Thursday, July 9, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Pinchas 5769

שבת טעם החיים פרשת פינחס תשס"ט
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Pinchas 5769

Ignoring the media
This week commences the period known as the bein hametzarim, the Three Weeks. What is the significance of these three weeks? We know that on the seventeenth of Tammuz, Nevuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, breached the walls of Jerusalem, and this siege culminated with the destruction of the first Bais HaMikdash on Tisha Baav. Thus, we are in a period of mourning for the loss of The Divine Presence in our midst. The question is, what can we do about this situation?

Loving a fellow Jew is an everyday requirement

The standard answer that is given to this question is that the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed because of sinas chinam and we must generate feelings of love and friendship towards our fellow Jew, and in this way we will merit the redemption. The difficulty with this idea, however, is that the mitzvah of loving ones fellow is not merely an obligation during the three weeks. Rather, this mitzvah is incumbent upon us the entire year. What, then, is unique about this time period that necessitates our improved relationships with other Jews?

We need to act and to pray

In this weeks parasha we learn of the reward that Pinchas received for killing Zimri and Kazbi, thus appeasing HaShem’s wrath from upon the Jewish People. It is noteworthy that in Tehillim (106:30) Dovid HaMelech write regarding this incident vayaamod Pinchas vayifaleil vateiatzar hamageifa, and Pinchas arose and executed judgment, and the plague was halted. The Medrash (Bamidbar Rabbah; Medrash Tehillim §108) understand this verse to mean that Pinchas prayed and his prayers were effective to remove the plague from the Jewish People. It would seem from the words of the Medrash that the prayer of Pinchas was not incidental. Rather, his prayer was critical for the survival of the Jewish People. How was Pinchas’s prayer so effective on behalf of the Jewish People? Let us examine the actions of Pinchas and we will then see how we can also act in this manner. The Jewish People had sinned with the Moabite women and in the process they had worshipped idols. Zimri then approached the people along with Kazbi, a Midianite woman, and sinned with her. The people were paralyzed as to how to act, and Pinchas acted and saved the day. We can read this incident and say to ourselves, “ the people were lazy and Pinchas performed a noble act, and HaShem rewarded him accordingly.” Yet, if we approach this episode in this fashion, we will have overlooked our fundamental obligation as caring and concerned Jews. Pinchas overcame the conventional mood at the time, which in a certain sense was, “so what if people are sinning? It is not my obligation to rectify this situation.” Matters will work themselves out.” This clearly is the incorrect approach. When one realizes that a travesty has occurred, he must act, and for the sake of HaShem’s honor. This is the message of the three weeks and the period of mourning that we undergo. It is not about our emotions and our concerns for our benefit. Rather, we must act for HaShem’s honor, and the honor of the Jewish People. How often do we recite the words in prayer for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the return of the Davidic dynasty, yet we fail to pour out our emotions to HaShem so that our prayers will be answered? Do we take the time to pray for the Jews who are held in captivity and for Jews who are suffering from financial difficulties, childlessness, and any other lack? Pinchas taught us that not only do we act on behalf of HaShem and His people, but we also pray that our actions will be for HaShem’s glory and for the betterment of the Jewish People. Removing hatred for another Jew from our hearts is laying the groundwork for acting for HaShem’s honor. There is a story that is told by Rabbi Pesach Krohn about a brother who refused to help his sibling, and when their father was on his deathbed, the father ignored the wealthy brother and focused his attention on the impoverished brother. When the wealthy son queried his father regarding this, the father replied, “if he is not your brother, then you are not my son!” We must first recognize that we are all brothers, despite our differences of dress and custom, had then we can act for the sake of our Father in Heaven and for our entire family.

The Shabbos connection
It is said Eichah (1:3) kol rodfeha hisiguha bein hametzarim, all her pursuers overtook her in dire straits. The Koshnitzer Maggid (Parashas Masei) offers a novel interpretation of this verse, as he interprets the word rodfeha as he interprets the word rodfeha as rodeif Kah, pursuing HaShem. The Koshnitzer Maggid explains that during the Three Weeks, HaShem is closer to us than ever, as He is, so to speak, travelling in the fields. It is upon us to pursue Him and to recognize that even when life looks grim, HaShem is always there with us. The Holy Shabbos is when we can reconnect with HaShem, despite all the challenges and vicissitudes of the weekday. We must bear in mind that despite what the media declares, and how the world views matters, we must view everything from HaShem’s perspective, and we can only tune in to that perspective through Torah study and mitzvah observance. Thus, when we are informed of someone who is in distress, we should not rely on the media channels to instruct us when and how to act. Rather, we should consult with the Torah and the Torah scholars who correct understand what HaShem’s will is, and in this way we can be assured that we are doing our part to bring glory to HaShem and to His people. Hashem should allow us to merit an end to all of our troubles and we should witness the return of HaShem’s Presence to Jerusalem, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkienu, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos Stories
From schleppers to elevated people
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: After the passing of the previous Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, his successor the Sigeter Rebbe, came to Monsey to pay his respects to my revered grandfather, Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky, of blessed memory, who at the time was the oldest Rosh Yeshiva of the Lithuanian Yeshiva world. Along with the rebbe came a significant group of his Chassidim who clung to the newly appointed seer, and were very curious to experience this first encounter between the Chassidic leader and the renowned Lithuanian sage.
The Chassidim piled into the house and began pushing to the front of the table. My grandfather, who was accustomed to orderly conduct, asked that the Chassidim be seated as well. He mentioned that there were folding chairs in his basement.
One by one, each of the Chasidim brought up a chair from the basement, unfolded it, and sat down. After watching this scene repeat itself, Rav Yaakov could not contain himself.
When somebody carries a chair from the basement and then sits on it, then he is merely a shlepper. But if each of you would bring a chair for someone else, then you become elevated. Instead of schleppers you become baalei chesed, kindhearted men who are helping each other! With almost the same action, you are transformed from chair-haulers into holy people who sweat on behalf of their friend! Let us bring our actions away from ourselves and closer to Hashem!
A true matter of life and death
Rabbi Kamenetzky writes further: Rabbi Eliezer Sorotzkin of Lev L'Achim related the following story: In November 1938, before the onset of World War II, some Jewish children had the opportunity to escape from Nazi Germany and resettle in England through what became known as kindertransport. Unfortunately, there were not enough religious families able to accept these children and other families who were willing to take them were not willing to raise the children with Jewish traditions. The Chief Rabbi of London, Rabbi Yechezkel Abramski, embarked on a frantic campaign to secure funding to ensure that every child would be placed in a proper Jewish environment.
Rabbi Abramski called one wealthy Jewish industrialist and begged him for a donation sizable enough to ensure that the children would be raised in proper Jewish environment. "It is pikuach nefesh!" cried Rabbi Abramski.
At that point, the tycoon became incensed. “Rabbi,” he said, “Please do not use that term flippantly. I know what pikuach nefesh is. Pikuach nefesh means a matter of life and death! When I was young, my parents were very observant. When my baby sister was young, she was very sick. We had to call the doctor, but it was on Shabbos. My father was very conscientious of the sanctity of Shabbos. He would never desecrate Shabbos. But our rabbi told us that since this is a matter of life and death, we were allowed to desecrate the Shabbos! He called it pikuach nefesh. Rabbi Abramski,” the man implored, “with all due respect. The children are already here in England. They are safe from the Nazis. The only issue is where to place them. How they are raised is not pikuach nefesh!” With that, the man politely bade farewell and hung up the phone.
That Friday evening, the wealthy man was sitting at dinner, when the telephone rang incessantly. Finally, the man got up from his meal and answered the phone.
As he listened to the voice on the other end of the line, his face went pallid.
“This is Abramski. Please. I would not call on the Sabbath if I did not think this was pikuach nefesh. Again, I implore you. We need the funds to ensure that these children will be raised as Jews.”
Needless to say, the man responded immediately to the appeal. (Reprinted with permission from
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim
Parashas Pinchas 5769
I will not be giving a class in Navi on Shabbos afternoon until after Tisha Baav.
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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