He was now officially a Kohen and the grandfather to all future Kohanim. Kohanim, the children of Aaron, the master of kindness, “ohev Shalom v’rodef Shalom,” He loved Peace and pursued Peace (Pikei Avot 1 .12). Bottom line was that Pinchas truly cared about and loved all of Israel. As The Slonimer Rebbe describes him, Pinchas gave of himself, was ready to put his life on the line for all of “klal yisrael” in order to save them from this disgraceful idolatrous and illicit behavior which was separating them from God and each other. I myself, couldn’t imagine allowing my zealousness to go that far outside of my personal life, but at least I can learn to be zealous with myself on behalf of all of Israel. Sometimes, The Slonimer teaches, we need to act with “gevurah,” in the name of “chessed,” but the reality is, it is all “chessed.” Who knows better than each of us about ourselves that sometimes we simply need to be a bit tough on ourselves in order to come to positivity in our lives. As I look out I need to inspect my thoughts and vision from within. During this period of time that we are experiencing right now, I need to look at everyone one of us, with no exceptions, and see only the good side, even if I don’t always agree with what might be the outcome of that good character trait in someone’s behavior. What I mean is that even though we know that there are many things that we disagree upon, in spite of those differences, as difficult and perhaps impossible as it may seem, we must find a way to have love for each other. We must see it as something that is on the level of no choice!
So what looks to us as a terrible judgment, may indeed be the opening to the greatest “chessed” that we have ever seen or experienced. It happens over and over again in our history. As Rebbe Levi Yiztchak writes,” the rule of life is that Hashem is always sending down kindness on Israel. Even though at times in the early stages it appears to not be kindness, in truth at the end the matter will end with clear goodness and kindness.
So friends, let’s use this time wisely to uncover the secrets of our souls, the beauty in our hearts and the light of Israel which is inside every one of us. Please ask yourself on the inside of the inside, “what is this?” Why am I the recipient of this plague? What can I do to cleanse myself and be totally prepared to receive the greatness that is about to come our way? How can I be ready for the ensuing gift even though as I look at myself honestly, I am not really ready. Today we have begun the three-week period which leads up to our annual intense mourning of not only the loss of the Holy Temple, but the fact that the baseless hatred which caused our exile is still with us. We need to all be little Aarons, loving Peace and pursuing Peace. Most certainly we can’t give up on each other. The greatness of Pinchas was that he was the only one that did not give up on the people. Others put more of a barrier between us and Hashem by not caring enough to try to do something about this great sin, simply because they lost faith in their brothers and sisters. Pinchas woke them up to the fact that we may never give up on each other.
The only way we can rebuild the Tempe is to fix with with unconditional love. As my good friend Rav Shlomo Katz wrote down the Torah’s of Reb Shlomo in his book, “The Soul of Jerusalem,” “The holy Temple is absolutely the most permanent connection. Why was the holy wall never destroyed? Because we never stopped being connected to it. Even through the other walls were still destroyed, there is something very deep inside of me that never left the Western Wall. The Holy Temple is still standing. The only question for each of us- are we ready to enter it?”