Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Pinchos Is Eliyohu

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

What is one to make of the never-ending stream of sorrowful news in our communities? It seems as if every day we hear of a fresh tragedy. One sudden death follows another. More and more names are added to the list of the seriously ill who need our prayers. So many young people have been ripped away from us recently. The pain is so raw. How are we to respond to all of this?

The news coming out of Eretz Yisroel deepens our sense of foreboding. The newly elected prime minister repeatedly demonstrates that he is out of his depth, wholly unequipped to deal with the current crisis. He says, “I have given orders to do everything possible to bring Gilad Shalit home safe and sound, and when I say ‘everything,’ I mean everything.”

If bombastic pronouncements could accomplish anything, the captured Israeli soldier would be home by now and Israel would be at peace with its Palestinian neighbors.
Yet Olmert, in the same breath as he declares his policy of “doing everything” to win Shalit’s safe return, holds the army back from entering Gaza in full force and really accomplishing anything.

He promises to have Hamas leaders weeping and wailing, to let no one off scot free. “Israel will not free prisoners, period,” the government declares. But almost immediately, word starts leaking out that although Israel will not negotiate with Shalit’s captors, if he is released they would be receptive to releasing Palestinian prisoners as a good will gesture.

Meanwhile, Hamas makes a mockery of Israel’s declarations and firepower as it continues to rain down Kassams on Sderot and Ashkelon. The land that Israeli leftists and much of the world fantasize about as the future peaceful Palestinian state alongside Israel is controlled by a vicious terror group. No one seems to have any trouble with that state of affairs.

Esther Wachsman, mother of Nachshon Wachsman Hy”d, wrote recently that what is transpiring now in Israel is reminiscent of George Orwell’s famous “1984,” a novel depicting how absolute power corrupts people and leads to a state where people robotically follow their leaders, denying truth and justice.

The current state of Israeli affairs also reflects Chelm or perhaps Sedom, she wrote, where the mental world of the masses is governed by self-destructive, absurd behavior.

The truth of her statements needs no elaboration.

Meanwhile, on the world news front, North Korea last week fired yet more missiles as Iran continued threatening to wipe Israel off the map and vowed to develop nuclear weapons. In addition, on the anniversary of the London bus bombings, US officials arrested Muslims for plotting to blow up New York City tunnels.

Those of us who follow the news read such stories and wonder how it will all end. Where are we headed and is there anything we can we do to derail the constant carnage?

Perhaps we can glean inspiration and direction from this week’s parsha.

At the conclusion of Parshas Balak last week, we learned that following the episode with Balak and Bilaam, the Bnei Yisroel began to sin with the daughters of Moav. A nesi bais av committed his sinful act with a daughter of the leader of Midyan before Moshe and all of the Bnei Yisroel.

The entire nation stood around weeping, at a complete loss. Hashem was about to send a plague as punishment for the crime when Pinchos arose from the crowd.

He was the sole individual who was not confounded by the unprecedented outrage - the only one who remembered the halacha and knew what had to be done. Even as cynics mocked him and he himself was unsure of the outcome his act would produce, Pinchos ignored the scoffers and sprang forward, plunging a spear into the bodies of Zimri and his partner.

He thus stopped the already devastating plague and brought a swift end to yet another inglorious chapter in our people’s history.

Parshas Pinchos opens with Hashem telling Moshe Rabbeinu that “Pinchos the son of Elozor the son of Aharon the Kohein turned back G-d’s wrath from the people of Israel with his act of kana’us, and He did not destroy the Bnei Yisroel in His anger. Therefore, say [the following]: Hashem is bestowing upon Pinchos his covenant of peace. He and his children who follow him shall be privileged with the covenant of kehunah forever.”

By following the dictates he had been taught by Moshe Rabbeinu and intervening in a machlokes, Pinchos merited the blessing of eternal peace. The man of peace is not necessarily the one who sits back passively and does nothing. The one who sits on the sidelines weeping as evil rears its ugly head and seems to triumph is not promoting peace; he is encouraging evil.

Pinchos is deemed worthy to bear the torch of kehunah and carry on the tradition of Aharon Hakohein, to be an oheiv shalom verodef shalom, because he put his own ambitions aside and rose to the challenge. Pinchos was given the eternal blessing of peace because he made peace possible in Yisroel by exterminating evil.

Pinchos halted the plague which had already killed 24,000 Jews because he had the moral courage and clarity to act when others were confounded and immobilized.
He didn’t let popular opinion deter him from slaying those who brazenly defied the Torah authority. He knew that an oheiv shalom verodef shalom sometimes has to act courageously, even if his actions invite misunderstanding and recrimination.

Pinchos knew that the cause of peace is advanced through fidelity to halacha. Shalom is achieved by pursuing shleimus, even if that involves sacrificing sacred cows and jeopardizing a career.

Shalom is rooted in shleimus; when everything is proper, when everything is complete, and whole, then it is possible to also have shalom. If you are lacking in shleimus, if the state is not absolutely intact, then you cannot have shalom. Torah is the absolute truth, with it the world was created, and it serves as the ultimate yardstick in defining our behavior. If we stay true to it, then we will consequently be blessed with peace.

Pinchos passed this test and he was therefore singled out as being worthy of following in the footsteps of Aharon Hakohein, who exemplified the pursuit of shalom through the service of G-d.

With all of the countless misfortunes besieging our people as yechidim and as a klal, it does seem as if we are living through a period of mageifah.

Perhaps what we need are more people like Pinchos in order to stop the plague in its tracks. We need people whose loyalty to Torah compels them to arise from the mourners who sit weeping and demonstrate by action what needs to be done.

There are no prophets among us and no one can say why specific tragedies befall us. But we all are aware of evils being perpetrated which nobody fights. We all know that most things are not b’shleimus in our world. We are all aware of people who suffer and urgently need someone to rush to their aid. Apathy and often fear prevent us from carrying out these missions of mercy and justice.

Despotic rulers such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Ill Jung and people such as Zimri, count on the passivity and fear of the masses. Despots are experts in playing the game of brinkmanship and taking advantage of people’s reluctance to rise up against injustice, even in self-defense.

In our daily lives we also confront people who abuse their position or our own good natures, to serve their own selfish, destructive ends. We must have the fortitude to stand up to them in the tradition of Pinchos. We must speak up when confronted with injustice, while being careful to remain within the Torah-prescribed parameters.

We have to seek to achieve perfection in our personal lives and slay the demons which lurk inside our camp and in each one of us.

An eis tzorah is a clarion call to us to do teshuva and help return the world to a condition of shleimus. Tragedy calls out to people of inner greatness to conquer the urge to remain passive and take action, instead, to return our world and our people to shleimus through Torah. The only way to merit peace and tranquility is by following the path of shalom and shleimus as defined in the Torah.

Pinchos lives on as Eliyohu Mevaser Tov, who will announce to us the arrival of Moshiach when enough of us follow in his path. That path was forged for him by his rebbi, Moshe Rabbeinu. In every generation, there are individuals who carry a nitzutz, a spark, of the neshoma of Moshe Rabbeinu, who continue to light up that path. Let us seek them out, learn Torah at their feet, so that we may all merit to hear the call that the geulah sheleimah has arrived.

Every act we take to bring perfection to the world will bring us that much closer to the day when Eliyohu will announce that the golus has finally ended. May it come to pass speedily in our days.


Post a Comment

<< Home