This weeks parsha, Pinchas, begins with Hashem praising Pinchas. Pinchas had executed Zimri, a nasi of Yisroel, and Kozbi, a princess of Midian. “Pinchas… b’kan’oh es kin’asui” – Pinchas avenged My (Hashem’s) vengeance (25:11). Rashi explains that Hashem was saying that Pinchas “angered the anger that I should have angered”. He, so to speak, did the job for Hashem.
Rav Moshe zt”l explains that the reason Pinchas received the tremendous reward of k’hunah was because he did that which Hashem would have had to have done.
Rav Moshe then applies this principle to other cases where we ‘stand in’ for Hashem. This allows us to gain an appreciation of the tremendous reward that is given for such acts.
The gemara (Bava Basra 10.) tells that Turnusrufus challenged Rabbi Akiva. “If Hashem loves the poor, why doesn’t He supply them with their needs?” Rabbi Akiva’s piercing reply was: “In order to give us the opportunity to save ourselves from gehinom (hell)”. The job of supporting the poor is really upon Hashem, but He affords us the opportunity to do His job in order to receive reward.
He compares it to a child wanting to help a parent who is carrying many items. The parent allows the child to carry a light item that is within his capability. Although there is no discernible weight difference for the parent as a result of the child’s ‘help’, the parent experiences a tremendous sense of pleasure from the fact that the child wants to help.
So too, when we ‘help out’ by performing different acts, Hashem doesn’t need our help, yet, there is a tremendous sense of nachas when we do our best!
Our parsha also tells of the daughters of Tzlafchad who approached Moshe. Their father had died leaving no sons. “Why should our father’s name be missing from amongst his family… t’na lanu achuzah – give us the portion- amongst his brothers.(27:4)”
The medrash teaches that when a person stands strong against the flow of his times, s/he receives reward equal to the amount that had been available for the entire generation! Noach stood against the generation of the flood and received the entire reward. Avraham stood against the generation of the tower of Bavel and received the entire reward. Lot stood against Sdom and received the entire reward. So too, the daughters of Tzlafchad displayed their love for Eretz Yisroel and approached Moshe at the time when the rest of Bnei Yisroel were saying let us appoint a leader and return to Mitzraim! They too, received the entire reward!
We see that a person’s actions are measured by the environment wherein s/he must act. A person who can say no when everyone around is partaking, elevates himself and his environment tremendously. Those very same acts are viewed very differently than when performed in a conducive environment. S/He deserves and receives the entire reward.
Rav Yaakov Galinsky compared it to a large wedding scheduled for a winter night. Sudden, heavy snowstorms prevented all but the most resolute relatives from participating. The caterer had prepared for 600 but fewer than 60 arrived. The waiters brought out trays heaped with food, urging the few guests to eat all that they can. “Once it leaves the kitchen, it can’t go back in!”
He explained that a certain amount of siyatta dishmaya (heavenly assistance) is ‘sent out’ for each generation and each group. When only a few show up, they are showered with all of this siyatta dishmaya. Once it’s available, it can’t go back! Take! Take! It’s all yours!
A fantastic mashal is offered (I believe by the Chofetz Chaim) on those who stand strong in an unsympathetic environment. A country was involved in a struggle to the death with a neighboring country. The king had tremendous trust in his army and they fought bravely. Suddenly, word reached the king that there had been a major defection. Two of his top generals had joined forces with his enemy, taking with them all of their men and weaponry. The situation seemed hopeless. Suddenly, word again reached the king that the remaining general, against all odds, had rallied his men and was now repelling the much stronger enemy. The momentum, having changed, was never regained by the enemy, and the war was ultimately won by the king and that lone general.
The world is a battleground where the level of spirituality is either elevated or diminished. In our generation we have all witnessed many defections. Many seemingly loyal soldiers have deserted, taking with them their many talents. At such a time, the importance and value of those who remain loyal and those who ‘come from nowhere’ to help wage the battle, is beyond our realm of comprehension. They receive the entire reward.
Moshe, upon being told that he won’t be entering Eretz Yisroel, describes to Hashem the attributes that he felt the new leader would need. We have grown accustomed to stories about ‘leaders’ who bring their countries to the depths of poverty while building extravagant mansions for themselves and lining their Swiss bank accounts with billions of dollars. These despots allowed their people to go down the drain of their golden plumbing systems. A story is told about the Chofetz Chaim which reveals to us the essence of a true leader.
A talmid (student) of the Chofetz Chaim had a life threatening, debilitating illness for which the doctors had no cure. He made the trip to Radin to ask his Rebbe for a bracha. The Chofetz Chaim told him that he’d help him on the condition that he would never tell this story to anyone. The talmid readily agreed.
The Chafetz Chaim instructed him to travel to a certain Rav who lived in a small city and to tell him his situation. “He’ll give you a bracha and with Hashem’s help you’ll get better.” The talmid went immediately to that Rav and within a short period of time recuperated from his illness.
He continued to study for a while at the Radin Yeshiva and then moved away, married, established a family, and according to his Rebbe’s instructions, never told the story to anyone. More than twenty years later, his sister-in-law contracted a strange illness. He quickly realized that she was suffering from the same illness that had afflicted him but, as per his Rebbe’s instructions, he didn’t say a word.
His wife remembered that he had once told her that he had a certain illness but whenever she brought up the topic he became very elusive. She felt that he was holding back information which might save the life of her sister.
After an incredible amount of pressure from the family, he decided that enough time had already passed and he had already fulfilled the Chofetz Chaim’s instructions to not reveal the story. He told his wife all that had happened. How the Chofetz Chaim had sent him for a bracha from a certain Rav and how he had then recuperated. This gave the family some hope that maybe such a bracha would help their sister also.
A short time later his illness returned. Very shaken, he told his wife that he must return to the Chafetz Chaim.
He traveled the long distance to Radin and came to the Chafetz Chaim who was by now old and weak. The Chofetz Chaim remembered their last meeting and listened quietly to the latest turn of events.
After a short silence the Chofetz Chaim spoke quietly and slowly. “I’d love to help you again but what can I do? The first time you were sick, I was still young and strong. I fasted 40 straight days in order that Hashem would send you a refuah (healing). Now I’m too old to fast like that again.”
Not only did the Chofetz Chaim suffer for 40 straight days to help a talmid, but he arranged the matter in a way that it appeared that it was someone else’s bracha which helped! Fortunate is the nation which has such leaders!
During this mourning period of The Three Weeks, the time of the destruction of Yerushalayim and the Beis HaMikdash, may we merit to be strong amidst all of the destruction that surrounds us. Realizing that we, who are the few remaining soldiers, can bring about the rebuilding.
Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi Yisroel Ciner and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author teaches at Neveh Tzion in Telzstone (near Yerushalayim).
Baltimore, MD 21215