By Sarah Goldstein
Good Chodesh, Good Shabbos
By Sarah Goldstein
Good Chodesh, Good Shabbos
By Yehudis golshevsky
There’s a famous story brought down about the Baal Shem Tov hakadosh, that when he once saw a Jew desecrate the Shabbos with his own eyes he tried to consider in what way he was guilty of a similar sin. “It’s not possible that one can see a flaw within another, the sin of another, without it being in some way a reflection of some similar flaw within oneself. When was I mechalel Shabbos?” After much contemplation he remembered that, in the past, he had stood by and failed to protest when he saw a fellow Jew insult a Torah scholar. Since a talmid chochom is compared to the holiness of Shabbos, the Baal Shem Tov realized that this was his personal equivalent of the flaw of Shabbos desecration. It’s only after seeing the parallel sin acted out before him that he was able to do the teshuvah that his own level required. The shock of witnessing chillul Shabbos was the force that pushed him to examine his own behavior that needed correction.
This week’s parshah begins with the Divine reward given to Pinchas for having intervened and “drawn back My fury against the Jewish people,” giving them a new lease on life. The incident that sparked Pinchas’ zealous act occurs at the end of Parshas Balak, and is described very briefly: “Just then one of the children of Israel came and brought a Midianite woman over to his brothers, in the sight of Moses and of the whole community of Israel who were weeping at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.” (Bamidbar 25:6) Why weeping? The Targum Yonason comments that they were “…crying and reciting Shema…” Did they expect that kriyas Shema would help to stop Zimri’s illicit behavior? Were they trying to turn aside Hashem’s anger at this blatant act of defiance?
The Nesivos Sholom, zt”l, ties this teaching back to our story of the Baal Shem Tov. When a prince among the Jewish people sins publicly, it’s understood that in some way it must be a reflection of a flaw within the Jewish people themselves. When the verse tells us that Zimri brought Kozvi within sight “of Moses and the whole community,” it means that every single witness knew that they were in some way or another implicated in that crime. If we see it as a sin, then it’s a mirror in which we see ourselves—that’s the Baal Shem Tov’s teaching. So the Jewish people who witnessed the incident cried at the Mishkan and recited Shema—they immediately tried to undo the damage that must be within them, which allowed them to be bystanders at such a tragedy. However, only Pinchas realized that kriyas Shema alone would not uproot the problem.
Only Pinchas was aware that a sin of such depravity could only have taken place “within sight of the Jewish people” if those people already carried some trace of the same flaw. Declaring the unity of G-d, while praiseworthy, wasn’t the right remedy to fully uproot the trace of that sin, and the damage caused by witnessing it. For that, a far harsher method was needed—that was the zealous act of Pinchas, destroying the sin together with the sinners. It left the deepest and most indelible impression on every individual within klal Yisrael, that immorality is detestable to Hashem, is intolerable, cannot be borne.
When we open this week’s parshah and find that Pinchas the kanoi, who took the spear in hand and “acted out My kinah,” we shouldn’t be taken aback any longer that he was rewarded with a covenant of peace, with the pact of kehunah. The job description of the kohein is to serve as a means of reconciling the Jewish people to G-d through the avodah, and to follow the path of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace. Pinchas isn’t a zealot, Pinchas proved that he was a true kohein—although the means appeared to be the antithesis of peace, their purpose and final result was the restoration of shalom.
By Yehudis Golshevsky
This week’s sedra is one of the most challenging in the entire Torah. In the fortieth year after the exodus, Miriam dies. The retreat of Miriam’s well leads to the people begging for water, which precipitates the events at Merivah, which leads to the decree that Moshe and Aharon will die in the wilderness and not enter the Land together with the Jewish people. And after some unpleasantness with Edom, they reach Hor HaHar, where Aharon is taken as well.
The Zohar Hakadosh walks us through a detailed exploration of the death of Aharon and also addresses the spiritual relationship between the three siblings—Moshe, Aharon, and Miriam. They existed in a synergistic relationship with each other. When Hashem instructed Moshe that it was time for Aharon to leave this world, “Moshe felt as though his strength had been taken away…as though his right arm was broken…his entire body trembled.” Aharon was the right hand of Chessed to Moshe’s middle-line of Torah-Tiferes, with Miriam in the feminine position of Malchus (with its “well of living waters”) relative to both of them. The Jewish people needed all of them to interface so that we could survive and thrive, which we see in the actual life-giving gifts of food, clothing, and shelter associated with them (mann in Moshe’s merit, water in Miriam’s, and the protection of the clouds in Aharon’s).
The Zohar then asks—“If they were a unit in life, why weren’t they buried together?” Other than Mama Rochel, our Avos and Imahos are all together in Chevron. And even in Rochel’s case, she is forever on the road for the purpose of her identification with our exiled people, still on the road and in need of her prayers. In truth, this parallels the triangulation of the death-sites of Moshe, Aharon, and Miriam. Each of them were placed there by G-d to serve as future protectors of the Jewish people who would require their prayer advocacy at specifically those sites. Moshe’s burial place of Mount Nevo is also called Har HaAvarim—the “Transfer Mountain”—because it has subterranean channels that connect it with the graves of Aharon, Miriam, and with Ma’aras HaMachpelah as well. Whether this is speaking of physical channels or spiritual connections, the idea is that the merit of the tzaddikim in death continues to sustain us, and all of the souls of our righteous Fathers, Mothers, and leaders are bound with us for all time.
Aharon’s death needed to be witnessed by the entire people: men, women, and children. A whole nation was gifted with a revelation so that we could see what took place in the private space of Aharon’s burial cave, where only Moshe and Elazar were permitted to enter, because otherwise we would not have been able to accept that Aharon was gone. Why was his death so hard for us to digest? Because he was the most beloved member of the Jewish people.
When I saw this phrasing in the Zohar, it really touched my heart. Aharon, most beloved. Why? Because he spent his life trying to bring peace to couples, to families, to neighbors and friends, and of course to reconcile the Jewish people to our Father in Heaven through the service of the Mishkan. Most beloved—beyond the heads of the tribes, beyond even Moshe. Most beloved. The right hand of Chessed giving strength to the Torah.
May we learn from the ways of Aharon, to love peace and pursue it actively, to love others and G-d and work, work, work to draw those connections ever closer.
Good Shabbos! Good Chodesh!
By Yael Dworkin
“Let the one who reads the letter be the agent to carry it out”
(Rashi on Bamidbar 25:7)
A great message I learnt from a great teacher, Rabbi Biller:
Sefer Yetzira teaches about the energetic challenges and advantages latent in every month. The challenge of Tammuz is in the realm of how we see things. In Tammuz, somehow, it is easier for us to see the half empty part of the glass. Critical and judgmental thinking seems to be the order of the day. What would not be an issue for us in the month of Nissan, seems to irk us to no end in Tammuz. Yet, thank G-d, this is not the entire story of Tammuz. This challenge is offset by the advantage this month is blessed with- which is the power of the right hand. As we all know, the right hand represents strength as well as the power of giving and loving. This is the reason why we are taught to prefer the right hand over the left one when doing the mitzvos. The right side, being the side associated with Chessed is the energy we want to imbue our doings with. So, it appears that the power of the right hand comes to support, mitigate, and offset the power of critical judgmental thinking of Tammuz! This is great news and great guidance for life!
Practically speaking, we are basically being taught that when we see a chisaron, a lack, or something off and wrong- instead of being downfallen from it- we are to take matters into our right hand and be proactive! We are to problem solve- to do a positive action and make whatever it is it right again. This is one of the awesome messages for us in this week’s parsha.
In the final aliya of the parsha, we read how Pinchas reacted to seeing the leader of the tribe of Shimon doing something horrendously immoral, a desecration of G-d’s name. He saw and went straight to Moshe Rabeinu with what he saw, as Rashi explains:
“Pinchas…saw: He saw the deed and reminded himself of the law. He said to Moses, “I learned from you, ‘If someone cohabits with an Aramean [heathen] woman, zealots have a right to strike him…’ “
Moshe, realizing that he had forgotten the halacha of what to do in this situation, gives Pinchas a striking response, as Rashi continues:
“He (Moshe) replied to him, “Let the one who reads the letter be the agent to carry it out.” Immediately, “he (Pinchas) took a spear in his hand….” – [Sanh. 82a]. (Rashi on Bamidbar 25:7)
This dvar Torah is not suggesting for us to be as zealous as Pinchas was at that time. We are not as righteous or as pure as Pinchas was. We cannot be certain that our motivations will not have any self-serving aspects to it, which would disqualify us from acting out with zealousness as Pinchas did. However- on our level, there seems to be a strong message for us on the regular day-to-day. Moshe Rabeinu says to Pinchas:
“Let the one who reads the letter (the memo) be the agent to carry it out.”
In other words: You noticed that which is missing, or off, or wrong, or lacking? You’re noticing implies that you have also been empowered to do something about it! It’s not for you to say: let somebody else take care of it- why should it be my problem, etc. etc. You got the critical eye? You also have the supporting right hand to fix things. The critical eye was paired up with the right hand for just these types of scenarios- for you to be the agent of change for the positive!
May this Tammuz be the month that we finally know to bring the right hand of Chessed into all matters we see need fixing, bringing about the final geula, seeing the coming of Mashiach and the building of the eternal Bais Hamikdash Amen!!