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Parshat Pinchas - 5766

"Pinchas, son of Elazar, son of Aharon the Kohen, has turned away My wrath from the children of Israel, by performing My jealousy amongst them…therefore say: behold I am giving him My covenant of peace" (Bemidbar xxv, 11-12). The Gemara in Sanhedrin (82a) relates that Zimri approached Moshe with Kozbi. "He said to him: 'Son of Amram! Is this one forbidden or permitted? If you answer that she is forbidden, who allowed you [to wed] Yitro's daughter? He [Moshe] forgot the halakha. They all broke out in tears. It states, 'And Pinchas, son of Elazar saw.' What did he see? Said Rav: He saw an act and remembered the halakha. He said to him, Uncle, didn't you tell me upon your descent from Mount Sinai that when someone has intercourse with a Cuthite women zealous ones may smite him? He replied – he who reads the letter should act as its messenger [i.e. complete your mission by performing the required act]." Pinchas could have stayed at the side, for Moshe Rabbeinu was present and who is greater than he? Why did Pinchas choose to intervene? Yet a true leader is measured by his genuine caring, by his honest concern for Am Yisrael. The Gemara (ibid) quotes Shmuel who says: "In any place where we encounter descecration of the Divine Name [Chilul Hashem], respect is not given to masters. Therefore, Pinchas ruled on the halakha before his master and did not wait to receive permission from Moshe, in order that people should not observe and conclude that a Cuthite is permitted."

According to Shumel, Pinchas did not accord with the usually obligatory requesting of permission from one's master but rather acted immediately because of the danger of Chilul Hashem. We see from this that sometimes it is correct to break away from the usual procedure, but this is only on condition that the act in question stems from a pure and true motivation. A true leader accepts responsibility, and can go against the regular code of behavior if the times call for it. Yet on occasion it might appear from an external viewpoint that a leader is acting in this fashion, while his unobserved motives are actually suspect. For this reason the Torah testifies, "by performing My jealousy amongst them," implying that his behavior was entirely for the sake of Heaven.

The Gemara in Sanhedrin suggests a different explanation: "R. Yitzchak said in the name of R. Eliezer: He saw that an angel had come and was causing destruction amongst the people." All the aforementioned conditions do not suffice if the leader does not truly love the people. The first rule of political or spiritual leadership is love of the nation.

When we reflect on Moshe's method we find that he behaved in exactly this way. Moshe grew up in Pharaoh's house. "And it came about in those days and Moshe grew up and he went out to his brothers, and he saw them in their suffering…" (Shemot ii, 11). First of all Moshe leaves the palace and goes out to his brothers – Ahavat Yisrael [love of Israel]. "And he saw an Egyptian man smiting a Hebrew man of his brothers…and he smote the Egyptian and hid him in the sand." Moshe takes the responsibility upon himself and interferes to help his brother. He acts against Egyptian law, which surely protected the Egyptian taskmaster, but external factors do not prevent him from performing true justice.

In these difficult days in which we find ourselves, we are in need of true leaders who love Hashem and Israel His people, who will act with determination and strength for the good of the nation and its honor. Let us pray that Hashem will send His light to its heads, ministers and advisors.

Later in the Parsha the Torah tells of Moshe's request to Hashem that He should appoint for the people a leader in his place. The opening pasuk is very interesting: "And Moshe spoke to Hashem saying:" (xxvii, 15). A similar pasuk, only phrased in the opposite manner, appears tens of times in the Torah – "And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying." Rashi explains: "'Saying' – he said to Him, Answer me as to whether you will appoint for them a leader or not." The usual wording of the pasuk implies a command that Hakadosh Baruch Hu is giving us. Here Moshe "demands" from Hakadosh Baruch Hu an answer, as it were. The nation cannot continue without a leader. Consequently, due to Moshe's love for Israel he "demands" an answer. This is what Rashi explains at the beginning of the pasuk: " 'And Moshe spoke to Hashem' – to inform you of the praise of the righteous, that when they depart from the world they disregard their own needs and occupy themselves with those of the public." All Moshe's concerns revolve around the community, and he gains no personal advantage from this. As a result, he can demand a leader who will continue his path.

Moshe requests: "May Hashem, G-d of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the assembly, who will go out before them and come in before them, who will lead them out and bring them in…" (16-17). We have already noted that a true leader accepts responsibility upon himself. This is what Moshe means by "who will go out before them," as Rashi explains: "Not in the manner of kings of gentile nations, who stay in their houses while sending their soldiers to war, but rather as I did when I fought Sichon and Og – and as Yehoshua [indeed] acted, as it says, 'And Yehoshua approached him and said, 'Are you with us or our enemies etc.'' Likewise with David it states, 'for he went out and came before them' – he went out at their head and returned at their head." Only one who leads out his fighters and is prepared to risk his own neck for the general good of Israel is worthy of leading the nation of Hashem. Certainly a leader who acts in this manner must love the nation, otherwise he might concern himself first and foremost with his own self and his position (and we have indeed seen many of this type, but a hint is enough for the wise…).

Hakadosh Baruch Hu instructs Moshe to take Yehoshua, "And you shall rest your hand upon him." When Moshe fulfills the word of Hashem it states: "And he rested his hands upon him and commanded him." Rashi explains: "'And he rested his hands upon him' - in a generous manner, far more than he had been commanded. Hakadosh Baruch Hu tells him 'And you shall rest your hand,' but he uses two hands and makes him [Yehoshua] into a full and overflowing vessel, and filled him with wisdom in a generous manner." This is the act of a true leader who is not concerned with his own honor. He is not worried that the leader who is taking over from him will be greater than him and place him in the shadows. On the contrary, he will rejoice if the next leader succeeds in his mission. Happy is the nation that such are its leaders!

The appointment of Yehoshua is immediately followed by the chapter concerning sacrifices. "Command the children of Israel and say to them: the bread of My sacrifice for My fire, the sweet savor to Me, you shall guard to offer to Me at its appointed time" (xxviii, 2). Chazal in Sifrei elaborate on the connection between the command of the daily sacrifice [tamid] and the appointment of a leader to the nation: "It states, 'who will go out before them and come in before them.' To what can this be compared? To a king whose wife was departing from the world, and she was instructing him regarding her children. She said to him, please take care of my children. He said to her: Rather than instructing me regarding my children, instruct my children regarding me, that they should not rebel against me, or act with me in an unseemly manner. In the same manner Hakadosh Baruch Hu addressed him: Rather than commanding Me regarding My sons, instruct My sons regarding Me, that they should not act towards me in an unseemly manner and that they should not exchange My honor for strange gods." The "Shem MiShmuel" (670) explains: "It states, 'take for yourself…a man who has spirit in him,' and Rashi explains that this means he can oppose the spirit of anyone who is against him. This is possible only if all Israel is united, meaning that they all share a single goal, the service of Hashem, only that it appears to one that the service should be done in such a manner, while the other thinks it should be carried out in a different fashion. A leader of Israel must lead each and every one according to the root of his soul, and this is possible only if they share the same goal, but if this is not the case then the leader will be unable to assist them. The offering of the daily tamid unites all Israel in the service of Hashem, as the Midrash Rabbah states: 'Just as sheep have only one voice so Israel has only one heart to its Father in heaven" (this is the reason for the linking of the tamid sacrifice to the appointment of a leader). Korach looked to make divisions amongst Israel, and Moshe prayed concerning him: 'do not turn towards their offering.' Rashi explains: 'I know that they have a part in the communal tamid offering; may their part not be received before You with acceptance.'"

Ahavat Yisrael and the love of the nation, which form the basic point of departure for the leader's actions, is also at the root of the offering of sacrifices. This is the substance of Hakadosh Baruch Hu's request: "Command My sons concerning Me."

We are in need of unity not only in relation to the leadership of the nation, but also in rergards to the inheritance of the Land. We learn this from the words of the righteous and wise daughters of Tzelofchad. When they come to demand their portion in Eretz Yisrael they say: "Our father died in the wilderness; he was not amongst the assembly that gathered together against Hashem in the assembly of Korach, but rather he died in his sin, and he had no sons" (xxvii, 3). Had their father been part of Korach's assembly they would not have demanded a portion in the Land, for one can only live in Israel as a single nation. Eretz Yisrael cannot abide internal division in the nation, as it was through baseless hatred [sin'at chinam] that the Mikdash was destroyed and we were exiled from our Land. They therefore emphasize that their father had no connection to Korach's argument, but rather "he died in his sin." In Gemara Shabbat (96a) R. Akiva and R. Shimon dispute his identity. R. Akiva claims that he was the man who gathered sticks [on Shabbat], while R. Shimon holds that he was of the ma'apilim [those who went of their own accord to fight after the sin of the spies].

The man who gathered sticks damaged Shabbat. He harmed the Divine holiness that is revealed in our world on Shabbat. His daughters, through their fierce desire to inherit the Land, express their deep connection to the Divine sanctity that is revealed in our world through Eretz Yisrael. Their behavior thus includes an element of correction of their father's act. Divine sanctity is not meant to remain in heaven, but rather it must appear and be revealed in our mundane lives. This is both the sanctity of Shabbat and the holiness of the Land. The daughters of Tzelofchad wish to inherit the land, and so to reveal the name of Hashem in our world. This is their response to their father's action.

Yet according to R. Shimon's approach their father also desired the land, as he was one of the ma'apilim. He failed, however, to follow the Divine command. After the sin of the spies Hakadosh Baruch Hu declared that we should not ascend to the Land, but through their love of the Land the ma'apilim went up anyway (see Ein Ayah). Now his daughters come and continue in his footsteps in their love of the Land, while correcting where he went wrong. They approach the Beit Midrash to pose a question. "And they stood before Moshe and before Elazar the Kohen and before the princes, and the entire congregation at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, saying" (2). Their love of the Land is tied to the halakha that they will hear from Moshe. A love of the Land that comes from an emotional outburst cannot last. Only a love that comes from the Torah can withstand the test of time. They truly merit a portion and inheritance in Eretz Yisrael.

When we will merit to act with responsibility and love of the nation, and we will merit to truly love the Land, then we shall inherit the entire Land, and the true leader shall stand at our head, Mashiach ben David.

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