Much Louder Than Words
By Rabbi Label Lam
And behold! A man of the Children of Israel came and brought the Midianite
woman near to his brothers before the eyes of Moshe and before the entire
assembly of the Children of Israel; and they were weeping at the entrance
of the Tent of Meeting. Pinchas, son of Elazar son of Aaron the Kohen
stood up from amid the assembly and he took a spear in his hand. He
followed the Israelite man into the tent and pierced them both, the
Israelite man and the woman into her stomach- and the plague was halted
from upon the Children of Israel. Those who died in the plague were twenty-
four thousand. (New Parsha- Parshas Pinchas)) HASHEM spoke to Moshe
saying, “Pinchas son of Elazar son of Aaron 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 with My
vengeance.” (Bamidbar 2:6-11)
Why is the story of the heroism of Pinchas broken into two (Parshios)
parts? Firstly we have the narrative of what happened. Secondly Pinchas is
credited with having halted the plague. He is then awarded the “Peace
Prize” and Kehuna. Why is the account of his action and the “award
ceremony” treated separately?
The Ben Ish Chai told the following parable: A man went on a walk in the
jungle. He was casually strolling along when he noticed that a lion was
stalking him. The man sensed that the ferocious beast was ready to pounce
on him. His heart fell into his stomach. He had no gun or other weapon.
All he had was a walking stick. In desperation he raised the feeble
walking stick he had in his hand and pointed it as a gun with the hope
that it might scare the lion away. In the meanwhile, and unbeknownst to
the man a hunter was behind him in a tree poised with a real rifle. The
lion drew closer to the man with the stick. He took aim as if he was
holding an authentic weapon. Seeing the situation worsening on the ground
the man in the tree took real action and shot the approaching lion in his
heart. When the man on the ground observed the lion lying dead before him
he immediately looked at his stick, unable to explain the phenomena in any
other way and began to give credit to his trustworthy loaded walking-
He foolishly bragged aloud that he knew all the time that the stick was
loaded and it was capable of functioning as a real gun. Just then the
hunter descended from the tree and confronted him, “Silly, man do you
really believe that your simple walking-stick can fire a bullet capable of
stopping a charging lion? It’s only a stick. Don’t delude yourself any
longer. It was my rifle that let fly the fatal bullet that spared your
life and it happened just at that moment that you were pointing the stick!”
Here’s a similar and true story. Maybe it’s not nice to play a practical
joke but I couldn’t resist and plus the Doctor has a great sense of humor.
We laugh out loud years later whenever it’s mentioned. We bumped into each
other at a huge wedding and briefly said hello. When it was time to leave
I was walking down the darkened back streets with my son to our car which
was parked a good distance away from the hall.
There was the good Doctor approaching his car too which happened to be
parked right in front of my car. We were a short distance behind him and I
noticed that when he pressed the mechanism on his key chain, the lock of
his car flashed on. I decided to click my automatic key and so my car
lights and locks flashed at the same time. I hunkered down with my son
and we noticed how the Doctor looked curiously at the phenomena. He
blinked his key again and so did I. He was amazed to find that his key was
turning on and off the car behind him. He looked on in wonderment his head
turning back and forth over and over again as his key seemed to be able to
open and close both cars. We laughed together with tears when we finally
revealed ourselves and our little game.
All we know from the first account is that a plague was ravaging the
Children of Israel and a brazen act of impudence was on display. People
were crying and discussing what to do. Only Pinchas took real action.
Suddenly the plague stops. There’s room then for some to be deceived into
thinking that the crying, complaining, and finger pointing saved the day.
Therefore the record is set straight. There can be no room for ambiguity.
What Pinchas did was much louder than words.
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.