This week’s music: Not Without You – https://youtu.be/SPSk8lloeEI
Thanks to Yisroel Smith for sharing a Torah in our what’s app group which quotes some deep insights that we were blessed to receive from Reb Shlomo in his teaching as to why Pinchas acted as he did in killing Zimri Ben Salu and Kozbi Bat Tzur for their unholy behavior in public, in a blatant display of idol worship.
So Shlomo asks, ”What did Pinchas bring down to the world? The Ishbitser said that the truth is he was wrong to kill Zimri Ben Salu, but what was Pinchas really doing? Pinchas says, “Ribbono Shel Olam, I’m ready to do wrong right now because I need all the Yidden for all generations to know that you don’t do such a thing.”
Can you imagine yourself in a situation where you know that if you act according to your deepest pure feelings for others, you stand a chance of being killed? That is exactly what Pinchas was going through. “I want you to know, Shlomo continues,” it was clear to Pinchas that the tribe of Shimon was going to kill him. It was clear to him, and it was clear to him that he was going to hell for it, because he had absolutely no right to kill Zimri. So he was ready to go to hell, he was ready to be killed, but mamesh “heshiv et chamati me’al B’nai Yisrael,”( Bamidbar 25.11), Hashem says that Pinchas took away my anger from B’nai Yisrael. He fixed the Yidden for generations to come.
This is why he received the “brit of Shalom,” ( Bamidbar 25.12), the covenant of Peace from God as a reward for his actions. His actions, teaches the Slonimer, were not at all for himself. His act of “gevura,” warriorship, was in actuality an act of chessed, loving kindness for all of “k’lal Yisrael.”
To me this action of Pinchas is in sync with the behavior of the “mekoshesh Etzim,” the woodcutter’ in parshat Shlach ( Bamidbar 15.32) who also was willing to sacrifice on behalf of all of Bnai Yisrael.” Our father died in the desert,” the daughters of Tzlafchad tell Moshe Rabeinu,” and he was not part of the congregation ( of Yisrael) that testified against God (as a part of The Korach Rebellion.); he died of “his own (individual) sin” ( Bamidbar 27.3).
Rashi’s commentary says that the phrase “his own sin,” is derived from the words of the Talmud ( Shabbat 96) where Rabbi Akiva identifies their father as “mekoshesh etzim,” the tree cutter/carrier who, in a midrash cited by Tosfot (Baba Batra 119), is portrayed not simply a Sabbath-breaker, but rather someone acting on his own commitment, “le-shem Shamayyim,” for the sake of heaven.
In thinking about the woodcutter’s story of chopping down a tree on Shabbat, I was reminded of a Torah that Reb Shlomo taught us with regard to his act. The Holy Ishbitzer Rebbe teaches from the Talmud that there are two types of positive acts one can do. One act where a person’s intention is only for himself, to make himself holy, while the second is a selfless act done only in the name of God. Both of these acts have tremendous merit, but obviously to be selfless must be regarded to be a bit higher.
“The Mekoshesh Etzim,” says the Ishbitzer, “was only thinking of God. He saw that the B’nai Yisarel in the desert had lost some of their spiritual connection to the Holy Shabbat. ( Sound familiar???) The manna from heaven was not good enough for them. They needed to fulfill their human desires and they complained of not having meat to eat.”
The woodcutter, was ready to sacrifice his own life, knowing what his punishment would be for desecrating the Shabbat. He did so willingly in order to teach the world, and specifically the B’nai Yisrael , about the utter importance of connecting to the Holiness of Shabbat. Obviously, says the Ishbitzer, in this case, as opposed to a similar situation where Pinchas also transgressed by killing Zimri and Kozbi in order to bring peace, the “mekoshesh etzim” may have made the wrong choice, but still, his intentions were totally pure.
Then Shlomo continues, “The question is, everything you are doing, are you doing it until the end of the world? Do you realize that whatever you is paving the way of fixing to the end of the world? Or are you just doing it for right now? Let’s assume you are fixing your soul with it, but what’s going to be with your children, your grandchildren? What’s going to be with the rest of you?”
It is this character trait of selflessness, of caring for the k’lal and dedicating oneself to Hashem’s will that we seem to be reminded about all throughout the lessons in the book of Bamidbar.
My good friend and author Shlomo Spivak shared with me a teaching from Reb Menachem Fruman,zt”l, this week yet another story from Bamidbar, regarding Kalev ben Yephuneh, one of the two “meraglim” that did not fall into the egotistical spiritual trap that the ten other spies did. We all know that Moshe Rabeinu gave Yehoshua a tremendous spiritual advantage my adding the letter “ yud” to his name, thus “lighting him up” for his entry to Eretz Yisrael and all of his future. Kalev did not have this same advantage. He was left on his own and certainly felt a sense of urgency to do the right thing. According to Reb Yehudah, Kalev separated from the rest ofthe spies and by his own choice made his way towards Hebron to the cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs to pray there. Hebron was known as a dangerous place where the giants lived. Anyone who dared go there did not look to the side on the way. It is, as Reb Shlomo would say, living on the level of no choice. This was Kalev. He was ready to put himself under tremendous pressure for the sake of his people.
So who knows in any given situation am I being asked to respond like Pinchas, like the Holy woodcutter or simply as myself. Any way, I must dedicate my actions, “l’shem Shamayaim,” in the name of God and for the sake of k’lal Yisrael and the whole world.
As we reenter into the annual framework of the three weeks , “bein hametzarim,” between the straits, I need to ask myself .What is my response to God’s calling? How do I answer the question , are you ready for the Geulah? “Im b’chukotai telechu,” (Vayikra26.3) if you are ready to walk in the path of my laws of this world,” the result will be, “vishavtim ba’aretz lavetach,” you will dwell in the Land securely ( Vayikra 26.5) This is God’s promise and commitment to us . “V’natati Shalom ba’aretz,” you want me to bring Peace to the Land ( Vayikra 26.6), this depends on your behavior. You need to make Peace with each other. So in a nutshell Hashem is asking us daily, are you ready and willing? Let’s all cry out together with no doubt, “YES!!!!”