For many years, since 1991 when Parsha Ki Tisa marked my son Philip’s Bar Mitzvah, I have spoken of a posuk in our Parsha which alludes to an event which took place 40 year later, in a subsequent Parsha.
The posuk being referred to (Sh’mos, Perek 30, posuk 30)says that while Moshe Rabbeinu was on Har Sinai being given Torah, Hashem said, “You shall anoint Aaron and his sons and sanctify them to minister (to serve) me.”
This seemingly obscure posuk raises a very interesting question which cuts to the chase of what we are facing today. The question is; what about that Pinchas Ben Elazar? Why was he not anointed as a Kohen with his brothers?
This author has written about, and The Rav has spoken in his Cholvos Halvovos shiur about peer group pressure as one of the cheshbonot which one weighs, and whether or not such a cheshbon is necessarily L’Shem Shemayim. That is, as this author understands, basing one’s actions or performance of a given Mitzvah on one’s perception and concern for the esteem with which others will hold him.
Here, this author segues into an encounter with a group of celebrants during Shushan Purim (in Jerusalem — a walled city).
A friend took this author, adorned with Gush Katif cap, into a neighbor’s apartment where a number of other young men in their late 20s or 30s were seated. We were introduced and this author was asked name and place of residence — Ramat Beit Shemesh. With this, one of the other men seated uttered; ‘Why aren’t you living in the ‘Shtachim?’ And in rapid-fire, he added. “I[he] wouldn’t live there! Am I [is he] crazy?'”
Needless to say, this author has a serious, big-time tyna with this person’s comments. And, as a lover of the land and seeker of unity, rather than parochialism among the segments of the religious sector, these and other comments couldn’t pass.
And some of this author’s old questions arose; the separation and seeming alienation of one segment of Religious Jew from other Religious Jews, the “I’m frummer than you are”, the “my Yeshivas and to heck with 9,000 Jews displaced, after all, it doesn’t matter ’cause it’s not my block, not my home. I’ll stay learning in Beis Medrash all day, the news is sheker, it doesn’t effect me. I’ll just stay in my group because the ONLY way to fight the rah is to stay learning in Beis Medrash.”
The lines all seem parroted, the”party-line”, if you will. The way to acceptance? The way to held highly of?
And this author fired back some of the lines learned; about Devarim — the Mussar Sefer, the shel yad and shel rosh; which one put on first and taken off last? And since Devarim = Mussar = the application of Halacha; what of the merit of applying the Halachot learned in Beis Medrash outside thus elevating the madrega of other Jews?
And so, we come back to the Tzaddik, Pinchas Ben Elazar who saw what was going on around him, was pained by what the Am was doing, what one of the Princes’ was into, the possible dire consequences and figured that he better ask his Rebbe a crucial question, and fast.
The answer seems to be that Pinchas, who was born in Mitzrayim, before Matan Torah, did not get “grandfathered” into the Kehunah. Although his father, Elazar was a son of Aaron and thus, he (Elazar) and all future descendents of Aaron’s son’s inherited the Kehunah, Pinchas received the merit of the Kehunah only by virtue of an act of zealousness, L’Shem Shemayim, rak L’Shem Shemayim.
It was the final year in BaMidbar and the B’nai Yisrael were deep in crisis. It was a time when the Jewish men backslid and thus were being enticed and seduced by the thousands to serve the avodah zora known as the Ba’al Peor. Moshe Rabbeinu and Aaron HaKohen were weeping with sorrow and fear in the Assembly of the B’nai Yisrael. What was to happen? Another 40 years in the Dessert? Destruction of the people and a new beginning from the seed of Moshe? Thousands were dying (24,000 to be exact) in the plague resulting from the avodah zora and the co-habitations. It was in this deadly crisis that Pinchas stepped up to the challenge slaying of both Zimri, one of the Princes of Israel, and the Moabite Princess Cosbi as they co- habitated. This act brought an instantaneous Divine cessation of the plague and the dying.
The action of Pinchas was not popular with the B’nai Yisrael. The Rashi on Parsha Pinchas, so entitled by Hashem in recognition of the merit of Pinchas, records that Elders of B’nai Yisrael accused Pinchas of wanton murder and wanted him tried and some sought his execution for the act. And so Hashem conveyed the Kehunah and eternal life onto Pinchas Ben Elazar, thus validating that Pinchas indeed acted L’Sham Shemayim. The Ohr HaChaim relates that “G’d wanted the entire nation to know that Pinchas saved them from calamity and had earned for himself the reward specified…” (The Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash, Parsha Pinchas page 876.)
This brings us to discussion of today’s events; our contemprary lives are against the large shadows of horrendous events of the very recent past — the expulsions of fellow Jews from Gush Katif, terrible police brutality by the police of Medinat Yisrael against religous Jews in Amona and the recent disclosures of what one major political party and it’s Prime Ministerial candidate has in mind, i.e. evil, hard-hearted plans and designs to harm, persecute, break and destroy 80,000 more of our Jewish brethren in the coming months and years should he emerge victorious on 28 March.
Not in this author’s lifetime, and probably not since the Holocaust, have we seen such heinous events planned and perpetrated against Jews as what has happened and what is being planned by the Israeli government against Am Yehudi.
Thus, the Jews must prepare for any eventuality. Actions, roving transient actions must be undertaken based on a consensus starting date in order to totally occupy police scurrying around Israel trying to quell situations, thus reducing the numbers of police available to either “close military zone” or to expel and torture more Jews as they did to our Gush Katif brothers.
We need people of principle, as Pinchas HaKohen was, to step up, take responsibility and take on tasks the various tasks at hand from voting the Rasha Olmert and his ilk out to doing what needs to be done in event, Chas V’Challila … We need all of this and more which I am not even privy to or can’t imagine.
Because we didn’t stand Hashem’s test in foiling this Gezeira Rah in it’s legislative stages or in it’s actualizations, Hashem has given us a sterner test. Are we up to it? Do we have the principle, zealousness and the “fire in the belly” of Pinchas HaKohen? Are we up to the tasks ahead? Just as Pinchas saw what was at stake, do we grasp all of the implications? Do we grasp that Eretz Yisrael, Am Yehudi both in Israel and worldwide, Torah and Kiddush Hashem are all at stake?
May it be in this year and beyond, that our brethren; the refugee families from Gush Katif and the Shomron (may they soon be restored to new homes and neighborhoods, Bati Knesset, Yeshivot in Gush Katif and the Shomron and only happiness and success for all time), as well as our dear brother, Jonathan Pollard (may he soon know freedom and long life in Eretz Yisrael) be central in our thoughts, prayers, chassadim and actions. May this abominable period of history called hitnatkut be as a bad dream.
May we be zocha in this coming year to take giant steps toward fulfilling Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, “Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Meiyad, Etmol!!!
************************************************************** Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.