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  KD MAGAZINE!         ב"ה              
 
 
  PARASHAT PINCHAS  
 
By Rabbi Asher Brander
 
RABBI ASHER BRANDER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

   

The daughters of Tzelafchad, those righteous and smart women, petition Moshe for a piece of land in Eretz Yisrael (Bamidbar 27, their father died and why should their family lose out). Their claim is vindicated by the Almighty and through their righteousness a parsha in the Torah comes to light - one of only four places in Torah where Moshe seeks Divine counsel to gain ultimate clarity regarding Halacha.
 
Rashi wonders about the placement of this episode and posits a poignant notion - for it immediately follows the new census conducted by Yehoshua and Elazar (the new leaders of Klal Yisrael) - a census wherein the Torah sadly reminds us of the post meraglim (spies) reality: [Bamidbar, 26:64-65]

And of these, there was no man counted by Moshe and Aharon .. for Hashem had said of them they will surely die in the wilderness save for Kalev and Yehoshua

No man was counted - however the women did enter the land - for they were not part of the sin of the Spies. Their love for the land is the essential contrast here: the women who sought a piece of the land and the men who rejected it; that is the intent of the positioning of the text.
 
It is remarkable to note that the basic midrashc view is that that the women took no part in either of the two major desert sins, the Golden Calf and the Spies. [For a partial explanation of this phenomenon, see a beautiful Kli Yakar that connects this reality to the selfless nature of women and the selfless nature of the land of Israel]
 
My wife spent the last few days in the presence of Sarah Nachshon.  She has bli ayin hara ten children and 70 grandchildren. My wife was blown away by her incredible stories.

Who is she? Google her.She is from the righteous women whose mesirus nefesh has allowed us to hold on to Chevron. In 1980, she with 14 other women and 30 children covertly entered the abandoned Jewish hospital Beit Hadassah in Hebron. The army and government had assumed that if they prevented the husbands from entering Beit Hadassah, the women would not be able to make it on their own. But weeks turned into months and not only were the women not leaving - but they succeeded in establishing a school within the building, and other programs to keep the children occupied and happy. They lived without electricity, running water, and in substandard conditions, forbidden to leave the building lest the army prevent them from reentering.
 
These women were not allowed to meet with their husbands or leave the building. But on Friday nights, when the men were returning home from prayers at the Machpelah Cave, they would stand outside of Beit Hadassah and serenade these heroic women with the traditional Friday-night song Eishet Chayil, A Woman of Valor.
 
Now there are over 800 residents in Chevron - with a waiting list
 
As I walk the hot summer streets of Ramat Beit Shemesh and consider that the average age of this population is about 8-10 years old (do the math and you will see how true this is) and see the mothers with beautiful big families carrying themselves with dignity, simcha, and modesty, it becomes clear to me that the mesirus nefesh and sense of priorities that the righteous women of Israel have bequeathed to our nation continues - bayamim haheim bazeman hazeh - in those days and now
****

To Own and to Have (reprinted with minor editis from last year)

I refuse to tell the whole joke.
 
But somehow that super clichéd line about my father's a kohein and my grandfather's a kohein (so I wanted to be a kohein too) never fails to deliver grins - and groans (usually from the same people). Our parsha marks the first appearance of a man, whose father was a kohein, whose grandfather was a kohein and yet was not a kohein himself. Pinchas, we know, did not commence his status with the original group of kohanim; he receives the gift of kehuna (not the big one, but the priesthood) after his act of kanaus (zealotry) wherein he disposed of Kazbi and Zimri (cf. end of last week's Parsha for the details)
 
In truth our basic "knowledge" is not that simple. Three opinions emerge from the gemara[1]:
1. Pinchas was a kohein from the very beginning with Aharon and his children. [2]
2. Pinchas did not become a kohein until Bnei Yisrael entered the land of  Israel[3]
3. Pinchas was not a kohein until his act of zealotry brought him the new mantle of kehuna
 
According to the latter 2 opinions, God only consecrated Aharon, his children and future descendants as kohanim. By accident of birth, Pinchas was technically excluded from the original commandment; he was neither a son, nor a future descendant. As there are no Divine accidents, we may venture to probe the Divine mind and ask why did Hashem create the technicality in the first place, knowing that Pinchas would eventually acquire that which (birth)rightfully could/should have been his?
 
One might suggest that Hashem wanted Pinchas to earn the kehuna. Why? Two  basic notions come to mind[4]: 
a. Pinchas was merely a conduit to teach the world the essential notion of kehuna.
 
b. A personal reason required Pinchas davka to acquire the kehuna
 
The first suggestion is simple. The Pinchas episode concludes by teaching that the priesthood is a covenant of peace. The kohein may not take his status for granted, rather he must internalize his gift of kehuna by actively seek shalom, [5] ala the mishna  in Pirkei Avos . Hevei mitalmidav shel aharon oheiv shalom v'rodeif shalom, oheiv es habrios u'mekarvan latorah.
 
Torah Temimah suggests the latter in a rather ingenious manner. Pinchas was a controversial figure. Kanaus contrary to popular belief is not encouraged[6]  and may not be ideal[7]. It certainly[8] requires total purity of motive.
 
By contrast, mitzvos may come in variant shades of muddled intentions as long as the ultimate goal of sincerity (mitoch shelo lishma ba lishma) reigns supreme. Remarkably, even after the plague had stopped, the Jerusalem Talmud relates that Pinchas was to be excommunicated by the people until God vouched that he was kinei l'elokav - i.e. his heart was pure. In other words, Pinchas's zealotry was under the microscope. Since kohanim have a predilection towards anger[9], Pinchas's behavior would be ascribed to his personal character foibles rather than his noble motivations. For Pinchas to be a kanai, it would have been difficult to be a kohein
 
The Amish have a year called rumspringa where the older teenagers embark upon a year of "exploration". To be or not to be (Amish that is) is the question they ask of their teenagers. Reportedly (and impressively) about 85-90 percent of the kids return to the fold. I have no profound knowledge of this system and can't even tell you how accurate my information is. The system's wisdom appears manifest. Each young Amish man or woman decides whether being Amish works for him or her. If they decide it is right, they return probably stronger than ever. (Admittedly,  there are enormous social pressures at work as well)
 
Such a notion, even as it has hit the unorthodox blogosphere will forever remain foreign to us for so many reasons. At the core, a Jew's holiness is immanent. Seeking refuge from one's innate, incontrovertible and undeniable sanctity is akin to Yonah trying to run away from the long arm of the divine: Simply put, it won't fly. 
 
However, the wisdom of being able to acquire that which one already has should not be overlooked. Pinchas reacquires his birthright of kehuna, and it is not a minimalist acquisition. All told, at least 99 High Priests emerge from his line[10]. On some level, better to have loved, lost and loved again than to never have lost at all is the operating notion. One can't really appreciate air conditioning unless you are stuck in a Bnei Brak summer day without it. More fundamentally, in the inimitable explanation of R. Hutner - sheva yipol tzaddik v'kam (seven times shall the righteous fall and then rise) is a prescription, not a description.
 
Cookie cutters may create wonderful shapes but often the cookie is rather blasé.  To the extent that we challenge ourselves and our talmidim/children to feel and rediscover the wonder of what we have, we will create inspired and creative Jews. 
 

Good Shabbos From Eretz Yisrael
Asher Brander


[1] Cf. Zevachim 101b
[2] Cf. Shemos 29:29, and Shemos 30:3. The basic text reads that the clothing of the kohein shall be for Aharon and his children to be anointed/elevated  through them . If this is the case, Hashem's  reward to Pinchas of the bris kehunas olam must then be reinterpreted. It may mean the kohanim gedolim will emerge from him or it may reassert his validity as kohein to serve in the beis hamikdash even though he killed Zimri - which according to halacha renders a kohein invalid to duchen and to serve in the Beis Hamikdash. Cf. Da'as zekeinim and Moshav Zekeinim al Hatorah
[3] Zevachim, ibid. According to Rav Ashi,  it happened when he was instrumental in bringing  peace amongst all the tribes.
[4] Cf. R. Benzion Firrer Panim Chadashos Batorah for an incredible 3rd notion that the kehuna needed to be earned by Aharon and his two children as well and it was when they stood up to the worshippers of the Golden calf.Pinchas however was too young at the time and therefore needed to earn it in some different manner.
[5] Of course, we must still probe why the covenant of peace emerges from the Pinchas act of zealotry - but that is for a different topic
[6] Cf. Sanhedrin 82a haba limaleich ein morin lo
[7] Cf. Mishna Lamelech Hilchos Rotzeiach, 1:15 for a fascinating discussion regarding this issue and a comparison to the concept of rodeif
[8] Similar to the concept of aveirah lishma. Cf.  Netziv on the verse v'chipeir al hanfesh, cf. Nazir 23b regarding Yael and Sisera.
[9] Cf. Bava Basra Chapter 10
[10] Cf. Tosafos Zevachim 101b and Tosafos 9a. as to whether 99 or over 380 high priests come from his line. Remarkably, R. Nachsoni quotes a chassidishe sefer that points out the initials of the phrase v'hayita lo u'lezaro acharav bris kehuna olam = 99!
 

Good Shabbos from Eretz Yisrael
Asher Brander


[1] Revised from Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky, Drasha 5760

Rabbi Asher Brander is the rabbi of The Westwood Kehilla, an orthodox synagogue in Los Angeles, CA. Their website is: http://www.kehilla.org/

 
   
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