Who's on First?
| Published: July 05, 2021
This week’s music: https://youtu.be/SmcVxsQcqhg
“We Are B’nai Yisrael” performed by Chanan Elias
Music and Lyrics Bob Stark
Who’s On First?
As I was learning the third aliyah in this week’s Torah portion of “Pinchas,” something struck me about the similarity between Pinchas and the woodchopper from the Torah portion of “Shlach” which we read a few weeks back. “ And the B’nai Yisrael were in the desert,”bamidbar,” and they found a person chopping wood on Shabbat.These people brought this very man to Moshe and Aharon and the entire congregation. They placed him under watch because they did not understand what to do with him”( Bamidbar 16.32-34).Who was this man, the woodchopper? The Talmud says that our sages agreed that his name was “Tzlaphchad.” This is the same “Tzlapchad” that we find in this week’s Torah reading where his daughters approach Moshe Rabenuand say,”Our father dies “bamidbar,” in the desert and he was not with the entire congregation that were with Korach and against God. He died separately for his own sin and he had no sons” ( Bamidbar 27.1-5). Same man in the same “ midbar,” desert( Shabbat 96.2).
Just prior to this request of inheritance by the daughters of “Tzlapchad” we meet Pinchas the son of Elazar the son of Aharon Hakohen. Pinchas, acting in the name of Hashem, sees the continuous blasphemous behavior by the men of B’nai Yisrael with the Medianite women . This behavior was causing great disgrace not only to Hashem ,but also to the name of “B’nai Yisrael.”He realizes that if this continues all of “kal Yisrael” could be destroyed by Hashem. He decides to rise up from the midst of the congregation which he is a part of, “Klal Yisrael.” With no thought of what the personal consequences might be towards him, “Pinchas” promptly acts and kills “Zimri bn Salu” the head of the tribe of Shimon and a Medianite woman,”Cozbi bat Tzur.” Pinchas was ready to literally sacrifice his own life on behalf of saving all of “Klal Yisrael.” He does this to seek forgiveness for all of B’nai Yisrael.As such, The Slonimer Rebbe teaches, he was rewarded with the covenant of Shalom and the lineage of Kehunah,”priesthood, for his family forever. These two gifts from God both represented “chessed,” kindness. Peace and The Kehunah. The grandson of “Aharon Hakohen” was following in his footsteps by loving Peace, pursuing Peace and loving all of “Klal Yisrael.” This selfless act was only done to bring back holiness to God’s name and save Am Yisrael.
Similarly “ Tzlafchad” the woodcutter, the “Talmud” teaches us, was concerned that the “B’nai Yisrael,” led by “Korach,” were disgracing God , His Holy Torah and Shabbat by vehemently arguing on Shalom. He too was willing to put his own life on the line, knowing that cutting wood on Shabbat in public was punishable by the death penalty. No matter, it was “Klal Yisrael,” that took precedence to “Tzlaphchad.” Friends , where are we at today? Can we say that we cherish the concept of “Klal Yisrael.” Can we say that we teach our children to highly identify as member so of “Klal Yisrael?” Certainly many identify as Jews, members of a common synagogue, students in the same school, but staunch identified members of “Klal Ysrael?”
Thank God we have tens of thousands of young men and women in Eretz Yisrael that consistently have and continue to put their lives on the line for “Klal Yisrael.” How about the rest of us? Who comes first in our assessment of priorities in life, our workplace, our neighbors or the entity which these two men were ready to sacrifice their life for because they recognized the integral importance to the future of our people?
Everyone who is willing to open their eyes and hearts can see that certainly over the last two years Hashem has been screaming out to us to come together, care about each other before anything else and find ways to stop the anger and senseless hatred. He is clearly waiting for us to care first and foremost about each other and be fixed and ready to enter into this beautiful new world of Peace, “Geulah,”which He has promised us. The entire world is waiting for us to accomplish this lofty goal and shine our light out for all to benefit from. Let’s not forget that there is only one Land that encourages and can tolerate this kind of unity of Yisrael. This of course is in Eretz Yisrael. This is the Place about whom Rav Kook declared sets the stage for the beginning of this “Geulah” when we returned home in 1948.
May Hashem bless us to rise above our petty arguments, our selfish insecure reasoning and our willingness to remain naïve to His reality and instead gather together “B’ahavat Chinam,” with boundless love for each other in the name of Hashem and “B’nai Yisrael.”