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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


Pinchas ben Elazar ben Aharon HaKohen, turned back My wrath from upon Bnei Yisrael… Therefore, say: "Behold! I give him My covenant of peace." (25:11,12)

Concerning Pinchas' right to reward, Chazal express themselves strongly: B'din hu she'yitol s'charo; "It is by right (halachically axiomatic) that he (Pinchas) should take his reward." Such an act of zealousness on behalf of Hashem warrants an exemplary reward. Far from belittling Pinchas' right to reward, it seems inconsistent with the halachic maxim, S'char mitzvah b'hai alma leka, "The reward for mitzvah performance is not rendered in this world." Simply, this is a physical world, a world of the mundane; mitzvos are spiritual in nature, given to us by Hashem for the purpose of our spiritual advancement and as a means of serving Him, so that we earn reward in the World of Truth. This world, however, is the staging area for mitzvah performance - not acquisition of reward. Why do Chazal seem to underscore his "right" to reward?

Horav Eliyahu Baruch Finkel, zl, cites the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh, in his commentary to Parashas Re'eh (Devarim 11:27) of the pasuk, Es ha'brachah asher tishme'u, "The blessing (is) that you listen (to the words of Hashem)." This pasuk intimates the reason that reward does not exist for a mitzvah. The mere fact that one is able to perform a mitzvah, to serve Hashem in such a capacity, should in and of itself be sufficient reward. Expecting supplemental reward in addition to the merit of being able to serve Hashem would be audacious. Serving the Supreme King of Kings is the greatest source of pleasure. For what more can one ask?

This is true, explains Rav Eliyahu Baruch, with regard to all mitzvos - except for one: the mitzvah of kanaus, zealousness, for Hashem. Zealousness by its very nature is considered an act of ardent devotion, only as long as one does not derive any pleasure/satisfaction from his act. Indeed, the kanai who slays a fellow Jew that is cohabiting with a pagan woman does so without choice, without alternative. What pleasure can one derive from seeing his fellow Jew, his brother, bleeding to death? True, this man has committed a grave sin, and the kanai saw to it that he received his halachically-mandated punishment, but this should not cause him satisfaction. It is a tragedy for which one should weep. Meting out punishment should be performed with great reluctance - certainly not with joy. A kanai who executes this mitzvah, accompanied by the proper and correct intentions, warrants his reward.

And it shall be for him and his offspring after him a covenant of eternal Priesthood, because he took vengeance for his G-d, and he atoned for Bnei Yisrael. (25:13)

Pinchas was inducted into the Kehunah, Priesthood, following his zealous act of killing Zimri, the Nasi, Prince, of the Tribe of Shimon. Rashi explains that, until this point in time, the only Kohanim were Aharon HaKohen, his sons and future offspring. Since Pinchas was not a son (neither were his future offspring), he was not included in the Kehunah. In one of the teachings of the Zohar, the position is taken that by killing Zimri, Pinchas became forever disqualified from the Kehunah. Thus, the Kehunah, which he received as a reward, was a totally new Kehunah, not connected with that of Aharon HaKohen. How are we to understand this?

The Shem Mi'Shmuel quotes the Arizal who observes that Pinchas found his spiritual roots in Kayin, son of Adam and Chavah. Kayin committed the world's first fratricide by killing his own brother, Hevel. As such, imbedded deep within the psyche of Pinchas was a gravitational pull towards murder. This disqualified him from the Priesthood, until somehow this tendency could be expunged. This was accomplished when he killed Zimri, utilizing his proclivity for a positive means. He could now become a Kohen.

Obviously, the words of the Arizal must be expounded upon. In order to understand the spiritual relationship between Pinchas and Kayin, we first must consider the personality of Kayin. The name of a person indicates his true nature. The root of the name Kayin was expressed by Chavah when she gave birth to him: Kanisi ish es Hashem, "I have acquired a man from G-d" (Bereishis 4:1). Hence, the root of Kayin is kinyan, acquisition. In this light, we see Kayin as a man who views himself as significant - an entity of substance, a person who himself was an "acquisition," maintains a pretentious viewpoint of himself. Seeing oneself as important can make one headstrong. The person who feels that he may lord over others will soon try to lord over G-d. Kayin did not only kill his brother, but he also had other plans. Chazal teach (Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer 21) that Hevel had a twin sister who was quite striking. Kayin had designs on her, saying, "I will kill Hevel and take his twin from him." All this is rooted in Kayin's delusion of greatness.

Sources in Chazal state that Kayin's obsession with himself led to idolatry and denial of Hashem's guidance of the world. In other words, Kayin's arrogance and self-worship led him to commit the three cardinal sins of murder, idolatry and immorality.

As we have often mentioned, there is a flipside; the same deficient character trait has a counterpart which is positive and productive. The very same motivation which led Kayin to evil can also lead one to appreciate the value of a human being. Yehoshafat Ha'melech was a person whose "heart was lifted up in the ways of G-d" (Divrei HaYamim II 17:6). Chazal explain (Sanhedrin 38a) that while Yehoshafat did see himself as a significant, valuable person, he directed this feeling towards serving Hashem. Indeed, Chazal derive from him that "every individual should say, Bishvili nivra ha'olam, 'Because of me, the world was created.'"

Chazal present to us a deeper understanding of what a person should do with his feeling of self-worth. By considering himself significant and worthy of contributing to Hashem's world, he manifests the good side of Kayin's character trait. Clearly, this was Chavah's intention when she gave her son the name Kayin. She hoped that he would be a man of self-worth, who would understand his own value and who would apply this knowledge to serving Hashem in the proper manner. Sadly, Kayin took what he knew about himself and perverted this knowledge from its true purpose. The misapplication of his character trait transformed a man of substance into an egocentric sinner.

Let us now consider the action taken by Pinchas against Zimri. As mentioned, Pinchas possessed the same character trait as Kayin. It was his function to utilize this trait of self-worth for the greater good - not for personal aggrandizement. As a result of the effects of this trait, Pinchas was "zealous for G-d," personally killing Zimri because he was acutely aware that not all Jews could be considered to be kanaim l'shem Shomayim, zealous for Hashem. As a man of great spiritual sensitivity, Pinchas could not bear to see Zimri's flagrant desecration of the Torah. By acting out his self-worth in a positive way, Pinchas transcended his "Kayin" proclivity, redirecting it toward the common good.

Pinchas' intolerance of Zimri's blatant act of immorality was the result of a level of indignation found only in a person of such great spiritual sensitivity that he felt personally affronted by this act. As Yehoshafat "lifted his heart in the ways of G-d," so, too, did Pinchas take the initiative and act in accordance with his heartfelt motivation. Thus, he was able to conquer Kayin's arrogance.

The Shem MiShmuel takes it one step further. When the people saw Zimri's act of blasphemy, they were unsure how to react. The sinners committed adultery and idol worship. By allowing themselves to do this, they showed that they had very low self-esteem. This is true of all sinners. When they sin, they diminish their human status, acting akin to murder. When Pinchas repaired Kayin's residual defect which lay dormant within him, he corrected the damage caused by the three cardinal sins. He would now receive the gift of Kehunah, which had heretofore been denied him. His killing of Zimri was not murder; it was spiritual rectification - his own, as well as that of the sinners.

And it shall be for him and his offspring after him a covenant of eternal Priesthood. (25:13)

Up until that time, only Aharon HaKohen and his sons had been inducted into the Priesthood. Any additional offspring who would be born into the family would be "born Kohanim." Pinchas was already born; thus, he was not to be included in the Priesthood. As a result of his decisive act of zealousness, he was granted a place in the Priesthood, a place for himself and his offspring. The Zohar HaKadosh questions Pinchas' induction into the Priesthood, since he had just killed a Jew. We have a rule that a Kohen who takes a life is not permitted to serve. Here we see that specifically because Pinchas killed Zimri, he was granted the Priesthood. How are we to resolve this issue?

The Sfas Emes explains that the righteous are willing to give up their lives in order to serve Hashem. Their devotion is so exemplary that they will even relinquish their spiritual ascendancy in order to perform Hashem's Will - they will give up their portion in the World to Come. This is how we may describe Pinchas. Realizing that by taking Zimri's life, he was giving up his right to the Kehunah, Priesthood, Pinchas still responded and acted accordingly. It was more important that he curb the desecration of Hashem's Name by killing Zimri. If, as a result of his actions, he would lose out on the Kehunah - so be it! Saving the Jewish People had much greater significance. Since he was prepared to lose the Kehunah for the glory of Heaven, the Almighty rewarded him with everlasting Priesthood.

The Bais Yisrael quotes his father, the Imrei Emes, who contends that Pinchas did not receive the Priesthood until after he killed Zimri, so that when he killed him, he was not yet a Kohen. Otherwise, he would not have been allowed to kill him. He questions this, wondering what difference it makes when he became a Kohen. After all is said and done, Pinchas was Pinchas; the person did not change. Pinchas the person (not yet a Kohen) still had blood on his hands. How could he become a Kohen? The Bais Yisrael explains that the Pinchas who existed prior to becoming a Kohen and the Pinchas after becoming a Kohen were not the same person. He quotes the Zohar who says that, following Zimri's death, Pinchas' neshamah, soul, left him, and another neshamah took its place.

The Bais Yisrael related that a young avreich, man who was proficient in his Torah knowledge, but lacked the humility that should accompany his erudition, visited Horav Baruch, zl, m'Meziboz. The young man entered the room expecting the holy sage to greet him in accordance with his outstanding scholarship. He was, therefore, quite surprised when the Rebbe practically did not acknowledge his presence. He did not give the young man the time of day.

Realizing that he was being snubbed, the young man decided that this was obviously not a place for him. He would return home and move on elsewhere. On the way home, he suddenly became tired and stopped along the road. He sat down on a large rock to rest. His mind began to confront the reality that his arrogance had gotten the better of him and his self-consuming pretentiousness had catalyzed such a reaction from the Rebbe. Confronting the error of his foolish pomposity, the young man began to weep bitterly. Finally, he decided to take his chances and return to the Rebbe.

The Rebbe sensed the change in the young man as he was entering his courtyard, and, consequently, went out to greet him with a smile and good cheer. Following the young man's return, the Rebbe treated him with great deference in accordance with his Torah achievement.

The eight-year-old grandson of Rav Baruch had observed the entire episode: the original cold shoulder and the present warm embrace. He questioned his grandfather's actions: "Is this not the same man that you distanced earlier, and now he is being received with familiarity?" The Rebbe replied, "You are wrong. This is not the same person who came earlier; this is a totally different/new man." Likewise, Pinchas was transformed into a new man, once he had been granted Kehunah. Someone who has been rehabilitated, either with help or by his own volition, deserves to be recognized by his new status. There is a reason we pray to Hashem, Al tizkor lanu avonos rishonim, "Do not recall to us the sins of the ancients." It may also be interpreted as: "Do not recall to us our ancient sins."

"May Hashem, G-d of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the assembly, who shall go out before them and come in before them." (27:16,17)

Moshe Rabbeinu asked Hashem to appoint his successor, hoping that his own son would be the one to succeed him as the nation's leader. Hashem had other plans: "Yehoshua, who has never departed from the (your) tent, deserves to be granted leadership over the nation." As Shlomo Ha'melech says (Mishlei 27:18) Notzer t'einah yochal piryah, "He who watches over the fig tree should eat its fruit." Rashi, who cites the above Chazal, indicates that Yehoshua was selected as a result of his devotion to the ohalah shel Torah, incredible diligence in not leaving the tent of Torah. Lo yamush mitoch ha'ohel, "He never departed the tent," is the description of the quintessential masmid, diligent student of Torah, Yehoshua. From his early youth, Yehoshua displayed an unparalleled devotion to the Torah and to his revered Rebbe, Moshe. This, apparently, earned him the position as successor to Moshe.

Horav Eliyahu Baruch Finkel, zl, distinguishes between two types of yerushah, inheritance, which Moshe bequeathed to Yehoshua. Moshe was the melech, king of Klal Yisrael. He was, however, not a king in the conventional sense. His monarchy consisted of malchus mikoach haTorah, monarchy as a result of his greatness in Torah. Va'yehi biYeshurun melech, "He became a king over Yeshurun" (Devarim 33:5). While there is a difference of opinion among commentators as to who is the "king" of the pasuk, some Midrashim, followed by Ibn Ezra, render Moshe as the king, since the entire nation showed its allegiance and obedience to him as a result of his greatness in Torah and for being their quintessential Rebbe.

Yehoshua's diligence was very much like that of Moshe, who toiled in Heaven without food or water for forty days and nights to learn Torah. Yehoshua became Moshe's heir apparent by emulating his Rebbe's devotion to Torah. Thus, he too, became the melech over Klal Yisrael.

There is, however, a distinction between Moshe's malchus, monarchy, and the monarchy of other kings. When a king dies, his son succeeds him, because malchus oveir b'yerushah, monarchy is passed on through inheritance. Moshe's malchus, founded upon his koach HaTorah, power of the Torah, could only be bequeathed to someone who could be called Moshe's spiritual heir. As a result of Yehoshua's peerless devotion to Torah, he was worthy of succeeding Moshe.

This idea (distinguishing between malchus mikoach HaTorah and conventional monarchy) is established by the Meshach Chochmah in his commentary to Parashas Yisro (Shemos 18:2). We find Moshe Rabbeinu, the leader and king of Yisrael, serving Yisro, Aharon HaKohen and the Zekeinim, Elders, during Yisro's welcome "banquet." Moshe was a king. How could someone of such exalted stature perform the menial task of serving others? Even if we were to argue that Moshe was mochel, forgave/absolved his honor, melech ein kevodo machul, a king's honor is not exculpatory, may not be absolved. Rav Meir Simchah, zl, explains that this law applies only to conventional monarchy, not to monarchy that one earns as a result of his Torah. Thus, Moshe was able to act as the waiter and serve the guests.

We turn now to another aspect of Yehoshua's right to leadership: Ish asher ruach bo, "A man in whom there is spirit," an individual who understands the nature and spirit of each of his constituents. This does not seem to be an inherited qualification. Yehoshua had this characteristic because of his unique personality, which was honed by the Torah that he learned.

Rav Eliyahu Baruch posits that, actually, we are not dealing with two qualifications for leadership. Rather, we are concerned here with two bequests which Moshe bestowed upon Yehoshua. First, Moshe transmitted to Yehoshua the Torah which he received from Hashem on Har Sinai. Yehoshua earned this as a result of his diligence and greatness in Torah. Torah bequeaths Torah. Second, was Moshe's ability to lead the nation. This came as a result of Yehoshua's personal qualifications, his ability to understand the unique differences between men.

We have identified two aspects of Moshe's leadership bestowed on Yehoshua: mesiras HaTorah, transmitting to him the Torah and mesiras ha'hanhagah, transferring to Yehoshua the power to lead the nation. At first glance, one would suggest that these two leadership qualities distinguished between the spiritual and the mundane. I do not think so. Yehoshua's greatness in understanding each person, in knowing how to address their concerns, was derived from his greatness in Torah. As the quintessential ben Torah, he absorbed daas Torah, the unique wisdom of Torah. One's mind is transformed, and the abilities and insights not granted to the average person become the sole possession of one whose mind has been transformed through daas Torah.

"Who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall take them out and bring them in." (27:17)

Moshe Rabbeinu presents what appears, at first glance, to be redundant qualifications for his successor - Klal Yisrael's next leader. The proposed leader "shall go out before them and come in before them." He should lead them in battle, remaining at the forefront every time the nation went to war. Is this not the way that Moshe led the nation? Then Moshe asks that the leader take them out and bring them in. Is this any different from his first criteria which states that the leader shall go out before them? Horav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, zl, explains that these requests are not redundant, but, actually, represent two variant qualities of leadership, which are both necessary and combine together to make a successful leader.

A leader must be a focused person, who understands his nation, knows what makes them tick and who has pre-established goals and objectives set before him. He knows where he would like to bring them. He knows where their needs will be best served, and where their individual qualities will achieve their greatest fruition. He, however, has a problem, one that impedes his ability to guide the nation successfully: He can bring them to their goals, but he is neither able to settle them there, nor maintain their successful acclimation to the place where he has brought them. His people are a diverse group with varied perspectives on life and living. They have unity issues; they are not always able to work harmoniously with one another. As a result of this dichotomy in his leadership qualities, he remains a flawed leader, unable to realize his goals, incapable of catalyzing the aspirations he has for his nation to fruition.

There are such leaders who know what is best for their flock, yet are unable to bring about its realization. Indeed, they are able to prove that the course they have chosen is best for the nation, but if the people neither listen to nor believe in him or in their own capabilities, it will not just happen. They will remain at a standstill and then eventually atrophy. A leader must focus on two aspects of leadership: Va'yisau, "And they traveled" - he must move his people, help them focus on goals and how to reach these goals. Va'yachanu; "And they encamped" - once they arrive at their goals, they must be able to maintain and hold on to their achievements. This may often be the greatest test for a leader. Moshe asked that the next leader be one "who shall go out before them and come in before them" - a man with a vision, who knows where his nation should be; and is able to guide them towards the lofty goals that he has set for them. Then he must be able "to take them out and bring them in" - to settle them and catalyze the realization of his lofty goals. Some people can handle the "journey," but find it difficult to "settle in" to the new place, new conditions, new responsibilities. This is where leadership plays a pivotal role. Individuals run for public office, talking up a storm and selling their ideas to the people. But when it comes to their realization, they are unable to pull it off, thus leaving office as ineffective and inept leaders.

Rav Weinberg applies this logic to illuminate an episode in Navi in which Eliyahu HaNavi prays to Hashem for His support in combating the neviei ha'baal, false prophets of the baal idol. Eliyahu prayed to Hashem during the zman Minchah, time of the Minchah, afternoon service, saying, Aneini Hashem aneini, "Answer me Hashem, answer me" (Melachim I:18,36). The Talmud Brachos 6b explains the double aneini, answer me. Eliyahu asked that fire should miraculously descend from Heaven to burn the Ketores, Incense, which he was offering. Also, aneini, answer me, that the people will realize that the fire which descends is Divine - not some sort of physically-induced supernatural event, such as through the medium of witchcraft.

Eliyahu's request is enigmatic. The word aneini means answer me, when, in fact, he is praying to Hashem that the people believe in the Divine fire and not allege that it is fake, a form of witchcraft or black magic. Why is Eliyahu taking this on himself? If they do not believe in the true source of the fire, it is an indication that they are heretics. It is not him - it is them!

Obviously Eliyahu's prayer has a deeper meaning. This is a sad reality that is seen more often than we care to admit. A leader may know the correct and proper path that his flock should adopt in order to succeed. He is even able to substantiate his beliefs with Divine evidence, supernatural occurrences that have taken place, events which support his position. He still must pray to Hashem that the people trust in him and not utilize every excuse to denigrate and diminish the validity of his proof. For this, Eliyahu prayed to Hashem: Aneini - "Answer me!" - that the people trust me and not attribute the Divine assistance that I receive to ignominious sources.

Va'ani Tefillah

Emes Atah Hu Rishon v'Atah Hu Acharon, u'mibaladecha ein lanu Melech Go'el u'moshia.
True - You are the First and You are the Last. And, other than You we have no King, Redeemer or Savior.

We hereby make a declaration of faith, affirming that Hashem has always been there for us. From the very first exodus from Egypt, until the Geulah Ha'Asidah, Future Redemption, when we will finally be liberated from our current exile, He is our First and Last Redeemer.

We add that we have had no other King, Redeemer, or Savior. Veritably, it has appeared during our many exiles, pogroms, inquisitions, and Holocaust, that "others" have played a role. This is true only in the minds of those who delude themselves and refuse to look at stark reality: It has always been Hashem. The Almighty has concealed Himself during the many periods of Hester Panim, Divine Concealment, but, regardless of what we saw or did not see, He was directly involved in initiating and guiding our delivery from the forces of evil. He was, and is, the One Who fights our wars and saves us from destruction. The sooner we wake up to this realization and acknowledge His Presence in our lives, the sooner we will experience the ultimate Redemption.

In loving memory
of our parents and brother

Cy and Natalie Handler
3 Av 5772 - 24 Teves 5771
Jeremy Handler
19 Tamuz 5766

by the Handler Family

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