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JULY 22-23, 2000 - 19 TAMUZ 5760

Pop Quiz: Who became Kohen Gadol after Aharon died?

by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Then Israel sang" (Bemidbar 21:17)

"May Hashem, G-d of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the assembly" (Bemidbar 27:16)

In our perashah, Pinhas, Moshe Rabenu is notified by Hashem that he is about to pass away. At this point Moshe turns his concerns to the future of his beloved people. Rashi explains (verse 15) that Moshe asked Hashem to tell him whether or not he chose a new leader. The Midrash adds that Moshe said, "I will not leave you alone until you answer my request!"

Moshe Rabenu suddenly becomes very agitated, almost desperate for an answer. This is because, once Moshe knew what he was supposed to do before he passed away, it gave him no peace until he took care of it. He knew he must properly turn over the leadership and instruct the new leader before he dies.

In his request he describes Hashem as a G-d of spirits and of all flesh.

Rabbi M. Sternbuch explains that this means that Hashem takes care of His world by providing for the spirit and the flesh. Hashem provides us with our spiritual as well as our physical needs. Therefore, Moshe requests that Hashem should grant these characteristics that Hashem has to all of our future leaders. Our leaders must be people who are concerned about, and provide for us, our spiritual and physical needs.

Moshe Rabenu further requests a "man over the assembly." Moshe means that even though the leader must be a man who relates to people, a man that can mix with the crowd, he must at the same time be a cut above the people. It must be recognized by the people that this man lives a life on a higher level than the rest of the people. His day to day actions, his strong belief in Hashem, and his morality must be pure.

In short, a good leader is a legitimate role model for all of his people, so they may strive to attain his qualities, and beyond. Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"The name of the daughter of Asher was Serah" (Bemidbar 26:46)

When the Jewish people were counted for the last time, the Torah mentions the daughter of Asher, Serah. Rashi tells us that although she didn't inherit the land, since she was still alive during this counting, she was mentioned. The Targum adds that eventually she entered Gan Eden alive, without having to die and become resurrected! The reason given is that she played the harp and sang to her grandfather, Ya'akob Abinu, that Yosef was still alive, thereby restoring Ya'akob's spirit. Since she gave Ya'akob good tidings, she merited this extraordinary reward.

Of course, we can't expect to understand this on a superficial level.

The secrets of the Torah are too deep for us, and when everything will become clear, we will also know why Serah merited entering Heaven alive.

However, the lesson for us is very basic: If we cause others happiness by giving them good news, by complimenting them and by encouraging them, we also will merit life. We should not be the one to relate bad news or negative reports. People have a way of finding them out anyway. Let's train ourselves to speak only positive things and we will merit both worlds! Shabbat Shalom.


"When he zealously avenged My vengeance among them" (Bemidbar 25:11)

The word "betocham" - "among them" - seems superfluous.

Often when a zealot witnesses wrongdoing, he organizes a support group around him and instigates them to detach themselves from the violators and create their own community. Thus, a split occurs and the community becomes fragmented.

When Pinhas saw the shameless immorality and impudence of Zimri, he realized that drastic action was necessary. In lieu of splitting the community, he acted zealously and at the same time he remained "betocham" - part and parcel with the entire community. He did not create a breakaway group consisting of the pious, but kept the community intact and uprooted Zimri and his companion from among them. Thus, the important teaching is to always strive for community unity, and in attempting to correct a situation, one should also work from "within," motivated with ahabat Yisrael - love of Israel. (Vedibarta Bam)

Answer to Pop Quiz:Aharon's son, Elazar.

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