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True leaders must prove themselves Print E-mail
Monday, 03 July 2023

In Parshat Pinchas (Bamidbar 27:15-17) we read:

Moshe spoke to the Lord, saying: Let the Lord, God of the spirit of all flesh, appoint a man over the community who will go out before them and come in before them. Who will lead them out and bring them home. Let not the Lord’s community be like a sheep without a shepherd.”

In verses 18-21, God answers:

“Take Yehoshua Bin Nun, a man infused with My spirit and lay your hands upon him. Have him stand before Elazar the Kohen and before the entire community and command him before their eyes. You shall place some of your majesty upon him, so that the entire community of B’nai Yisrael will obey him...”

The Midrash, Bamidbar Rabba 21:14 asks:

What reason did Moshe have to make this request after declaring the order of the inheritance?

The Midrash answers:

When Moshe saw the daughters of Tzelophchad inherit the properties from their father, Moshe said: This is the time for me to claim my needs. If daughters inherit, it is surely right that my sons should inherit my glory.”

God answered Moshe with a quote from Mishlei 27:18: “‘He who tends the fig tree will enjoy its fruit.’ Your sons sat with their own concerns and were not involved in torah study whereas Yehoshua served you and showed you great honor. He rose up early in the morning and remained late at night at your House of Assembly. He arranged the benches and spread out the mats. Since he served you with all of his strength, he is worthy to serve Israel and he should not lose his reward.”

Moshe’s dream of one of his sons taking over for him did not become a reality. Yehoshua proved himself in the quiet way that he served Moshe. Since Yehoshua protected Moshe’s honor, he merited to receive Ruach HaKodesh, the Divine Spirit and prophecy.

We can learn from here that leaders should be chosen based on their own merits and not through nepotism.

Wait for the right match Print E-mail
Monday, 11 July 2022

Parshat Pinchas presents the daughters of Tzelophchad who requested to inherit their father’s portions of land since he died without having any sons.

In Parshat Masei, Bamidbar 36:6 we read the epilogue of the story: The daughters of Tzelophchad were permitted to accept marriage proposals from all of the tribes of Israel:

This is the word that God has commanded regarding Tzelophchad’s daughters: “Let them marry whom they think best, as long as they marry within the tribe of their father.”

The idea is that if they marry within their tribe then the land inherited would stay within the tribe. However, they had the option of marrying outside of the tribe and in that case, the land would be transferred to her husband’s tribe.

In the end, each of the five women married within their tribe as it says in Bamidbar 36:10-12:

Exactly as God commanded Moshe, so did Tzelophchad’s daughters do: Machla, Tirtza, Chogla, Milka and Noa, the daughters of Tzelophchad married their cousins. From the families of Menashe, son of Yosef, they married, and their inheritance remained with the tribe of their father’s family.

Sforno explains that when the daughters of Tzelophchad saw that God did not want the inheritance to move to another tribe, even though they personally had the opportunity to marry someone from a different tribe, they chose to marry their cousins and in this way, they kept the inheritance within the tribe of Menashe.

The Talmud, Bava Batra 119 quotes a Braita:

Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov taught: Even the youngest of the daughters of Tzelophchad did not get married until she was at least 40 years old.

Tosaphot explain that according to Rashba, Tzelophchad died around the time of the Sin of the Spies, at the beginning of B’nai Yisrael’s wanderings in the desert, so all of his daughters had to have been conceived or born by then. The story of them requesting land takes place almost 40 years later, right before B’nai Yisrael are about to enter the Land of Israel.

Why did they wait so long to get married and how were they still able to have children?

Rashi points out that they waited as they wanted to make sure that they would marry fitting mates.

The Talmud calls these women “tzadkaniot”, righteous. Even though they got married later, where in many cases they would no longer be able to bear children, a miracle was performed just like with Yocheved, Moshe’s mother who gave birth at an advanced age.

The issues that the daughters of Tzelophchad faced are still relevant today. Women should only marry someone who is the right fit. They should not compromise just because they are getting older. We are lucky to be living in a time where fertility treatments can miraculously help women who marry later still have the opportunity to have children.

How are we the first of God’s grain? Print E-mail
Friday, 02 July 2021

In Honor of Josh and Sharona Halickman’s 26th Wedding Anniversary

This week’s Haftara from Yirmiyahu 1:1-2:3 is the first of the three Haftarot of Calamity” which are read between the 17th of Tamuz and Tisha B’Av. Although chapter one describes the upcoming destruction, the last three verses in our Haftara (Yitmiyahu 2:1-3) leave us on a positive note:

And the word of God was upon me, saying, “Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem saying, ‘Thus said God: I remember for your sake the kindness of your youth, the love of your bridal days, your following Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel is holy to God, the first of His grain; all who devour him shall be guilty, evil shall come upon them- the word of God.’”

God asked Yirmiyahu to make a proclamation of His prophecy to Israel: I remember when you were prepared to follow Me into the unknown of the desert which is not an easy place to live.

Rashi asks: What was the “loving kindness of your youth”? Your following my messengers, Moshe and Aharon from an inhabited land to the desert without provisions for the way since you believed in me.

Radak interprets the “love of your bridal days” as the giving of the Torah, when B’nei Yisrael were compared to a bride and God was compared to a groom.

In Hoshea 9:10 we read:

I found Yisrael like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the first ripe fruit in the fig tree at her first season.

Buber explains:

This finding is compared to the find of grapes in the wilderness by the wanderer. The finder found a treasured object in a place where he least expected it. He saw the encampments of those camping at the foot of Mount Sinai and they appeared to him as first ripe figs at their season, producing fruit for the first time.

Why are B’nei Yisrael being compared to the first of God’s grain in the last verse of the Haftara?

Israel is being compared to the Truma, the first of the harvest which is consecrated to God and is given to the Kohen and his family to eat. The Truma is considered “kodesh”, holy and strangers may not partake of it as we read in Vayikra 22:10:

No layman shall eat “kodesh” (of the holy); one who resides with a Kohen or his laborer shall not eat “kodesh.”

Truma is also called “reishit”, the first or the best, as we see in Bamidbar 18:12 which discuses the gifts to the Kohanim:

All the best of your oil and the best of your wine and grain, “reishitam” their first, which they give to God, to you have I given them.

Yirmiyahu is declaring that just as the stranger who eats from the Truma will be punished, the nations who try to destroy B’nei Yisrael will be punished as well.

We learn from our Haftara that even though God was angry with B’nai Yisrael for sinning, He would never demolish them as He will always remember the days of their courtship in the desert and their marriage at Mount Sinai. They will always be his firstborn as they were the ones who said “naaseh venishma”, we will do and we will listen. No matter how outraged He is, God will never let the Jewish nation be fully destroyed.

As we admire the grape vines and fig trees growing in Israel, may we be reminded of God’s everlasting relationship with the Jewish people.

Women were the pioneers in loving Israel and acts of kindness Print E-mail
Tuesday, 16 July 2019

In Parshat Pinchas, we are reminded of the fact that the older generation (aside from Yehoshua and Calev) died out in the wilderness due to the sin of the spies and only the younger generation can enter the Land of Israel.

Rashi (Bamidbar 26:64) states that there was no decree issued against the women (to die in the wilderness) since they cherished the land. The men said (Bamidbar 14:4) “let us appoint a leader and we will return to Egypt” while the women (the daughters of Tzelophchad) said (Bamidbar 27:4) “give us possession.”

The daughters of Tzelophchad are introduced in the following way (Bamidbar 27:4):

And they approached- the daughters of Tzelophchad, son of Chefer, son of Gilad, son of Machir, son of Menashe, of the families of Menashe the son of Yosef. The names of the daughters were: Machla, Noa, Chogla, Milka and Tirtza.

Rashi asks why Menashe is mentioned twice: “son of Menashe, of the families of Menashe the son of Yosef.”

Rashi answers that their lineage goes all of the way back to Yosef to teach us that Yosef cherished the Land of Israel as he requested to be buried there.  Yosef’s great great great great granddaughters requested to inherit the land as they did not have any brothers to inherit their father’s portion of land.

Kli Yakar explains why the women of that generation had a much greater love and appreciation for the Land of Israel than the men:

The men hated the Land of Israel, since they were macho and far from righteousness. They were not interested in going from a place where there were no requirements (Egypt) to a place where they would be burdened with obligations (Israel). They said (Bamidbar 11:5) “We remember the fish which we ate in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, the watermelons, leeks, onions and garlic.”

Sifrei explains that in Egypt, they were free of the constraints of the mizvot. They didn’t have the burden of taking Trumot and Maasrot (donations and tithes of the produce designated for the Kohaim, Leviim, poor etc) from their vegetables since outside of Israel, one is not obligated in Mitzvot Hatluyot Ba’Aretz, the mitzvot that only apply in the Land of Israel. They were stingy and preferred to remain outside of the land rather than share with the Kohanim.

Kli Yakar continues: The women of that generation were righteous and loved tzedaka. They wanted to observe mitzvot like Hafrashat Chala which is special mitzvah for women as well as a mitzvah of the Land of Israel. They were excited about separating Trumot and Ma’asrot. We are taught in the Talmud, Sotah 11b that it was in the merit of the righteous women of that generation that our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt. The women wanted to leave the place where they were exempt from the mitzvot in order to move to a place where they would be obligated in more mitzvot.

Kli Yakar concludes that the daughters of Tzelaphchad took after Yosef. They were careful with their relationships and they loved the Land of Israel. Yosef kept his distance from Potiphar’s wife and the daughters of Tzelaphchad made sure to marry men who were fitting for them. The daughters of Tzelphchad wanted to enter the land as they loved taking part in giving Tzedaka, while Yosef loved righteousness and made sure that his father’s entire household had food during the famine.

For more than one hundred years, we have seen the love of many women for the Land of Israel, women, including both of my grandmothers, who went out of their way to raise funds to help build the State of Israel as we know it today. One pioneer of this movement was Henrietta Szold who founded Hadassah in 1912.

May we continue to see the State of Israel grow and may both women and men come on aliya and have the opportunity to take on as many mitzvot as possible.

Guess who was not involved in the sin of the spies? Print E-mail
Friday, 06 July 2018

In Honor of Sharona & Josh Halickman’s 23rd Wedding Anniversary 

When we speak about Chet HaMiraglim, the sin of the spies, we mention that Yehoshua and Calev were the only two of the twelve spies who did not bring a false report and they were therefore not punished as the other ten spies who died in a plague, rather, they were able to enter the Land of Israel.

After the sin of the spies, in Parshat Shlach, the rest of the nation was told (Bamidbar 14:29-31) “In the desert your corpses shall fall, all of you who were counted according to your numbers, from twenty years and above, because you complained against me. Surely you shall not come into the land to which I raised My hand to swear that I would cause you to live in it; except for Calev ben Yefuneh and Yehoshua bin Nun. Your infants, about whom you said that they will be as spoils, I shall bring them there and they will know the land which you despised.”

Note that each time a census was taken the women were not counted.

In Parshat Pinchas, after the census we read (Bamidbar 26:65) “For God said to them, ‘They will surely die in the wilderness,’ and not a man was left of them, except for Calev ben Yefuneh and Yehoshua bin Nun.

It is interesting to note that the women were not mentioned.

Rashi points out that the decree was not issued against the women since they cherished the land. The men said to each other (Bamidbar 14:4), “let us appoint a leader and we will return to Egypt” while the women (the daughters of Tzelophchad) said (Bamidbar 27:4) “give us possession!” According to Sifre, 16, this is why the chapter of the daughters of Tzelophchad is adjacent here.

The men were the ones who said (Bamidbar 14:2-3) “…If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had died in the wilderness! Why is God bringing us to this Land to die by the sword? Our wives and young children will be taken captive! Is it not better to return to Egypt?”

We see from here, that just like the spies, the men were not interested in inheriting the Land of Israel and therefore they did not merit to live there. The women, who normally would not have inherited their own plots of land were given special permission to inherit in the case where they had no brothers.

We learn from here that none of the women died in the wilderness and even those who were older than sixty entered the land with the younger generation.

The significance of the almond rod Print E-mail
Thursday, 13 July 2017

This Shabbat, we read the first of the Three Haftarot of Retribution which are read during the three weeks of mourning for the Beit HaMikdash (Temple).

In Yirmiyahu 1:11-12 we read:

And the word of God came to me saying:

Yirmiyahu, what do you see?

And I said,

I see a rod (makel) of an almond tree (shaked)

Then God said,

You have seen well;

For I watch over (shaked) my words to perform it.

What does the image of a rod of an almond tree signify?

A rod is associated with beating. Bilam used a rod to beat his donkey in last week’s Parsha. Unfortunately, even in the last generation it was considered acceptable in some parts of the world including some schools in Europe and the United States for teachers to strike students who were misbehaving with a ruler.

Radak explains that the retribution would come quickly to Israel, just as the almond trees blossom first in the spring (as we know from the famous Tu Bishvat song “Hashkedia porachat…”)

In Kohelet Raba 12:5 we learn:

Just as the almond tree takes 21 days to produce its fruit after it blossoms, so every decree (all of the catastrophes that befell Israel) took no longer than 21 days (from the 17th of Tamuz to the 9th of Av).

Shaked does not just mean almond, it also means to watch over.

Even during the catastrophes, God was watching over the Jewish people and pushing to end the retribution as quickly as possible.

May these three weeks of retribution pass quickly and may the Jewish people unite and fulfill Yirmiyahu’s prophecy to rebuild and make amends. 

God teaches Eliyahu HaNavi a lesson Print E-mail
Monday, 25 July 2016

This Shabbat in Israel we will read the Haftara about Eliyahu HaNavi from Melachim Alef (Kings I) 18:46-19:21. This Haftara will not be read outside of Israel this year, as next Shabbat when Parshat Pinchas will be read outside of Israel, we will be observing the three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av and the prophecies of destruction will be read.

 In our Haftara, God shows Eliyahu a vision which according to Ralbag is meant to rebuke Eliyahu for having criticized Israel in harsh terms saying that they deserved to be punished. God’s vision will show Eliyahu that instead of wishing to punish the people, He is showing them patience and compassion, giving them time to repent. From this vision, Eliyahu should learn that his role should be to pray for them, not attack them.

The vision is found in Melachim Alef 19:11-12 “The word of God said, ‘Go out of the cave and stand on the mountain before God.’ And behold, God was passing and a great and powerful wind, smashing mountains and breaking rocks went before God. ‘God is not in the wind!’ Eliyahu was told. After the wind came an earthquake. ‘God is not in the earthquake’. After the earthquake came a fire. ‘God is not in the fire’. After the fire came a still, thin voice.”

The lesson that Eliyahu learns is found in sentences 13-14 “It happened when Eliyahu heard this, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood by the cave’s entrance; and behold, a voice spoke unto him and said ‘Why are you here Eliyahu?’ He said ‘I have acted with great zeal for God, the God of Legions, for the Children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant; they have razed Your alters and have killed your prophets by the sword so that I alone have remained and they now seek to take my life.”

According to Ralbag, God showed Eliyahu three destructive forces through which he could have punished Israel, as the prophet thought he should. But each time, God told him that his desire was neither in the wind, the earthquake nor the fire for he did not wish to destroy Israel despite the severity of their misdeeds.

According to Malbim, God meant to teach Eliyahu and other prophets and leaders that the preferable way to teach people is calmly and lovingly, not through anger and force as Eliyahu had done by bringing the drought and killing the prophets of Baal.

At this point a new prophet is chosen to replace Eliyahu. According to Rashi, since Eliyahu still wanted to punish Israel, even after this vision, God did not want him to continue as a prophet.

We can learn from this story that our leaders and rabbis should not give fire and brimstone speeches to try to convince the nation to follow the Torah. Rather, they should teach with loving kindness and serve as role models that the nation will want to emulate. If they are unable to lead in the manner prescribed by God, then they would be better off leaving their positions of leadership.

Is ISIS in this week’s Haftara? Print E-mail
Friday, 10 July 2015

This Shabbat we read the first of the three Haftarot of affliction which are read between the 17th of Tamuz (the day that the walls of Jerusalem were breached) and the 9th of Av (the day of the destruction of both the First and Second Temples).


The Haftara from Yirmiyahu 1:1-19, 2:1-3 describes the consequences that would be visited upon Israel in response to its sinfulness.


The famous verse (Yirmiyahu 1:14) “…Out of the north the evil shall break forth upon the inhabitants of the land” is as relevant today as it was in the days of Yirmiyahu.


The name of the northern country that will attack Israel is not specified here or in Yirmiyahu 4:6 “Set up the standard toward Zion: seek cover, stay not: for I will bring evil from the north and a great destruction” or in Yirmiyahu 6:1 “O children of Binyamin, flee for safety out if the midst of Yerushalayim and blow the shofar of Tekoa and set up a beacon in Bet HaKerem: for evil appears out of the north and great destruction.”


The wording is ambiguous on purpose to foreshadow what will happen in the future as well. In the days of Yirmiyahu the enemy was Nevuchadnezar the king of Bavel (Babylonia) who destroyed the First Temple.


Yet throughout the ages different enemies from different countries came from the north to try to destroy us.


Today, Israel is preparing their weapons in the event that they will have to fight with ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). ISIS has control of territory occupied by ten million people in Iraq and Syria, both countries are to the north of Israel.


In addition, it was reported that the president of Iran (another country to the north of Israel), Hassan Rouhani said that in honor of today’s holiday of Qods Day, Iran should shout its hatred of Israel.


The prophecies of destruction continue to haunt us. However, we must focus on the end of the Haftara, a positive statement from Yirmiyahu 2:2-3 “…I remember for your sake the kindness of your youth, the love of your bridal days, your following Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel is sacred unto God, the first of his grain; all who devour him shall bear guilt, evil shall come upon them- the word of God.”


Just as the Jewish nation followed God into the desert, the Jews again have trusted in God and against all odds have returned to the Land of Israel. With a strong army and our faith in God we don’t have anything to fear.

Do Not Rejoice When Your Enemy Falls Print E-mail
Thursday, 10 July 2014

Do Not Rejoice When Your Enemy Falls


At the end of Parshat Balak (Bamidbar 25 :7-8), in the midst of a plague which was brought about from B’nai Yisrael acting promiscuous and worshipping idols with the Moavite women, Pinchas, the son of Elazar, the grandson of Aharon the Kohen saw the leader of the tribe of Shimon and the daughter of the king of Midian acting promiscuously. Pinchas rose up, took a spear in his hand, followed the Israelite man into the tent and pierced them both…and the plague was halted from upon B’nai Yisrael.


At the beginning of Parshat Pinchas we read (Bamidbar 25:10-13): “God spoke to Moshe saying: ‘Pinchas, the son of Elazar, the son of Aharon the Kohen turned back my anger from upon B’nai Yisrael, when he zealously avenged My vengeance among them, so that I did not consume B’nai Yisrael with My vengeance. Therefore tell him that I give him My covenant of peace. It shall be for him and his descendents after him a covenant of eternal kehunah (priesthood) because he took vengeance for his God and he atoned for B’nai Yisrael.’”


Nechama Leibowitz points out that the Rabbis of the Jerusalem Talmud state that the religious leaders at the time were not happy with what Pinchas did and wanted to excommunicate him. Therefore God immediately declared that Pinchas did the right thing.


According to Rabbi Baruch Epstein, author of Torah Temima, the religious leaders wanted to make sure that Pinchas did not have a selfish motive when he murdered the couple. God therefore backed up Pinchas and said that his zeal was genuine.


Rav Kook explains that when it was time to write the blessing V’Limalshinim (Against Heritics) for the Shmoneh Esrei they needed to choose a Talmudic sage who loved his fellow creatures rather than a hateful person in order to insure that it would be written with the purest of motives and for the sake of Heaven as it is a blessing of vengeance: “And for the slanderers let there be no hope; and may all wickedness perish in an instant; and may all Your enemies be cut down speedily. My you speedily uproot, smash, cast down and humble the wanton sinners- speedily in our days. Blessed are You God Who breaks enemies and humbles wanton sinners.”


The person who was chosen to write the blessing was the Talmudic sage known as Shmuel HaKatan (Shmuel the Modest) who teaches in Pirkei Avot 4:19 a quote from Mishlei 24:17-18: “Rejoice not when your enemy falls and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the Lord see it and it displeases Him and He turn away His wrath from him.”


Pinchas and Shmuel HaKatan were not looking for honor, they were selfless people who did what they needed to for the sake of Heaven.


The Jewish people today still follow the words of Mishlei that are quoted by Shmuel HaKatan. We do not rejoice at the downfall of our enemies. At the Pesach seder we remove a drop of wine as we recite each plague to remember that even after all of the horrible things that the Egyptians did to us, we do not rejoice at their downfall. When our enemies die or are killed in wars we do not celebrate. The IDF continues to try to keep the casualties of war to a minimum. We are not looking to celebrate the downfall of those who want to destroy us, we are just trying to protect ourselves.


God gives Pinchas a covenant of peace. According to Abravanel, God protects Pinchas from the relatives of Zimri who may want to kill him as an act of revenge.


According to the Netziv, the covenant of peace is that Pinchas should not become quick tempered and angry. His heart should not be in an emotional unrest after having killed two people, rather he should have peace and tranquility of the soul.


We pray for peace in the Land of Israel and throughout the world.


The Steps That Were Taken To Avoid Jealousy Print E-mail
Friday, 13 July 2012

In Parshat Pinchas we read about B’nai Yisrael’s inheritance of the Land of Israel.


In Bamidbar 26:54 we read: “To the large tribe, increase their inheritance, and to the small, diminish their inheritance, each person according to his number, shall be given his inheritance.”


Rashi comments: “To the tribe with the greater populace, they gave a larger portion. Although the portions were unequal, as everything was assigned according to the size of the tribe, they implemented the apportioning solely by lots and the lottery was inspired by Ruach HaKodesh (The Sacred Spirit) as stated explicitly in Bava Batra122a. Elazar the Kohen was clothed in the Urim v’Tumim (the oracle worn in the breastplate of the Kohen Gadol which conveyed Divinely formulated information), and said with Sacred Spirit, ‘If tribe so and so is drawn, then border so and so will be drawn with it.’ The names of the tribes were written on twelve notes and the twelve boundaries were written on twelve notes. They were mixed into a container, and the leader placed his hand into it and removed two notes. There appeared, in his hand, the note with the name of his tribe and the note with the boundary specified for it. The lot itself would cry out exclaiming, ‘I am the lot drawn for the so and so boundary, belonging to the tribe of so and so’ as it is said in verse 56 ‘by word of the lottery.’”


They went through all of this trouble to make sure that there would be no in fighting amongst the tribes and no jealousy of one tribe feeling that he didn’t get as good an inheritance as another tribe.


The important lesson that can be learned here is that we should go out of our way to make sure that everything that we do is done in a fair and honest manner. We must be as sensitive as possible in order to help eradicate jealousy from this world and help bring about the true redemption including the return of all of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.


The First Smicha (Ordination) Print E-mail
Friday, 15 July 2011
In Parshat Pinchas, Moshe is commanded to ordain Yehoshua, his successor in front of the congregation.


In Bamidbar 27:18-20, Moshe is told to: take Yehoshua, lay your hand on him (vesamachta et yadcha), set him before Elazar and before the congregation…


In Bamidbar 27:22-23, Moshe implements what God commanded him: He took Yehoshua, laid his hands on him and set him before Elazar and all of the congregation…


Rashi points out that Moshe laid his hands generously in much greater measure than he had been commanded. God said to him: “Lay your hand” in the singular and Moshe did it with both hands, making him a vessel full to the brim and heaped up, so he filled him with a generous helping of his wisdom.


In order to ensure a smooth transition, Moshe’s successor was chosen and ordained during his lifetime. While Moshe was still alive it was understood that Yehoshua would one day take over and that he had Moshe’s approval.


Throughout the generations our great Rabbis ordained other Rabbis in order to make sure that they would have a successor and that their tradition would continue.


Some of the greatest Rabbis of our generation have passed away in the past 25 years in the United States including Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Rav Moshe), Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (The Rav) and Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (The Rebbe).


None of these Rabbis chose one successor, each one ordained many other Rabbis to ensure that their teachings would continue in the different streams of Orthodox Judaism, Rav Moshe in the Orthodox Union and Agudat Yisrael communities, The Rav in the Torah U’Madda Yeshiva University community and The Rebbe in the Chabad Lubavich Community.

Those Who Care About Israel Will Be Rewarded Print E-mail
Friday, 02 July 2010

 Sponsored in Honor of Sharona and Josh Halickman's15th Wedding Anniversary


In Parshat Pinchas we read about a few different personalities who are rewarded for caring about the Land of Israel.


Two of the personalities were Yehoshua Bin Nin and Calev Ben Yefuneh who did not spread gossip about the Land of Israel as the other spies did. In fact, they spoke up to defend the land! Therefore, Yehoshua and Calev were allowed to enter the Land of Israel even though the rest of their generation died off.


A modern day reward that Yehoshua and Calev received was that there are streets in Jerusalem named in their honor. It is a privilege for me to pass both Yehoshua Bin Nun street and Ben Yefuneh streets almost every day in the Katamon and Baka neigh borhoods. Some street names we start to take for granted but for some reason (maybe because their names are so long) every time I hear those names it reminds me of the courage that Yehoshua and Calev had to stand up for the Land of Israel.


Another group of people who stood up for the Land of Israel and were later rewarded were the daughters of Tzelophchad: Machla, Noa, Chogla, Milka and Tirtza who asked God for the right to inherit land (even though they were women) since their father died and they did not have any brothers. God told Moshe that women should be allowed to inherit land if their father dies and they don’t have any brothers. Their reward was that they were able to inherit the land as well as help clarify that women in the future would be able to inherit the land as well.


During these three weeks between the 17th of Tamuz and the 9th of Av we are pushed to think more about the Land of Israel as we spiritually mourn for the Beit HaMikdash. During this time we should also physically push ourselves to do more for Israel through giving Tzedaka, planning a trip to Israel, sending a child to study in Israel or speaking out against anti-Semitism.


Through acts of kindness and care for the Land of Israel we can work together to bring the Geula, the Final Redemption.

Pinchas is Eliyahu? Print E-mail
Friday, 10 July 2009

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Parshat Pinchas opens with the same words as the Brit Milah (circumcision) ceremony (Bamidbar 25:10-12):


“God spoke to Moshe saying: Pinchas, son of Elazar, son of Aharon the Kohen turned back my wrath from upon the children of Israel, when he zealously avenged Me among them, so I do not consume the Children of Israel in My vengeance. Therefore, say: Behold! I give him “Briti Shalom” my covenant of peace”.


These verses are recited at the Brit Milah based on the Midrashic opinion (Yalkut Shimoni, Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer) that Pinchas the Kohen and Eliyahu HaNavi were the same person.


Rashi on Baba Metzia 114b states that Pinchas was described as acting zealously for God and Eliyahu describes himself as acting zealously for God (Kings 19:10) therefore Eliyahu is assumed to be Pinchas.


Pinchas, Aharon’s grandson risked his life to avenge the desecration of God’s name. In the merit of this zealous act, God gave him a “Brit Shalom”, covenant of peace.


The custom of a Kiseh Shel Eliyahu (Throne of Eliyahu) dates back the the 6th to 10th centuries and is based on Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer 29, a Midrash composed by the school of the Tanna Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus.


Rabbi Paysach Krohn explains that when the Jews entered the Land of Israel, they observed the mitzvah of Brit Milah. However, after the death of King Solomon, the Jewish kingdom was divided into two and the kingdom of Ephraim stopped observing the mitzvah of Brit Milah. Eliyahu, a prophet at the time cried out to God and swore that he would restrain the heavens from giving rain or dew. God told Eliyahu that because the mitzvah of Brit Milah was so important to him, he would be rewarded with being present at every Brit Milah that the Jews would perform. (Yoreh Deah 265:25)

Transforming Mourning into Joy Print E-mail
Thursday, 17 July 2008

Parshat Pinchas ends with a listing of the korbanot (sacrifices) which are brought to the Beit HaMikdash (Temple) on each of the holidays. At first glance, the list of the korbanot and the holidays seems out of place in a Parsha which deals with vengeance, enemies, a plague, the new census of B’nai Yisrael, the request by the daughters of Zelophchad to inherit land, God’s reiteration of the decree that Moshe would not enter the land and the promise that Yehoshua would take over.

Rav Yisrael MeRozin explains that usually Parshat Pinchas which deals with all of the holidays is read during the three weeks of mourning leading up to Tisha b’Av, the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash (although this year we read it on the sixteenth of Tamuz). In the days of the full redemption, the fast of the Seventeenth of Tamuz will be the first day of a new holiday, Tisha B’Av will be the last day of the holiday and the three weeks in between will be like Chol haMoed (the intermediate days of the holiday) as it says in the book of Yirmiyahu 31:12 “and I will turn their mourning to joy, and will comfort them and make them rejoice from their sorrow.”

According to the Sfat Emet, Parshat Pinchas mentions the korbanot in order to wake the Jewish people up to the fact that they should yearn for the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash speedily in our day. When we read the section of the Torah about the korbanot on Shabbat it is received by God as if we actually offered up sacrifices. Even in the days of the Beit Hamikdash, the main service was the prayers (rather than the korbanot) since prayer combines thought, speech and action.

As we approach the Seventeenth of Tamuz, the three weeks and Tisha B’Av lets pray that Yirmiyahu’s prophecy will come true and that our mourning will turn into joy. After all who would object to having three more weeks of holidays!

What Makes a Real Leader? Print E-mail
Monday, 02 July 2007

In Parshat Pinchas, God tells Moshe that he will not be entering the land of Israel. Moshe outlines the criterion that are needed for the next leader in Bamidbar 27:16-17: “Let God, the God of spirits appoint a man over the community (ish al haedah) who will go forth before them and who will come back before them and who would lead them out and who would bring them in so that the community of God shall not be like sheep without a shepherd”. God’s answer in 27:18 was “Take yourself Yehoshua Bin Nun, a man in whom there is spirit (is hasher ruach bo) and lay your hand on him”.

According to Chidushei HaRim, it is well known that as the generations progress, the leaders are weaker. Unfortunately we really need the opposite, as the generations become weaker, we really need stronger leaders. This can be compared to a person who is sick. The more ill he gets, the more he needs better doctors.

Degel Mincha Efraim points out that Moshe specifically says “ish al haedah”, a man over the community. The leader must be above the community in order to influence them. This is in contrast to what B’nai Yisrael said in the days of Shmuel “tneh lanu melech” give us a king (who we can control). Their mission was to take control and influence the king.

Rabbi M.M of Kotzk says that the reason Moshe brought up the proper character traits of a leader at this point was because he did not want a zealous person like Pinchas to become the leader. A leader must have a tremendous amount of patience in order to devote their time and attention to each person who seeks help.

Oznayim LeTotah adds that “ish asher ruach bo”, a person in whom there is spirit refers to a person who has the spirit of God and Torah within him. In order to be the leader of the Jewish people one must be religious.

With all of the scandals taking place in Israel and abroad, today more than ever we need strong leaders who can positively influence the Jewish community. We need people who are truly religious and patient. Most of all, we need a leader like Yehoshua which we can proudly call an “ish” a mench.