Parsha Ki Tisa 5769 — Torah Principle, Immoral Law and Peer Group Pressure


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 is recorded in Torah 40 years 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 continue to face 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 is often weighed 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 and what one of the Princes’ was into. Pinchas envisioned the possible dire consequences of the avodah zora taking place among B’nai Yisrael 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, at the Federman farm, in Beit HaShalom and elsewhere, as well as the now public knowledge of political machinations which the politicians; be they Olmert, Livni, Barak or for that matter, Bibi, Shas and Lieberman as well 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, nonsensical definition of “peace.” In reality, the despicable scheme of Israel’s political governance is an end-line of blind persecution of religious Jews and the de-judiazation of Medinat Yisrael as reduced to a coastal ghetto of new Jews. In their blind disdain any Jewish connection, they have sold national security and the people they govern “down-the-river.”

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 either the leftists or a so-called “rightist” Israeli government against Am Yehudi. We have seen hints recently of what could be in the offing against hundreds of thousands of Jews by way of government use of smart-cards in order to track the travellings and whereabouts of significant segments of the population.

Hillel Fendel of Israel National News describes one such case of instituting the smart-carding which this blog warned of earlier this year, as well as earlier blogging regarding Nadia Matar’s warnings of a couple of years ago;

The Tarkumiyeh checkpoint – as large as a small border crossing station – is located on the east-west highway leading from Hevron and southern Judea to Kiryat Gat and Ashkelon.

The new checkpoint policy was decided on long ago, but is apparently only now beginning to be implemented in selected areas. The idea is that instead of soldiers waving on Jewish drivers while checking Arab cars more carefully, Jews will either have to have identifying stickers on their windshields – or wait in line to be checked together with suspected Arab terrorists.

The demonstrators object to the new plan for ideological, security and practical reasons. It will cause heavy traffic delays, for one thing. In addition, guests of Jewish residents and those who do not have stickers will be forced to wait together with those who are being checked for weapons and bombs designed for use against Jews.

The overriding concern is ideological, however. “Why are we different than the residents of Tel Aviv?” they ask. “Why are we forced to show our ID cards to soldiers whenever we come or leave home? Why must are cars be identified? Can such a situation be imagined in Tel Aviv?”

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?

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, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated alive returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem 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 to see 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.