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Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 1:1-2:3

JULY 13-14, 2012 24 TAMUZ 5772

Rosh Hodesh Ab will be celebrated on Friday, July 20. No meat meals are permitted (except for Shabbat) from Saturday night, July 21 until Monday night, July 30. It is also forbidden to buy or wear new clothing on these days.


"Therefore say: Behold I give him My covenant of peace." (Bemidbar 25:12)

Hashem gave Pinhas the gift of peace. Peace is a great thing and world peace is perhaps one of the most talked about subjects in world events. We are always worried about peace in Israel and the threat of terror is always on our minds. In the Torah the word shalom is written with a broken vav. The Oznayim Latorah explains that perhaps the significance of this unusual phenomenon is to convey that there will never be true peace in the world until the advent of the Mashiah - for Pinhas is identified with Eliyahu Hanavi, who will usher in the era of the Mashiah. Although nowadays there are occasionally periods when there is no war, in the words of a famous general, "Peacetime is only a preparation for the next war." Only Mashiah will abolish all wars.

It is interesting to note that the story of the act of zealousness of Pinhas was related at the end of last week's perashah of Balak. The reward for Pinhas was stated in this week's perashah of Pinhas. Wouldn't it have made sense to add on to last week's perashah the reward to Pinhas, together with his brave act? The Rabbi Ohev Yisrael (quoted in Hameir) explains that the Torah, by separating the two, wanted to teach us a great lesson. When a man does an act of zealousness needed to defend the honor of Hashem amongst the Jewish people, one cannot be quick to give him reward. It must first be investigated to find out the true motivation that was behind the act. A full week should be spent pondering this act. Only after this long study is it appropriate to announce that this act was purely for the sake of the honor of Hashem and had no personal motives. Therefore, when the Torah separates the act from the reward it is to teach us this lesson. Of course Hashem knew right away that Pinhas was pure and could have announced his reward in last week's perashah, but Hashem put a delay to teach us humans, who don't have Divine wisdom, to always wait and study the motives of the zealot.

All of this is a lesson to us to always think twice before we do an act of a zealot to make sure we are pure. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"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. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


One would think that the people would venerate Pinhas, applauding him for turning back Hashem's wrath against a sinful nation. Twenty-four thousand Jews had already died as retribution for their immoral involvement with the Moabite and Midyanite girls. There would have been more deaths had Pinhas not acted decisively. His actions put an end to the plague that was devastating the Jewish People. Yet, there were no accolades, no parades, no gratitude - only an accusation of wanton murder. They did not consider Pinhas a righteous zealot; they viewed him as a murderer whose ancestry traced back to Yitro, the Midyanite Priest who fattened cows for idol worship. Pinhas was motivated to kill as a result of the genes he received from his maternal grandfather. Thus, the Torah details his lineage as far back as Aharon HaKohen, to relay a message: This was no act of murder; this was a holy act that purified and atoned for the nation's sin.

It is very difficult to accept that the nation was poking fun at Pinhas' lineage. This is not only halachically inappropriate; it is spiritually forbidden. It is the antithesis of moral rectitude. You simply do not make fun of someone's lineage. The tribes knew Pinhas as a decent, upright, G-d-fearing Jew. Clearly, they did not think that he had any motive other than l'shem Shamayim, for the sake of Heaven, behind his act. Horav Yechiel Weinberg, zl, posits that the people were certain that Pinhas thought he was acting l'shem Shamayim. They felt that Pinhas had convinced himself of that. In reality, however, it was the maternal grandfather from within who was having an overriding influence on him. One does not always perceive the underlying essence of his actions. He thinks - he even believes - that he is acting with spiritual integrity l'shem Shamayim, but he forgets where it all started. For example, one sustained an embarrassing experience, an experience that personally demeaned him. He must now turn it all around and do something that will elevate him from the depths, raise his self-esteem, return him to his original self. He undertakes an action that he would have otherwise ignored - all this only to assuage his ego, to revive his self-esteem. Yes, he is acting l'shem Shamayim, but why is he acting l'shem Shamayim? Even the l'shem Shamayim must be l'shem Shamayim!

This was the spiritual danger inherent in Pinhas' act of zealousness. His entire life was overshadowed with the taint of his maternal grandfather's search for religion. During his quest, he went through various transformations on his journey to find true faith. He achieved his goal, but he had accumulated much baggage en route. Pinhas lived with this. He was waiting for the opportunity to arise in which he could demonstrate to himself and to the nation that he was made of the same cloth as they. He was not adversely affected by his maternal lineage. Suddenly, the opportunity materialized - when Zimri took an idolatress, a Midyanite. The scenario that presented itself was one that served Pinhas' needs. He could now redeem himself. He could prove to everyone that he was pure, committed, with no taint of idol worship lurking in his past. Pinhas had every reason to wipe clean the rumors by killing Zimri.

This is what the people feared. Was Pinhas acting l'shem Shamayim, or was this his way of declaring, "I am one of you. I abhor idolatry. My grandfather's religious journey has left no taint on me"? The Torah gives us the answer by underscoring his paternal yichus, lineage, to Aharon HaKohen. Everything that Pinhas did was on the up and up, acting l'shem Shamayim to sanctify Hashem's Name. B'kano et kin'ati, "When he zealously avenged Me." It was Hashem's vengeance - not Pinhas'.

It is so easy to delude oneself into thinking that his intentions are noble - especially if they are not. The yeser hara, evil inclination, goes into overdrive in its attempt to present a sin as a mitzvah, or a personal vendetta as acting l'shem Shamayim. It is so difficult to introspect, to seek and confront the truth behind our actions. The risk we take by not introspecting can be devastating. If Pinhas' intentions had not been pure, his act of righteous zealousness would have been transformed into wanton murder. The divide between good and evil can often be quite narrow. (Peninim on the Torah)


The first financial goal of a young person is to earn enough "to live on." As time passes and the business grows or the career progresses, basic necessities are met. At that point, the goal of working changes. No longer is the objective merely to cover the bills, but also to acquire some of life's pleasures. These include jewels, vacations, and assorted other "big boy" and "big girl" toys.

But for life to be satisfying, you don't only need what to live "on" - you need goals to live "for." Satisfaction is a function of the spirit, not the body; therefore, to achieve satisfaction, you need to satisfy the spirit. Driving yourself towards a goal - even a material one - gives you a sense of purpose that injects energy into all that you do. When the goal is spiritual, this magical feeling is magnified.

Should you get a little sluggish and feel that routine is bringing you down, change your focus and decide to live "for" a goal. Define the finish line and start driving downfield in that direction. This strategic change can jumpstart your enthusiasm and put the pep back into your life. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

* * * * *

A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.

Call to 646-279-8712 or email (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

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