Parsha Ki Tisa 5768 — Principle vs Peer Group


by Moshe Burt

For many years, since 1991 when Parsha Ki Tisa marked my son Philip’s Bar Mitzvah, I have spoken or written about 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 which pops up in a couple of slightly different forms in both Parsha Tetzaveh and in our Parsha raises a challenging 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?

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.

This author has written about, and The Rav has spoken about at various times in his ongoing Cholvos Halvovos shiur, peer group pressure as one of the cheshbonot which one weighs regarding performance of a Mitzvah, 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 the perception of the esteem with which others will hold him.

It was 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.

It was the final year in BaMidbar and the B’nai Yisrael were deep in crisis. It was a time when the Jewish men once again backslid, as they had in doubting Moshe’s return — thus the eigel zahav, resorting instead to the avodah zora.

Thus they were 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 in slaying 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’Shem 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 set against the large shadows of the 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 now public knowledge of what the Olmert, Livni, Barak, Ramon regime have in mind, i.e. “bargaining” away Yerushalayim, convergence — however they dress it up and package it; the 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; ostensibly for a nebulous definition of “peace.” In reality, their despicable scheme is an end-line of persecution of religious jews and the de-judiazation of Medinat Yisrael as reduced to a coastal ghetto of new Jews.

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 leftist-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 a military zone” or to expel and torture more Jews as they did to our Gush Katif brothers.

Today, as in the time of Pinchas Ben Elazar and the Jews in BaMidbar, we need men of principle and integrity who act L’Shem Shemayim regardless of the popularity of their actions or of how others will hold of them.

Because we didn’t stand Hashem’s test in foiling the Gezeira Rah of Jew expelling Jew either in it’s legislative stages or in it’s implementation, Hashem has given us gradually sterner tests. Are we up to them? We now sit, teeth-in-mouth, watching the Shas party renege on it’s sworn promise to leave the government if they begin bargaining away Jewish sovereignty over all of Yerushalayim. And the only excuse Shas can throw out is Olmert’s oft-bogus promises that Jerusalem will only be the last thing discussed. His repeated “promises” fly in the face of the fact of news corraborated by numerous sources.

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 we be zocha in this coming year that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard and the 3 captive Chayalim and the other MIAs be liberated and returned to us and that we fulfill 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, as Dov Shurin sings; “Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

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.