Last Updated on October 25, 2021
Weekly Torah Portion – Parashat Hashavua Pinchas
By: Rabbi Nissim Mordechai Makor
Parashat Hashavuah Pinchas in a nutshell: Pinchas, Aaron’s grandson, is rewarded for his act of zealotry in killing the Simeonite prince Zimri and the Midianite princess. G‑d grants him a covenant of peace and the priesthood.
Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 1:1-2:3
“May Hashem, G-d of all spirits of all flesh appoint a man over the assembly.” (Bemidbar 27:16)
After Hashem told Moshe Rabenu that he would not enter the Land, he requested that Hashem should appoint his successor. Hashem told him it would be Yehoshua. The Sefat Emet says that the Jews already have a reliable shepherd to lead them, Hashem Himself! Like David Hamelech says in Tehillim, “The Lord is my shepherd” (23:1). If so, why was Moshe requesting that Hashem should appoint a shepherd?
The Sefat Emet explains that even though in reality Hashem is always guiding us, human nature is such that there are difficult times when we feel distant from Him and abandoned. Therefore, we have leaders to help us understand that we are never forlorn and to give us the recognition that Hashem is constantly watching over us. The continuation of the Tehillim quoted above says, “Hashem is my shepherd, I will not lack.” He was saying that he should not lack the emotional connection and feeling that Hashem is his shepherd.
Rabbi Yisrael Reisman tells a story of a well known Jew in Williamsburg who was diagnosed with a terrible illness with a poor prognosis. Before he began treatment he went to every Hasidic Rebbe in Williamsburg for a blessing. Miraculously, after only two weeks, his disease disappeared and his doctor pronounced him completely cured. As news spread of the miracle, each group of Hasidim took credit by asserting that it was the blessing given by their respective Rebbe that healed him. The man who was cured went to the Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, to personally inform him of his improvement and to thank him for his blessing. He mentioned that each Hasidic group is taking credit. The Satmar Rebbe cynically responded that the true cause of his miraculous recovery was Hashem, but sadly He won’t receive credit due to the fact that He has very few Hasidim who follow in Moshe’s and David’s footsteps in recognizing Him as their shepherd of life.
In this parashah, the total population of each tribe is recorded. The tribe of Dan was 64,400, while the tribe of Binyamin was 45,600. The fact that tribe of Dan was so much larger is surprising, because we know that Binyamin had ten sons while his brother, Dan, had only one son, and that one son was deaf!
The Hafess Hayim comments that we see from here that if Hashem wants a person to be successful, he will be successful even though it looks like there is no way he can do it. This also applies to intelligence and wealth. Even if a person seems to be less capable intellectually or financially, he should never feel that the cards are stacked against him and that he has no chance to succeed. Just like the tribe of Dan looked like it would not flourish and yet it grew tremendously, so too nobody should give up hope because he feels he cannot succeed.
There are many stories of people who took on major projects even though it looked like there was no way they could accomplish their goals, and yet they did succeed. When we consider embarking on a new endeavor, we need to remember that whether we succeed or not is entirely up to Hashem. We shouldn’t just give up without even trying, but rather we should pray that Hashem helps us succeed, and then give it everything we have to accomplish what we set out to do. If we approach things with the right attitude, we will be amazed at what we can achieve!.
The proper motive
“Zimri, the son of Salu, prince of the tribe of Shimon.” (Bemidbar 25:14)
When delineating Zimri’s ancestry, why does the Torah mention the name of his grandfather, Shimon. Did anyone fight against immorality more than Shimon? Together with his brother, Levi, these two young men risked their lives and wiped out an entire city as a result of the licentious contamination of their sister, Dinah. If we trace Pinhas’ pedigree to Aharon in order to demonstrate the sublimity of his actions, then conversely we should not trace Zimri’s ancestry to Shimon, since he did not reflect Shimon’s ideals. Why should Shimon be “punished” by connecting his name to Zimri?
Rav Meir Bergman Shlita offers a profound thought which characterizes the awesome responsibility that comes with being a spiritual giant. Shimon’s intentions, albeit noble and sublime, were counter to the wishes of his father, Ya’akob. Ya’akob felt besmirched by his sons’ aggressive punishment of the people of Shechem. This purging of evil, this righteous outrage directed towards a people suffused in debauchery, was carried out without deference to the opinion of the Patriarch. No longer was this noble act as pure as it had seemed. Because of this, Shimon was held accountable and his name was associated with the act of Zimri. On the other hand, before Pinhas carried out his act of zealousness, he asked Moshe to render his decision. Moshe told him to take the initiative and do what must be done. Shimon and Levi’s rejection of Ya’akob’s opinion indicates a tinge of disrespect which taints their actions.
It is frightening how a small deviation can later manifest itself in a great sin. How careful we should be in our every undertaking in scrutinizing our motives and intentions. Even the most sublime endeavor, if motivated by the slightest indiscretion, can be totally transformed – and its legitimacy compromised. (Peninim on the Torah)
Sanctifying His name
The sons of Reuven, of Hanoch, the family of Hanochi.” (Bemidbar 26:5)
Rashi cites Hazal who state that Hashem added two letters of His Name to each Jewish family name. He added the letter heh as a prefix, and the letter yud as a suffix. These letters form a Name of Hashem which attests to the purity of Klal Yisrael. What does it mean to have Hashem’s Name attached to ours? What responsibilities are evoked as a result of having the Name of the Almighty integrated with ours?
In the Amidah which is recited on Yom Tov, we say, “You have chosen us.” At the end of the tefillah, we sum up our pride in and gratitude to Hashem for His beneficence towards us with the words, “and proclaimed Your great and Holy Name upon us.” This phrase, suggest Rav Chaim Friedlander z”l, is the summit pf praise offered to Hashem. We understand our awesome responsibility to be always cognizant of Hashem’s Name upon us. Everywhere we go, every action we do, every endeavor we are involved in, must reflect Kiddush Hashem, sanctification of Hashem’s Name. If we serve Hashem in the correct manner, if we are meticulous that every aspect of misvah observance be leshem Shamayim, for the sake of Hashem, then we fulfill our G-d-given mandate.
In the end of the Amidah, we entreat Hashem with the words, “act for the sake of Your Name.” During periods of trial and travail, we ask Hashem to liberate us from ahrm, so that His Name not be profaned by/amongst the gentile world. We concede that we are not worthy of this deliverance. Since, however, Hashem has “attached” His Name to ours, it “behooves” Him to save us for the sake of His Name.
The Maharal adds that as Hashem’s Name is eternal, so, too, is Klal Yisrael assured of an everlasting relationship with the Almighty – despite the fact that we are not always worthy of it. The concept of our everlasting bond with the Almighty should engender within us a heightened sense of courage, while simultaneously imbuing us with the enormous responsibility incurred with this distinction. (Peninim on the Torah)
Repeat after me
Repetition can be boring. It can even make people lose their initial enthusiasm for an activity or a novel idea. Yet the Torah commands us to mention the Exodus from Egypt not merely daily, but twice daily, once in the daytime and again at night. This repetition may seem, from our perspective, counterproductive.
The Hafess Hayim, however, compares this commandment to a doctor’s prescription that must be taken twice daily. The medication will not be effective if the repetitive schedule is not followed. Hashem understands the fleeting nature of spiritual concepts in the cluttered minds of worldly humans. To ensure the effectiveness of His spiritual prescription, repetition on a regular schedule is the only technique that will yield implantation of these intangible principles in a person’s being.
In his philosophical work, Kohelet, Shelomo Hamelech clearly states, “Havel havalim hakol havel – Vanity, vanity, all is worthless vanity!” (Kohelet 1:2). This clear statement of principle, we might think, would set us straight. But the wisest of all men felt it necessary to expand on his statement, and the balance of his great work is a detailed description of all the vanities of this world. For emphasis, Shelomo Hamelech completes each item that he mentions with the very repetitious postscript, “This, too, is vanity.” From here we learn that repetition of spiritual concepts is beneficial for overcoming our animal natures.
Even while rushing though our busy schedules, we often hear words of wisdom: “Greet others with a pleasant countenance.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Do not bear a grudge.” Catch these thoughts and repeat them throughout the day. This simple technique will drive valuable concepts deep into your psyche to yield years of benefit. (One Minute with Yourself – Rabbi Raymond Beyda)
Wings of prayer
“Each dandelion seed is attached to a tiny parachute and a cluster of such parachutes form a spherical head at the top of the plant. They are picked up by the wind when the seeds are ripe and then carried for great distances, with each parachute carrying its tiny seed passenger.”
The seeds of a dandelion can be compared to prayer. Each prayer develops wings that travels great distances towards Hashem. We must trust that Hashem knows when and how to answer them. (By Norman D. Levy; Based on Rabbi Miller’s, Duties of the mind.)
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.
Pearls of Life
The Torah devotes an entire Parsha on the schemes of two anti-semites – Bilaam and Balak. What can a person learn from this? – We don’t need to work on not being anti-semites – Our great Rabbis explain everything when they tell you to be like the students of Abraham and not like the student of Billam who had a bad eye which is exactly the characteristics of anti-semites. They cannot even stand the idea that a Jew should be better than them! We need to be like Avraham our Father who has a good eye. When he wakes up in the morning he’s looking for opportunities of doing acts of kindness. His thrill in life is making people happy. Since he is so happy with his portion on this earth and is constantly learning the gates of faith he is too happy a person to start worrying about why other people have more. He knows that if he would have what others have then it would be the worst thing for him – since Hashem knows what he’s doing! Even the most successful humans are really only fragile blood and meat with problems he doesn’t know about. The person who trusts in Hashem becomes like a father to everyone – like Avraham our Father that leads the nations [even if they are involved with other religions] with his character traits.
As per Rabbi Reuven Semah ,Shmuel Choueka and Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim