Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 7   No. 42

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Parshas Pinchos

Pinchas Alias Eliyohu

The connection between the Parshah and the Haftorah lies in the popular contention that Pinchos is synonymous with Eliyohu. It is after Eliyohu has killed the 400 prophets of Ba'al and fled from the wrath of the avenging Izevel (Achov's wife), that he explains his presence in the cave where he is hiding, to G-d. 'I took revenge for the sake of the G-d of Hosts, because Yisroel forsook Your covenant, they demolished Your altars, and killed Your prophets by the sword. I alone remain, and now they are attempting to take my life!' Not only does Eliyohu take revenge on behalf of G-d, just as Pinchos did, but he uses the same double expression ('Kano kin'eisi') as G-d used with regard to Pinchos ('be'kan'o es kin'osi'). In fact, the Or Hachayim, commenting on the latter posuk, explains that G-d was referring to the two occasions when Pinchos avenged G-d's honour - when he killed Zimri and Kozbi, and when, as Eliyohu, he killed the prophets of Ba'al. And it is to the very same two acts that Eliyohu is referring in the Haftorah.


However, it is also possible to explain that, whereas the double expression in the Haftorah does indeed pertain to the two separate occasions that Eliyohu, alias Pinchos, avenged G-d's honour, the double expression in the Parshah refers rather to the dual good-deed of Pinchos. As the posuk writes, he both avenged G-d's honour and atoned for Yisroel, at one and the same time. And he also risked his life in the process. And this would explain the triple reward that he received: 1. He became Eliyohu, who is destined to bring peace to the world in the time of Moshiach, just as he did then; 2. He became a Cohen, whose job it is to atone for the people, just as her did then; 3. He merited eternal life, because he risked his life for Hashem's sake (based on the Or Ha'Chayim). The Radak adds that when Eliyohu referred to 'G-d's covenant', he meant the 'b'ris miloh'. He was running away, because he was zealous for G-d's covenant that Yisroel had nullified. That is why, the Soforim write, Eliyohu comes down to attend every bris, to bestow his blessings on the young baby and to cure him - though whether that is in the form of a reward for his zeal or as a rectification of a misplaced anger, it is not clear - perhaps it is a touch of both.


G-d's answer to Eliyohu's zealous outburst is interesting, though somewhat mysterious. After instructing him to leave the cave, and stand on the mountain before Him, G-d sent various camps of messengers to pass before Eliyohu - a strong wind, a camp of fiery angels, and fire. But G-d's presence was not to be found in any of these. Then came a thin, barely audible voice - that signified G-d's Presence, and Eliyohu hid his face in his mantle.

G-d's message to Eliyohu seems to have been that, although there are times when zeal is highly commendable, it is usually not through zeal that one gets through to one's fellow Jews, but through gentle talk. That is why, when Eliyohu repeated his statement to G-d, once again demonstrating his frustration with the sinners of Israel, G-d told him to perform three operations: to annoint Chazo'el, King of Syria, Yehu ben Nimshi, King of Yisroel and to appoint Elisha as his successor. Zeal on behalf of G-d might in itself be a desirable trait, inasmuch as it conveys one's deep concern for the honour of G-d's Holy Name, but it is not the way to deal with a spiritually weak people. Yisroel at that time were not comparable to Yisroel in the desert, who were spiritually strong, under the guidance of Moshe, and who witnessed the presence of the Shechinah on an ongoing basis. In addition, following the terrible sin of Ba'al Pe'or, G-d had unleashed a frightful plague that threatened to destroy them totally. At that time, and under those circumstances, zeal was the only antidote.

Even against the prophets of Ba'al who went out of their way to cause their brothers to sin, Eliyohu's zeal was praiseworthy. But to turn his zeal against a people who had been led astray by generations of errant idol-worshipping leaders - was a zeal that was misplaced! These people fell under the category of 'children who have been captured'. What they needed was kindness and understanding, not antagonism. So if Eliyohu was unable to adopt a more gentle attitude towards Yisroel - just like G-d Himself, who carries Yisroel and sustains them even when they sin - then the time had come to appoint his successor. The time had come for Eliyohu to leave this earth, and to become an angel, to live among spiritual beings with whom he would not be able to find fault, and with whom he could co-exist in perfect harmony.


Parshah Pearls

(Adapted mainly from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro)


Changing Tracks

"Pinchos ben Elozor ben Aharon ha'Cohen diverted My anger (heishiv es chamosi) from the B'nei Yisroel" (25:11).

When we speak of diverting something, we mean that it is moved from one track to another. In that case, asks the Gro, what does the Torah mean here when it writes that Pinchos diverted G-d's anger? What change of tracks took place here?


Chazal have taught us that Tzadikim are called 'alive' even after their death, whilst resho'im are called dead even in their life-time. What they mean is that when tzadikim die it is only their outer-shell (their body) that dies; their inner-self (their Neshomoh) remains alive.

Similarly, even when resho'im live, it is only their outer shell that is alive, their inner-self is dead.


And that is what the Torah is hinting at here, when it writes "heishiv es chamosi" (he diverted My anger). When B'nei Yisroel sinned at Ba'al Pe'or, they aroused G-d's anger because they killed their inner-self, remaining alive only in their outer shell - as hinted in the word "chamosi", whose inner letters spell "meis" (dead), and the outer ones "chai" (living). Pinchos however, with his act of zeal, reversed the situation. He diverted G-d's anger by switching tracks - from 'chamosi' to 'michyas' (with which it shares the same letters), whose inner letters spell 'chai' whilst the outer ones spell 'meis'. He turned G-d's anger ("chamosi") into life (michyas').


How the Lots Worked

"To these shall the land be divided ... to the many, you shall give a larger inheritance, and to the few, you shall give a smaller inheritance, each man according to his numbers shall his inheritance be given. Only by (drawing) lots shall the land be divided, according to the names of their fathers shall they inherit. According to the lots shall the land be inherited, between the many and the few" (26:53-56).

There are many points in these pesukim that need to be clarified. But firstly, we need to understand how they could rely on the lots at all, considering that Yehudah, for example, required an exceptionally large portion of land. And if they had indeed divided the land according to the different size tribes, how could they be certain that the large portion of land that was destined for Yehudah, would indeed fall to him, and not to a smaller tribe?


It seems therefore, that they initially divided the land into seven equal portions of land (since that is how many tribes participated in the initial division of land in Eretz Yisroel). And it was only after each tribe had received its portion, that they took land from the smaller tribes and added it on to the portion of the larger ones. Later, they would again divide the land of each tribe into equal portions according to its families, and drew lots again. There too, they would then take land from the smaller families and add it on to the larger ones.

This procedure will explain the apparent repetition of the basic division; why the Torah first writes here "To these the land shall be divided ... " in reference to the division of the land among the tribes, and then "Only by (drawing) lots ... " in reference to the division of the land of each tribe into families.


When, as we explained, they added land on to the larger tribe, they would always take from the land of the adjoining tribe, extending their own territory, as it were, and that explains why the borders did not run in straight lines, but in zig-zag patterns, sometimes getting wider and sometimes narrower.

And this will also explain what the Torah writes in Parshas Mas'ei (33:54) "To the many (the larger tribe) you shall increase their inheritance ... wherever the lot falls to him (that tribe), shall be his, to the tribes of your fathers you shall inherit it". What the posuk means here is that, when the Torah wrote in Pinchos that a larger tribe should receive a larger inheritance, this extra land should not come from a different part of the country, but from a piece of land that borders his own, as we explained.


And it is in this light that the B'nei Yosef complained to Yehoshua that, seeing as they were a large tribe, they were eligible for an increase in land - from the neighbouring territory.


I, the Lot, have Spoken

Rashi (26:54) , based on the Gemoro in Bovo Basra (122a), offers a different approach to that of the Gro. True, he says, the portions were all different sizes (hinting at the kashya that we quoted earlier from the Gro). However, it was all done through Ru'ach ha'Kodesh (not naturally, as the Gro prefers to learn).

In fact, according to Rashi, before drawing the lots, Yehoshua would first announce exactly which piece of land he would draw in one hand, and which tribe would receive it, in the other. Then, he would draw two lots from the box, one in each hand. Sure enough, the one hand contained the area of land that he had announced, and the other, the name of the tribe that would receive it. In other words, the drawing of lots was no more than a formality, to prove that the distribution of land was a Divine act.

And to cap it all (as if this was insufficient proof), a further miracle occurred when the lot announced loud and clear 'I the lot, was drawn, such and such an area for such and such a tribe'. (Last week it was Bil'om's ass that spoke, this week it is the lots - well I never!)


Quality and Size

Rashi also quotes a Sifri which states that Eretz Yisroel was not distributed purely according to the size of the land, but that the quality of land was also taken into account. It was assessed as one inferior beis kur against one superior beis so'oh (30 so'oh = 1 kur).

According to the Seforno, this means that, in fact, each tribe received the area of land that its size warranted. However, the more land the tribe received, the more inferior was its quality. It therefore worked out that each tribe received a portion of land of equal value (in other words, Eretz Yisroel was divided into seven portions of land of different sizes [the Seforno speaks of twelve], but, by virtue of the exact ratio of quality to size, of equal value).


The Torah Temimah however, prefers to interpret good and bad quality in terms of how close or far the area of land was to Yerusholayim, a beis so'oh near Yerusholayim against a beis kur far away from it, because the closer it was to Yerusholayim, the more valuable it was.



The Amidah
(Part V)

Communal Prayer

The commentaries write that before one begins to daven, one should reinforce the mitzvah of loving every Jew like oneself. Perhaps this is because one can draw an analogy to a son who approaches his father for a special favour, whilst displaying animosity towards his brother. His request will, in all likelihood, be turned down. How can one expect a father to derive nachas from siblings whose hatred breaks the family unit. Conversely, when his children love and respect each other, this is to him a deep source of satisfaction, strengthening his own bond with them, and encouraging him to fulfill their wishes.


At a deeper level however, the commentaries' 'advice' is based on the fact that the essence of tefilah is 'tefilah be'tzibur'. That is why the basic obligation is to daven with a minyan (and the bigger the minyan, the better), and where this is not possible, at least to daven at the time when the tzibur daven, or in the location where they normally daven (i.e. in Shul or in the Beis ha'Midrash).

That is why the whole of Klal Yisroel all face towards the same point, as if all their prayers were converging upon the holiest spot on earth, to rise together to appear before G-d's holy throne.

And that is why the text of our prayers is, for the most part, communal. We pray for the well-being of the community, in all its aspects, and it is almost in the form of an afterthought that each person adds a prayer for his own personal needs. Because, as the Shunamis said to Elisha "I dwell among the people" (Melochim II 4:13). Who knows whether appearing before the King as an individual will not have the reverse affect, of evoking the Divine wrath, rather than mercy, when the King recalls all his sins.


Just Like a Parrot!

Of all the specifications of tefilah, the two most important are undoubtedly:

a) to daven with the basic kavonoh (the knowledge of what one is saying); and

b) to daven in a meaningful way.

To daven with the basic kavonoh: because nobody would have the chutzpah to appear before a king and to babble before him excerpts from a book that he himself does not understand. And how would his parents react if he did it to them? Why should he expect G-d to react differently?

To daven in a meaningful way: 'like a poor man standing at the door' - because if the poor man were to read his request in an expressionless tone (like a robot) then how would he expect to convince his potential benefactor that he deserves assistance? Expression is a sign of sincerity, and it is only when one's request is sincere that one can hope for G-d's positive response - as Dovid ha'Melech wrote in Tehilim (145:18 "Hashem is close to all who call Him, to all who call Him in truth (genuinely)". In any event, of what possible value can a tefilah be when it is recited mechanically, without meaning, and without understanding? And as for the person who davens such a tefilah, it reduces him to the level of a parrot.


Yes, We Do Need G-d!

When one's financial situation is secure, one's health is sound and one's life otherwise problem-free, it is far more difficult to daven meaningfully than when things go wrong. After all, it comes sort of naturally for a man who is destitute to beg for alms ('like a poor man who stands at the door'), but why should he do that when things are going well? When it comes to tefilah however, this attitude is a fallacy. Even when we are healthy, wealthy and wise, we must know that this is not due to our own efforts, but to the kindness of Hashem. Consequently, we are duty-bound to express our gratitude to Him for His kindness and to pray to Him that He should continue to grace us with His kindness, with the same devotion that we would if we were destitute. For what guarantee do we have (indeed, what reason does Hashem have to ensure) that today's situation will continue tomorrow?

And this is precisely what tefilah is all about - to realise that we need Hashem all the time, even when things are going well - never to take His kindness for granted, but to plead with him when we do not have, and after thanking Him profusely when we do, to plead with Him to repeat his kindness tomorrow.


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