Parsha Pinchas

July 11th, 2020

19th of Tamuz 5780


Each Jewish Person Contains an Element of Hashem's Name

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"Take a census of the entire assembly of the Children of Israel, from twenty years of age and up, according to their fathers' houses, all who go out to the legion in Israel" (Bamidbar 26:2)

Hashem commanded Moshe and Elazar son of Aharon the Kohen, to conduct a census of Am Yisrael, following the plague that struck them due to Zimri ben Salu sinning with the Midianite woman, Cozbi daughter of Tzur. Rashi explains the reason for this command at this juncture: Like a shepherd who counts his flock after it has been ravaged by wolves, G-d, in the role of a shepherd to his flock, wanted to count His children who had survived the plague, to see how many remained.

This counting presents an interesting phenomenon. To all the family names, the letter 'heh' is added as a prefix and the letter 'yud' as a suffix, for example (Bamidbar 26:5), "of Chanoch, the Chanochite family (משפחת החנוכי); of Pallu, the Palluite family (משפחת הפלאי)". Those letters form a Name of G-d (יה) as if to say, explains Rashi that G-d testifies to the purity of the nation. The Midrash (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 4:12) explains why this was necessary. The nations reviled the Jews, saying, "How can the Jews trace their genealogy according to their tribes? If the Egyptians controlled their bodies, surely they had the power to violate their wives!" To this G-d replied, in effect, that He would append His Own Name to their family names to attest to their chastity in Egypt (Rashi). The letter 'yud' alludes the man [איש] and the letter 'heh' to the woman [אשה] (see Sotah 17a). Since the husband and wife, and the family name, contain the Name of Hashem, this serves as testimony that they married and bore children in holiness.

Attaching the Name 'yud-heh' to each family name of Bnei Yisrael, is a form of testimony and 'kashrut certification' of the pure origin of every single family of the nation. This fact is actually an open miracle. The Egyptians had control over the Jewish people's bodies and enslaved them, but these same people had no control over the Jewish wives who remained solely under the authority and supervision of their Jewish husbands. This remarkable reality is even more powerful in light of the fact that the Egyptians enslaved Am Yisrael using 'peh rach', soft words, meaning they tried to be clever and make out as if they seek their good, and as we know soft-spoken speech, gold, silver, jewelry and other gifts, speaks to women. So the great wonder is how, despite all this, the wives were not enticed by the Egyptian's gifts and soft-spoken words, and remained faithful to their husbands.

The Torah publicizes that throughout the years of enslavement, there was only one exception, which is a remarkable testimony to Jewish family purity and morality (Vayikra 24:11). Shelomit daughter of Divri was the only Jewish woman who was forced by an Egyptian man, and this was due to her nature and habit of chattering to one and all and asking of their welfare, a practice which is contrary to the ways of modesty.

We are told (Tehillim 121:5), "Hashem is your protective Shadow at your right hand". When do Yisrael merit Hashem being their Shadow? When they are united and stand by each other's right-hand side, feeling a mutual responsibility for each other and taking care to honor each other. Man's soul is part of G-d's essence; this is Hashem's Shadow that accompanies man. It is something that cannot be perceived, just like a shadow that is formed from the Sun, is always dark. But when Hashem removes His Shadow from man, he loses his spark of life and dies. Without Hashem's Shadow, a person cannot exist in His world, and just like the Shade departs when man dies, so too sins cause Hashem's Shade to depart.

Hashem's Shadow, which is present as long as man is alive, cannot be perceived, in line with the verse (Shemot 33:20), "for no human can see My face and live". The human eye is not capable of seeing Hashem's presence. When a person distances himself from Hashem and His Torah, when a person neglects Torah and mitzvot and does not seek to cleave to Hashem's ways, he automatically loses the adornment of the G-dly Name (י" ה" ו" ה), which alludes to Hashem's grandeur and unity with Yisrael, and he no longer represents the goal of creation. Instead of man being called by this Name, he is termed (Tehillim 92:7) "a boor cannot know, nor can a fool understand this". Then the nations of the world come with a claim that this type of person is a mamzer (child born from an invalid marriage). Even though there is no trace of truth in their words, nevertheless man will not be able to refute this rumor.

Walking in Their Ways

Striking a Cord of Connection

In 1993, a woman in Houston underwent medical testing for an advanced growth in her vocal cords. She was told to undergo surgery of the vocal cords in order to save her life, after which she would be able to speak only by means of a special apparatus implanted in her throat.

In her distress, this woman came to me and poured out her heart, relating the far-reaching consequences of this decision.

“That shall never be!” I declared unequivocally. “You will speak using your own voice. Your vocal cords will remain intact, but only on condition that you undertake stricter adherence to Torah and mitzvot.”

The woman accepted my words, but her condition continued deteriorating. She was left with no choice but to have her vocal cords removed.

The doctors were certain that there was no recourse other than to operate on her vocal cords. Imagine their bafflement, and the woman’s delight, on discovering in the operating room that they could save her life without removing her vocal cords.

One year later, the woman came to thank me for my blessing in the merit of my forefathers zya"a, and to relate the great miracle that she had experienced. Baruch Hashem, today she speaks normally and has made great strides in her Avodat Hashem.

The Haftarah

The Haftarah of the week: "The words of Yirmiyahu" (Yirmiyahu 1)

The connection to Shabbat: The Haftarah speaks about the prediction of calamity that Yirmiyahu Hanavi prophesized, concerning the destruction of the Holy City of Yerushalayim and the exile of Am Yisrael.  This is the first of the three special Haftarot that are read during the three weeks preceding Tisha B'Av.

Guard Your Tongue

Distance Yourself from Ba'alei Lashon Hara

One must be very careful not to fix one's place in the Beit Knesset or Beit Midrash next to ba'alei lashon hara (habitual speakers of lashon hara), for they will accustom him with their bad trait of speaking negatively about others and cause him to do the same. Besides, their idle chatter will also often cause him to miss answering 'Amen yehe shemei raba" and 'Barchu', and prevent him from hearing the reading of the Torah and the Chazan's repetition of the Shemone Esrei, among other great sins.

Words of the Sages

The Aunt is Not the Right Address!

Concerning Pinchas son of Elazar son of Aharon the Kohen, the subject of this week's Parsha, we are told, "And Pinchas arose and executed judgment (ויפלל), and the plague was halted" (Tehillim 106:30).

Our Sages (Berachot 6b) interpret the term 'ויפלל', as an expression of prayer (תפילה). Pinchas prayed to Hashem Yitbarach that He should bless his efforts with success and that His Name be sanctified through his killing Zimri son of Salu.

Indeed, in the merit of this prayer, Pinchas merited exceptional Heavenly Assistance and many miracles were performed for him. The Gaon Rabbi Reuven Elbaz shlita points out that this should serve as an important lesson for us, concerning the power of prayer. It is a clear demonstration of the great power of prayer, through which man can generate exceptional wonders.

Rabbi Shmuel Hominer zt"l was a true servant of G-d. He once related that he had a good friend, an avreich with very little means, who had a rich aunt who lived in America. Before each Chag, she would send him a considerable sum of money, which would help support his family for the next few months.

But sometimes worrying thoughts wormed their way into the Avreich's heart: "What will be, our children will soon be of marriageable age, how will I cover the cost of their weddings?"

In his distress, he turned to his aunt and expressed his concerns. The aunt calmed him down: "You have no need to worry, I will sponsor your children's weddings." The avreich was reassured and rejoiced at his good fortune of meriting this rich aunt who was so generous with her money…

Soon after, the avreich's oldest daughter became engaged to a fine talmid chacham. He committed himself to a sizable dowry, relying on his aunts' promise. He wrote to his aunt, informing her of this happy occasion. The aunt was delighted to hear the news and promised to forward a sum of money, as they had discussed. A few days later, a letter arrived from America. The avreich opened the letter and was utterly dismayed. Inside the envelope was a check for a small sum, nowhere near the amount that he had undertaken to provide.

He tried to hint to his aunt that the amount she had sent was not enough to cover the numerous expenses, but she did not seem to get the message. Left with no choice, he was forced to go from house to house collecting donations, so that he could follow through with the amount he had promised to give his daughter.

A year passed, and his second daughter became of age. This time he was wise enough not to rely on his aunt. He beseeched Hashem to support him and assist him, realizing that only Hashem can help him.

When this daughter became engaged, he informed his aunt of the news, thinking to himself, "Even if she sends the amount that she sent last time, it will still be of help."

A short time later a letter arrived. He opened the envelope without any expectations, but how great was his surprise when it turned out that this time his aunt had sent him a most substantial sum, enough to cover all the wedding expenses!

This avreich turned to Rabbi Shmuel Hominer, asking him to explain what was going on.

This is what Rabbi Shmuel replied:

"The first time, you turned to your American aunt to come to your aid and assist you with the wedding expenses. You did not turn to Hashem, therefore the aunt sent whatever she sent. But this time, you understood that you cannot rely on your aunt, Hashem is the only address. This time you realized, "From where will come my help? My help is from Hashem" (Tehillim 121:1-2), and indeed you turned to Hashem and prayed to Him from the depths of your heart. Therefore, Hashem answered your prayer and sent you the full amount that you required, and He did this through your aunt!"

How great is the power of prayer! This teaches us to what extent a person must throw his burden on Hashem and pray to Him from the depths of his heart, and then he is assured that no prayer goes unanswered.

Pearls of the Parsha

Fulfilling the Mitzvah Through One's Grandchildren

"Our father died in the Wilderness…and he had no sons" (Bamidbar 27:3)

The daughters of Tzelafchad said about their father, "and he had no sons". These words require further explanation, for they are written in the past tense, implying that although he did not have sons, now he has, or he will have in the future. But how can this be? Had he not already died?

Rabbi Ya'akov HaKohen Gadisha zt"l, one of the Rabbanim of Djerba, in his sefer 'Mei'ayin Yavoh', presents a wonderful explanation, based on the Shulchan Aruch (Even Ha'ezer 1:5) that rules that after giving birth to a son and daughter, one is then considered as having fulfilled the mitzvah of bearing children. The 'Knesset HaGedolah' writes that if one has two sons, and one of them gives birth to a daughter, then that granddaughter is considered as his own daughter, and he has fulfilled this mitzvah.

The 'Aroch HaShulchan' adds that this is also the case if one has two daughters and one of them gives birth to a son. With regards to the mitzvah of having children, that grandson is considered as his own son.

This being the case, we can now understand the expression "and he had no sons". It is written in the past tense, because if after his daughters marry they will give birth to sons, then they will be considered as Tzelafchad's own sons.

Challenges Strengthen a Person

"And on the fifteenth day of this month is a festival; for a seven-day period matzot shall be eaten" (Bamidbar 28:17)

Since great caution and alacrity is required when baking matzot so that they should not become chametz, seemingly we would be better off not eating matzot at all, than having to face such a hard challenge. Why then does the Torah obligate us to eat matzot on Lail Pesach?

The Gaon Rabbi Ben Zion Abba Shaul zt"l, addressed this difficulty, explaining that the Torah is teaching us a great principle in avodat Hashem. The fear of committing a sin does not have the power to reject a mitzvah. On the contrary, understanding the severity of the sin will help us to fulfill the mitzvah correctly.

This conforms with the Brisker Rav's interpretation of the Chazal (Avot 3:8), "Whoever forgets anything of his Torah learning, Scripture considers it as if he bears guilt for his soul". A person who forgets his learning should not say, had I not studied Torah, I would not have to bear guilt for my soul, therefore it is preferable for me not to learn. Rather, the truth is that had he not studied Torah, he would definitely have been considered guilty, and now that he studied Torah and forgot his learning, it is considered only 'as if' he bears guilt for his soul.

Even though we are not free to withdraw from studying Torah, we must not be concerned about being unable to study all that we are required, for we are not required to complete the task (see Avot 2:21). As Rav Nachman son of Yitzchak said (Eruvin 65a), concerning avodat Hashem we are considered as 'hired day workers'. He specifically did not use the term 'contractors', since a contractor is always under pressure for he knows that he will only receive his wages when he completes the job. Whereas a hired worker, even though he may not do anything without permission from his boss and his time is not his own, nevertheless he is not under pressure to complete the job for the main thing is that he should keep working and not be lax. We too must constantly occupy ourselves with Torah study and not withdraw from it, without concerning ourselves that we might not succeed in completing the study of the entire Torah.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

Love of Hashem with No Ulterior Motives

"Pinchas son of Elazar son of Aharon the Kohen, turned back My wrath from upon the Children of Israel when he zealously avenged My vengeance among them so I did not consume the Children of Israel in My vengeance. Therefore, say: Behold! I give him My covenant of peace" (Bamidbar 25:11-12)

The correct way of writing the name 'Pinchas' is without a 'yud' (פנחס), but in the above verse, the Torah adds the letter 'yud' (פינחס). Chazal explain that Hashem added the 'yud' from His name to Pinchas' name, as a testimony that when he killed Zimri, he did so for the sake of Heaven and not for personal honor or other motives. Pinchas could not remain silent in face of the terrible sin that Zimri son of Salu, leader of a tribe, committed. He took a Midianite woman and approached Moshe, asking him, "Is this Midianite woman permitted to me?" Moshe Rabbeinu replied, "She is forbidden". Zimri then brazenly retorted, "and the daughter of Yitro, also a Midianite, who gave you permission to marry her?" Pinchas who was present, could not bear the antagonizing comparison of the two women, the Midianite woman with whom Zimri wished to sin, and Tziporah, wife of Moshe Rabbeinu, who had converted according to the law. He therefore took a spear and pierced Zimri and the Midianite woman, killing them both.

He acted completely for the sake of Heaven, for out of his great love for Hashem, he could not bear to witness this person sinning in public. The proof of his motive is that his zealous act brought about the cessation of the plague that had taken the lives of twenty-four thousand men. This shows that the power that pushed Pinchas to perform this holy act of zealousness, was pure love for Hashem without any personal benefit.

The Gaon and tzaddik Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler zt"l, author of 'Michtav M'Eliyahu', writes that love for Hashem without any subjective interferences, is measured by the degree of a person's love for, and connection to, other things. It is not possible to truly love Hashem and the futile pleasures of this world too. True love must be focused on Hashem alone, and this was the level that Pinchas achieved. He loved Hashem with his entire being, and using this power, he killed Zimri for the sake of Heaven. Hashem added the letter 'yud' from His Own Name to Pinchas' name, which testifies that he acted for the sake of Heaven.

If so, the finest proof of our love for Hashem is when we show self-sacrifice and relinquish something that we love and desire, for the love of Hashem, exactly as Pinchas did. If a person does not rise early in the morning to pray, how can he say that he loves Hashem, for if he would have a flight to catch, he would definitely arise bright and early.

A Novel Look at the Parsha

Once a year, we are required to carry out profound labor in the recesses of our animalistic soul and sacrifice our material wishes and desires on the altar of repentance. This takes place on Rosh Hashanah when we are commanded to sacrifice ourselves as a burnt-offering for Hashem.

The Poskim explain that the reason why the Selichot prayers are said for at least four days prior to Rosh Hashanah, is because korbanot were required to be examined for four days prior to offering them on the altar. Concerning all the korbanot mentioned in Parshat Pinchas it says "You shall offer a burnt-offering", while concerning the offering brought on Rosh Hashanah it says, "You shall make a burnt-offering". This teaches us that on Rosh Hashanah a person should make out as if he is offering his very self, and this is why Chazal established that we examine ourselves for any sins and repent for them, for four days prior to Rosh Hashanah.

Inherent in Rosh Hashanah, Hagaon Rabbi Shimshon Pincus zt"l points out, lies the principle of self-sacrifice. Every Jew is obligated to offer himself as a burnt-offering, meaning he must be prepared to sacrifice his soul for the sake of Hashem. We are not talking about a peace-offering, where the owner too, partakes of the offering, but a burnt-offering where the entire animal is completely burnt for Hashem. We must sacrifice everything for the sake of Hashem Yitbarach.

The problem is that the concept 'mesirut nefesh' has become common language, we consider every little thing as 'mesirut nefesh'… We will therefore discuss the meaning of true mesirut nefesh, and how it comes to expression in our daily lives.

Harav Pincus related an incredible story:

An American Jew once stayed at the home of R' Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik zt"l, Rosh Yeshiva of Brisk. While talking about his family he mentioned: "By us there are no luxuries, only basic needs"…

In reply, R' Yoshe Ber zt"l related the following story: The small villages in Russia did not have a Talmud Torah for the children, and those who could afford it would hire a 'melamed' to teach their sons. One day, one of the wealthy people made a party, serving bountiful, tasteful food.

At the end of the banquet, a delectable compote was served. The melamed approached Yankele, one of his young students, and said, "Do you remember that we learnt about breaking one's desires? Now is the appropriate time to put this into practice." Yankele replied: "I agree with what we learnt, but right now, I cannot give up this essential delicacy. I will break my desires with the next portion…"

This is how it goes, said R' Yoshe Ber. Everybody agrees that the first helping is essential, while the second helping is already considered a 'luxury'. However, the entire dispute revolves around when does the first helping end and the second helping begin…

We will now mention several examples:

The first example is lashon hara, one of our greatest challenges. There is hardly a person that does not speak lashon hara, including harsh and angry words.

Where does the inner urge to speak lashon hara stem from?

The principle of the matter is that there are four levels, or realms, in the creation: 'domem' (inanimate objects), 'tzome'ach' (animate elements), 'chai' (living creatures) and 'Medaber' 'medaber' (speaking, human, the highest level referring to man who is the only living creature endowed with the power of speech). Speech is an expression of man's intellect, which distinguishes him from other living creatures. This is what lies behind a person's inner need to speak lashon hara and other forbidden forms of speech.

Therefore, when demanding from a person not to speak lashon hara, he feels as if he is being asked to give up his life. Remaining quiet is perceived by all as lacking intellect! What is required from man is not only to control himself from speaking lashon hara for a few moments and then after half an hour, let everything out… This is also hard work, but it is not 'mesirut nefesh'.

The meaning of 'mesirut nefesh' is that in a certain matter, even something minor, a person creates an essential transformation in his lifestyle. To become, as if, less intelligent in man's eyes. This kind of change is almost like giving up one's life!

This then, is the meaning of mesirut nefesh, a burnt-offering! Even if with this act a person does not repent for all his sins, but since through this he has offered 'a piece of his life', this merits him with the level of repentance that reaches until the Throne of Glory!

Another example: There are people for whom letting two hours pass without listening to the news, borders on life and death… They have an urgent need to know what is happening throughout the world. It could be that not everyone understands this urge, but for one who is affected by this Yetzer Hara, abstaining from hearing or reading the news is considered as a matter of life and death for him! Without analyzing all the latest happenings, he feels as if he is imprisoned in a chicken coop, in direct contrast to human nature.

Indeed, Jews from previous generations were also involved in what was happening 'in the world', but their world was a different world. It was the world of Torah. One day they spoke with Abaye and Rava, the next day with Rabbi Akiva, and so forth. They lived their lives with Hashem Yitbarach. The point is not one mitzvah more or less, but a whole different lifestyle.

For a contemporary Jewish person to merit achieving this level, he must make a substantial change in his lifestyle: to stop taking an interest in what is going on in the world. To be able to pass by the letterbox and not stop to read the newspaper, not even a quick glance at the headlines. To be prepared to enter the Beit Midrash as 'an ignorant fool' who has no idea of what is happening in the world, and there meet up solely with Hashem, the G-d of Israel.

Another very common example is Shabbat Kodesh. The Shulchan Aruch rules that on Shabbat one is forbidden to say, tomorrow I will do…, or, tomorrow I will buy... It is similarly forbidden to spend time in idle talk.

This means that even conversation that is considered as 'chatter' is forbidden on Shabbat. What then, is left for us to do the entire Shabbat? The simple meaning of the word 'Shabbat' comes from the word 'שביתה', strike. We were gifted twenty-four hours to live with Hashem Yitbarach alone!

Just as it is considered mesirut nefesh for a non-observant Jew to observe the Shabbat, since to disconnect himself from his phone, radio and car for twenty-four hours is extremely hard for him and he feels like he is handcuffed, so too for us, it can often be very difficult to abstain from discussing secular matters on Shabbat.

This kind of change requires mesirut nefesh, and this is our avodah on Rosh Hashanah and during the rest of the year, "you shall make a burnt-offering". This is mesirut nefesh for the sake of the glory of Heaven!


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