On Being “Right”

The children of Israel are tempted by the daughters of Moav and soon the people of Israel are confronted with moral and physical destruction.  Moreover, Moshe – the strong and stalwart leader through thick and thin – seems unable and incapable of action!  Pinchas (the grandson of Aharon) literally takes control of the situation by killing the leading perpetrators, thus stopping calamity dead in its tracks.  The brash trait that ultimately entitles Pinchas to the priesthood is known as the midah (positive trait) of kanaut (zealousness).  Pinchas’ zeal for God culminated in the reward of “the covenant of peace” for Pinchas and all future generations.

This is a stark example of what we now call “doing the right thing.”  However, one can find other instances of zealousness in the Torah that remained unrewarded and practically unnoticed.  In the story of Balak, the judges of Israel are told to kill all those worshipping the idol of Peor.  Rashi states that each and every judge killed two sinners: 7,000 were killed in that instance. There was no judge, no jury – and no reward.

Furthermore, when the children of Israel worshipped the golden calf, we read that upon Moshe’s order, the tribe of Levi summarily killed three thousand of the idolaters.  Once again, there was no due process of law and no reward for the zealous.

In the book Higyonah Shel Torah (Logic of Torah), Rav Benzion Firer provides an interesting perspective to these three incidents.  Why, indeed, is Pinchas the only zealot to receive a Peace Prize?  Why aren’t the Tribe of Levi and the Judges of Israel at least commended for their zealousness, for their front-line response in a crisis situation?

Rav Firer makes an interesting, obvious distinction.  Pinchas was rewarded not only for his zealousness, but for the fact that he stood up alone against the forces of sin and destruction.  When he fought on behalf of God, not even Moshe or Aharon stood by his side.  The zealousness and the courage entitled Pinchas to the reward of peace.  It is quite fitting that the reward for standing alone for your convictions is the ability to pray for peace and unity.  Although the tribe of Levi and the Judges of Israel were certainly zealous in their performance of God’s will, they had each other for mutual support.

This midah of courageous zealousness was learned from our father, Avraham HaIvri.  The midrash says that “ivri” means “he other side.”  The entire world was on one side while our father, Avraham, was pitted against the “cultural norm.”

By combining the quality of zealousness and courageousness, Pinchas merited the reward of the priesthood, of the covenant of peace, and ultimately of being the one to spread the news of the final redemption.

Slow Down for More!

The great Chasam Sofer would daven (pray) very slowly.  One of his students asked him: “Rebbe, why do you take so long to pray?  Wouldn’t it be better if you spent that time studying Torah?”

The Chasam Sofer responded, “We are told that whoever takes his time praying is blessed with long life.  During that extra time, I will make up the Torah I missed out on.”

Candle Lighting Times and Torah Portions

Friday, July 2

Light candles at 7:50 p.m.

Saturday, July 3

Torah Portion: Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1)

Friday, July 9

Light candles at 7:49 p.m.

Saturday, July 10

Torah Portion: Matot-Masei (Numbers 30:2-36:13)

Friday, July 16

Light candles at 7:47 p.m.

Saturday, July 17

Torah Portion: Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22)

Friday, July 23

Light candles at 7:43 p.m.

Saturday, July 24

Torah Portion: Va’Etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11)

Friday, July 30

Light candles at 7:38 p.m.

Saturday, July 31

Torah Portion: Ekev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25)

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