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  JEWISH AND KOSHER UNITED STATES  הקהילה היהודית בארצות הברית       
 
 
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RABBI CHAIM LOBEL הרב חיים לובל

This week is Parshat Pinchas
Candle Lighting 8:07 PM 7/15/11 NYC DST
Rabbi Chaim Lobel – Young Israel of Aberdeen, NJ
www.yiaberdeen.com

 

 

Public Opinion – In Memoriam of Mr. David M. Warren (Menachem Dovid ben Harav Yosef Z’L)

Following Balak and Bilaam’s failure to curse the Jews, they devised a new scheme – Destroy the nation of Israel through moral depravity. Midianite women were sent, including the princess, Cazbi daughter of Zur. She publicly seduced a prince of Israel, Zimri son of Salu, from the tribe of Shimon.

The scheme partially worked. G-d’s wrath was aroused. Twenty-four thousand people died in a plague. Pinchas, the grandson of Aaron, the high priest, single-handedly halted the plague by publicly slaying Zimri and Cazbi with a spear.

The Sforno (Numbers 25:11, Rabbi Ovadia ben Yaakov, Bologna Italy; 1475 – 1550) maintains that Pinchas needed to act publicly so that everyone would be witness to his actions and that those who supported him but had failed to act on their own would share in his merit and be forgiven for not having protested themselves. Because of Pinchas’ public protest, all were forgiven.

Rashi (Numbers 25:11, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzcaki; 1040 – 1105), quoting the Talmud, explains that Pinchas was subjected to terrible public criticism. After all, who is he to kill a prince of Israel? And who is he to condemn a person for wanting to marry a Midianite woman when Pinchas himself was the son of a Midianite convert (a daughter of Jethro)?

As the Kli Yakar (Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim ben Aaron Luntschitz; Prague;1550 –1619) teaches us, Pinchas’s greatness lay in him acting purely for the sake of heaven without regard for his own honor.

The extraordinary lesson here is that the highest praise for Pinchas lies not in risking his life by publicly killing a prince of Israel but for exposing himself to and withstanding public scorn.

Twenty-four thousand people died in the plague. An overwhelming majority of Israel stood with Pinchas, yet not one acted in the midst of a plague. Rashi, Sforno, and Kli Yakar all give special prominence to Pinchas’ ability to stand before the crowd and do the right thing without regard for his own honor.

Heroism takes many forms. Risking one’s life and property rank high among them. However, standing before an entire nation and doing what needs to be done, that is the highest level of heroism.

For those who can withstand and confront social pressure to do the right thing, for these people, Hashem accords great honor and great reward.

Shabbat Shalom


 
   
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