020 – The Torah portion of the Week – Pinchas – How to Find Love in Your Misfortunes – A powerful parable about a delicate princes – A Great story about Rav Shach and consulting your pen – Peace in your Home – Encourage each other.
The Torah Podcast Transcript
020 The Torah Podcast – How to find Love in your Misfortunes Torah Portion – Pinchas
A Powerful Parable
We’re going to start out with a parable, it goes like this. A king’s daughter was taken captive and forced to marry a very low man, a peasant. So, in the beginning, just the very presence of her husband used to make her suffer. She was used to all kinds of delicacies, and refinement. She lived in the lap of luxury. She had the softest clothing, and the food she ate was very fine. She just couldn’t get used to the dirty, dilapidated hut and the clothes that she had to wear were very coarse, rough clothing. The bread she ate was black bread, very hard to eat. She used to cry all day, and say, “It’s better to be dead.” However, little by little she started to get used to it. The hut no longer seemed so dreadfully small. The food didn’t seem so coarse any more, and the clothing, she started to get used to wearing such rough clothing. It was as if she herself was bred among the peasants. That was the moshul, parable. What’s the nimshal, the lesson?
The Chofetz Chaim is telling us not to mix and mingle with unprincipled people, who commit sins without a second thought. Because what will happen? Slowly, slowly, he’ll get used to sinning himself. Even though at the beginning he can’t really believe it, because really a man’s soul comes from above. It’s like a princess, very refined. And it comes down into this coarse world. If we mix with the wrong people, we’ll become like them. He says, “When a person first sins, they start to feel some kind of torment that something’s not right. Little by little, he sins without thinking about it. He’s not even disturbed by the sins that other people do. It doesn’t even bother him. That’s because in fact he’s become one of them. So, we have to be very careful not to mix with the wrong people, or we’ll become low lives ourselves.
Torah Portion of the Week – Pinchas
This week’s Torah portion is Pinchas. I want to give a little bit of background information. So, what happened was the Jewish people started to stray after the women of Moav and their idolatry. It got so bad that Zimri actually grabbed the princess from Midyan, Cosbi, and took her into the tent with him in front of everybody. So, the law is that when a Jewish man sees another man do such a thing in front of 10 people, he’s actually allowed to kill that person. The Gemara in Sanhedrin explains he has a din, the law of a kanai, a zealot, because he himself can hold up the honor of God. So, Chazal tells us that Moshe himself forgot that Halacha, but Pinchas remembered it. He ran to Moshe and he asked for permission to act. Moshe said, “The one who remembered it, he’s the one who should carry it out.” He took out his sword, he sneaked into the tent, and he pierced both of them together. And he had super strength. He held them up in front of the people. And this act ended the plague which has killed thousands of Jews, because the plague started at that point. When the Jews started to go off the way, a plague came and started to kill them. This act stopped the plague.
Rashi explains there that he avenged Hashem. In other words, he expressed the rage that Hashem should have had, and this stopped the plague. We know that Pinchas at that point became a Cohen. Before that he wasn’t a Cohen, and he received the Covenant of Peace, shalom. Now, the Rabbis tell us that the possuk says, “Pinchas the son of Elazar, the son of Aharon haCohen turned away My wrath from the Children of Israel.” Chazal tells us why dafka, why specifically, did it hook up Pinchas with being the son of Aharon? Because we know that Aharon ohav shalom, he loved peace, which means he was extremely kind, always spoke softly, always tried to make peace, which appears to be the exact opposite of the act of Pinchas, that he actually came and killed somebody. So, the Rosh Yeshiva Rav Henoch Leibowitz wants to explain that a true kanai, a true zealot is not just someone who has a relationship bein adam lamakom, which means between man and God, but he also has the relationship bein adam le adam, between man and man. A lot of people are very religious in the sense that they keep the mitzvos between man and God, but when it comes to between man and man, they’re lacking. That was not true by Pinchas.
And the other thing he wants to learn from here is, we don’t just act on emotions. First you see that Pinchas went to Moshe to clarify what the Halacha was, to clarify what the law was, so it wasn’t just an emotional act. Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz wants to explain that this is an unbelievable contradiction. On one side, we see that Pinchas came and he killed Zimri, a very harsh and brazen act. On the other side, we see that Pinchas was ohev shalom, he was the son of Aharon. He had tremendous love. So, how do we put these two things together? He brings a proof from Avraham Avinu, when it came to his son Yishmael. On one side when he had to kick Yishmael out of his house, he gave him nothing but a loaf of bread and a jug of water, even though he was dangerously ill. Rashi explains there, he didn’t give him gold and silver because he hated him for being a sinner. On the other hand, we know in Bereishis when God told Avraham, “Take your son for a sacrifice,” and he said, “Which one?” He said, “The one who you love.” So Avraham didn’t know which son, was it Yishmael or was it Yitzhak? You see that he had total love for both of his sons. So, how can he have these contradictory feelings? The answer is, that a person who is pure, there’s no contradiction. A father can love his son totally, and still hate him for his sins. Pinchas can dish out the din, the law. At the same time, he has tremendous love for every Jew.
And not only that, it’s just the opposite. Rav Chaim Shmuelevitch explains that in order to give judgment, in order to dish out punishment, you have to be in a state of total love. This is unbelievable. Now we’re coming up to the time of Tisha B’Av and the destruction of the Temple, he brings a proof from Yoma on 54B that said that when the gentiles entered into the Temple, they saw the cheruvim, the two forms on top of the aron of two children like angels. They were embracing each other. This was at the destruction of the Temple. What’s so strange about that? The Gemara in Bava Basra explains, “When God was close to the Jewish people, so the cheruvim used to embrace each other. And when God was angry at the Jewish people, the cheruvim would look away from each other. Here it is at the destruction of the Temple itself, and the cheruvim are hugging each other. How could that be? The answer is, at the time of judgement, at the time of punishment, God is very, very close. It’s this closeness that allows God to give the punishment, to make the punishment correct.
He brings a second proof. We know that when God destroyed Sodom, so Lot’s wife looked back, and she turned into a pillar of salt. The Ramban brings a Midrash that explains what happened there. He says, “The Divine presence descended on Sodom and Amora, raining fire and brimstone. The wife of Lot looked behind, and became a pillar of salt. Why? Because she perceived the Divine presence.” We know there’s a possuk in Shemos that says, “No man may see me and remain alive.” In other words, it was God that was there. God was there, close to the people of Sodom while he’s destroying them. And that’s what she saw, and that’s why she died. So, we learn from this that the idea of punishment is completely different than what we thought it was. Punishment is coming from love. When God punishes, He’s close. So too when a man or a woman punishes their child, there has to be love there. If there’s no love that’s not called a punishment – that’s just your anger. You’re mad at your kid.
And this was the story with Pinchas. Pinchas was doing an act of punishment, but he was doing it with love. He had love for the Jewish people. He had love for everyone. He just had to set things right. He had to set the clock back to the right time. So, it’s a totally different concept of what we think punishment is. Punishment is coming from love. God just wants us to go in the right direction, so he punishes us in order to direct us. It’s not coming from anger. It’s not coming from destruction, from hate. So too, we have to be like that. “Mahu af ata”, “just like Hashem is, we also have to be”. That’s the basis of Jewish philosophy. We have to emulate God, which means if somebody does something against us, we can’t react with hate, anger, revenge. We have to react with love, with seichel, with intellect, to do the right thing to get the person to go back on the right track, to help them, to bring them back to teshuva.
I know this is similar to last week’s Parsha, it’s very interesting but I guess these couple of weeks that’s what’s going on in the world. We know that what goes on in the world is based on the parsha, based on the Torah portion of the week. And Pinchas saved the entire Jewish people by doing this act, which brought everybody back to the right path. This is a totally different understanding in chinuch, in educating your children. There can’t be any anger there. There can’t be any hate, there can’t be any ego. It has to be solely for the child, to help the child to go back to the right path. That’s the goal. Anything else is a sin. Can you imagine how much love God has for us, that all the suffering that we’ve done in our life was really just for us. He’s not an angry God. God doesn’t have any needs. It’s only for us.
I want to bring the Rabbeinu Yona here, on Mishlei 3:26. He says, “Real faith in God has no mixture of doubt or uncertainty. One who has genuine faith in God, even if he experiences much suffering and misfortune, still strengthens himself in serving God, and he has true faith that he will be fully compensated for his suffering. He understands that God chooses for him that which is good for him.” Everything that’s happening is for the person’s good. “Thus, if a person is chastised in this world, it is only so that he will benefit by being pure of sin, of coming closer to God, and increasing his reward in the world to come.” In other words, in a certain sense there is no punishment. God is doing everything for us that we should come close to Him, that we should be more pure, that we should overcome our physical aspects and become spiritual. That’s all it’s about. There’s no hate, there’s no anger, there’s no revenge, it’s pure love. Therefore we have to look at all of our misfortunes as love. And not only that, but when people come against us, we have to come back with love. Ah, sometimes you have to punish. Sometimes you’re in a position of power, you’re a leader, you have to do the right thing. People have to see it. But it’s still coming from love. Of course there’s right and there’s wrong, but the right and the wrong is based on love. You’re showing your child, your wife, somebody else, a co-worker, you’re showing them the right way. It’s coming from love. This was the great attribute of Pinchas ben Aharon ha Cohen, Pinchas, the one who killed Zimri, came from the genealogy of Aharon ha Cohen the one who loves and pursues peace.
Great Stories – Rav Shach
This is a story about Rav Shach. It says, Rav Shach always encouraged people to commit to writing every comment or question that comes in the course of learning or Talmudic passage. He would always write everything down. “Writing,” he explained, is more than a simple means of transforming ideas from the mind to paper. It also increases one’s creative ability and develops his thinking capacity. Committing matters to writing helps them to become clear. Furthermore, if it’s difficult writing things down, it shows that you’re lacking in understanding.” So, after learning or giving a shiur, lesson, Rav Shach used to say, “Now I’m going to go consult with my pen.” He said, only after he wrote things down did he really feel solid, that he had the ideas clear.
Peace In Your Home
Another commandment of marriage by Rav Avigdor Miller is the necessity to encourage each other. He says, “A man has to go to work, and it’s a big struggle. And you have a boss over you, and people are bothering you. But you have to keep going, because you have to make a living. At the end of the day, sometimes you come home mentally and emotionally wiped out. But you’re afraid to tell your wife, chas veshalom. You’re afraid if you tell her what happened during the day, she’s going to pour salt on the wounds. So instead, you keep quiet.” He says, “This is a pity He said, “At least if a person has a sympathetic wife, it could heal him.” He says, Many people become ill just because they can’t talk out at the end of the day, what they went through. As a matter of fact, this is Pirkei Avos – Pirkei Avos says, “Do not talk too much to a woman.” One of the commentaries says over there, “Because the more you speak to your wife, the more she’s going to criticize you”. He said, “This should not be the case. A wife should serve as his doctor, and his psychiatrist, and the healer of her husband – give him words of encouragement, and empathize with him for the hard day he had.
On the other hand, the husband also has to have empathy. Sometimes he comes into his house at the end of the day, and his wife’s going crazy. The children have been wild. The washing machine broke down. Her nerves are worn to a frazzle, So what does he tell her? “Ah, don’t be so nervous. You’re making a fuss over nothing.” Why does he say that? He should say, “Oh, that’s horrible. That’s terrible. Oh, I see you’re carrying on anyway. I can’t believe what a difficult day you must have had. Look, the house still looks so clean.” It’s not going to cost him money to speak like that? He says, if the wife cooks him supper, never fail to compliment her cooking. On Shabbos, before your Divrei Torah, words of Torah, you should say in public, how great your wife’s cooking is. And don’t hold back – encourage her. Encourage each other. If you do that, you’ll have peace in your home. OK, that’s it for this week’s podcast, I hope you enjoyed it. Please share it with your friends, and have a great Shabbos.