Dvar Torah Parshat Pinchas 5776 2016 – Elevate the Shabbat Day

Did you ever wonder why on Shabbat you go to Shul later than on weekdays? When instructions were given concerning the daily sacrifice the Torah says: אֶת הַכֶּבֶשׂ אֶחָד תַּעֲשֶׂה בַבֹּקֶר, “The one lamb you shall make in the morning…”. (Num. 28,4) When instructions are given for the Shabbat sacrifices the Torah says: וּבְיוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת שְׁנֵי כְבָשִׂים, “And on the Sabbath day two male lambs…”. (Num. 28,9) No mention is made of morning. It was thus permitted to bring later in the day. Hence the Shabbat services may start later and one has an opportunity to sleep later. This trivia is brought by no one less than the Rama in the Shulchan Aruch. (OC 281)

This is part of our Oneg Shabbat. It does not mean that you can sleep the entire Shabbat and do nothing. Shabbat is a time of rest but it is also a time to study and to improve your religious knowledge. It is a time to spend the day in a religious experience, something that is limited during the weekdays when we are preoccupied with our daily responsibilities.

The Shabbat should be spent by elevating our spiritual lives and increasing our knowledge of our Jewish existence.

Dvar Torah Parshat Pinchas 5775 2015

In this week’s portion we find the five daughters of Tzelafchad approaching Moshe and asking for the rights of women to inherit land in Israel. The original plan, as we read it in the Torah, does not give them this right. This request left Moshe without an answer and he told them to wait until he hears from Hashem what the ruling will be.

The answer came: כֵּן בְּנוֹת צְלָפְחָד דֹּבְרֹת, “The daughters of Tzelafchad speak properly…”. (Num. 27,7) Hashem justified their claim and agreed with them that they do have property rights.

This passage communicates an important message. When one sees an injustice and feels that a correction must be made, the individual must not remain silent but should speak up to rectify the problem. The approach, however, should be peaceful and the arguments should be logical.

Too often people feel they have a just cause but they refrain from voicing their opinion. They then miss the opportunity of correcting the situation. Anyone who feels they have a just cause should not remain silent but speak up, respectfully.

Dvar Torah Parshat Pinchas 5774 2014

Moshe knows that he will not lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land. Hence he requests of Hashem to appoint a leader that will take his place and lead the people. Hashem answers his request and says: קַח־לְךָ אֶת־יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן־נוּן, “…take to yourself Yehoshua the son of Nun…”. (Num. 27,18) Moshe was instructed to appoint Yehoshua to follow him in leading Bnei Israel.

There were numerous people who could have fulfilled this exalted position. Among them were the sons of Aharon and many of the leaders of the tribes. Yet he was instructed to pick Yehoshua. Why so?

Rashi quotes the Midrash (Sifri, Bamidbar, Pinchas, 140) that says: את שבדוק לך, “…one who has been proved by you…one whom you know well…”.
Yehoshua was picked because he was close to Moshe. A scholar could be very learned and know all the laws. Yet, this is not sufficient to deal with the needs of the people. A leader must know how to deal with people and how to interpret the law according to the situation at hand. That means, he must know how to apply the law to the circumstances and it is not enough to know the law theoretically.

Yehoshua was that kind of a person because he was constantly with Moshe and could detect how Moshe was going to react to all trying situations that confronted him. Yehoshua had the practical experience of applying the law. That is relevant today. A successful leader is one who can analyze a situation and understand exactly what law applies and how it is to be rendered.

Dvar Torah Parshat Pinchas 5773 2013

The Torah Portion of Pinchas is read during the Three Weeks (except during a leap year). Though there is no connection with this Portion and the period for the mourning over the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash, there is one passage that may be relevant. Hashem always spares the Jewish people.

Pinchas was rewarded by Hashem for having stopped the Bnei Israel from transgressing with the Moabites. In doing so, Hashem says: וְלֹא כִלִּיתִי אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּקִנְאָתִי, “…and I did not wipe out the Children of Israel in my vengeance.” (Num. 25,11) Because of his action the Bnei Israel were spared. Similarly, when Hashem destroyed the Bet HaMikdash, according to the Midrash, Hashem destroyed the stones of the Temple but spared the Jewish people.

The Maharal of Prague, who lived in the 16th century, makes a very remarkable observation. He explains, we are told the Bet HaMikdash was destroyed because of unfounded hatred. The Maharal indicates that before the Temple was built Jews were permitted to offer sacrifices on any individual altar. The Bet HaMikdash was built to unite the people and thereafter the private altars were no longer permitted. When the people were not united and were divided with petty hatreds, the Temple no longer served its purpose and was destroyed.

Rabbi Simcha Bunim makes another observation. He says when the Jewish people reach the moment when they can endure the Galut and do not use all means to bring about the salvation, then that leaves no other option except that Hashem Himself must bring about the redemption.

Dvar Torah Parshat Pinchas 5772 2012

Moshe’s life was drawing to a close and he wanted to make sure he can turn over the leadership of the Bnei Israel to the proper person who can truly lead this people of diverse outlooks and varied opinions. He turned to Hashem with his special request.

He addressed Him in the following manner: יִפְקֹד יְקֹוָק אֱלֹקֵי הָרוּחֹת “May Hashem, G-d of the spirit of all flesh, appoint a man over the assembly…”. (Num. 27,16) This is a very strange way to speak to Hashem by mentioning He was G-d of “the spirit of all flesh”.

Moshe knew a good leader has to have patience and understanding so that he can take into consideration not only the opinions of people who agree with him but also those who have distinctly conflicting ideas. He has to be ready to listen, absorb and be prepared to decide what is best for all and not only for certain groups and classes. He has to be a leader for all.

This is specifically what Moshe had in mind. Just as Hashem was over “all flesh”, that is, all different types of people with their divergent views and distinct needs, so too should the leader of the people have a similar characteristic. He should be able to deal with all kinds of people.

Dvar Torah Parshat Pinchas 5771 2011

Pinchas is known as a KANA’I, a zealot. The Bnei Israel had a moral breakdown and were sinning before an idol on their journey from Egypt. A plague broke out among them. Pinchas saw a prince of one of the tribes openly sinning with a Midianite woman. This was an immorality perpetrated against Hashem. Without getting permission, because of his zeal, he killed them both. The Torah then testifies that the plague stopped.

In the opening verses of this Portion Hashem tells Moshe that He was rewarding Pinchas for his act. For by it: HESHIV ET CHAMATI ME’AL BENEY ISRAEL, “…he turned away My wrath from the Children of Israel.” (Num.25,11)

Pinchas had done two things. He took vengeance to protect Hashem’s name and his action was also responsible for stopping the plague. When Hashem explained the reason for the reward He refers only for stopping the plague. Why?

The answer could lie in the fact that Pinchas acted as a zealot. He took extreme steps without authorization. There is even an opinion in the Talmud that they wanted to excommunicate him for this act. This is not permitted even though he did it to protect Hashem’s name.

He was rewarded, however, by Hashem for saving the Israelites from the plague. To save Jews even a zealot act is permitted.

Dvar Torah Parshat Pinchas 5770 2010

We have two consecutive Sidrot named after individuals, Balak and Pinchas. These two personalities stand on opposite ends of the spectrum. Balak was afraid of the Israelites who were drawing close to his land. He wanted to annihilate them. What did he do? He did not depend on his own ability but chose to call someone else to do the job for him.

Pinchas, on the other hand, saw an injustice and recognized that this wrong requires correction and a serious action was called for. He did not depend on a third party but did himself what was necessary. This follows along the advice given by the great sage Hillel in Pirke Avot: BEMAKOM SHEH’EN ANASHIM HISHTADEL LEHIYUT ISH, “In a place where there are no leaders try to be a leader. (Avot 2;6)

What were the results of what both of these men did? Balak did not succeed. His intentions were defeated and no one was able to help him. Pinchas, however, succeeded in stopping the wrong that was going on and Hashem rewarded him for his actions.

When we see an incident that requires taking immediate action, whether it is to help someone in distress or to prevent a wrong doing, we should not stand by and wait for someone else to perform. We ourselves should act without hesitation.