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PARASHAT PINCHAS

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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook

(First Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael) “The vessel that holds the blessing that G-d desires is peace, and peace is indeed the world’s intended destiny. Peace exists when all the multitude of views and wills turn together towards one purpose, and all the efforts of mankind join together to bring about the revelation of the light of G-d’s glory in accordance with the ways that G-d laid out”

(Olat Re’iyah 1:258)




Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir

Message for Today:

Let G-d’s Community Not be Like Sheep That Have no Sheppard

Moses, the faithful shepherd, when he was about to pass away, asked G-d to appoint in his place a suitable leader who would continue to lead the people when they entered Eretz Yisrael, and he expressed the wish that this leader should have appropriate traits:
‘Let the Omnipotent G-d of all living souls appoint a man over the community. Let him come and go before them, and let him bring them forth and lead them. Let G-d’s community not be like sheep that have no shepherd” (Numbers 27:15-17). Rashi explains and elaborates on what are the traits of the desirable Jewish leader:

1. “Appoint for them a leader who will tolerate each one of them as he is.” Indeed, G-d says to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man of spirit” (verse 18). Here Rashi elaborates on G-d’s response: “He is what you, Moses, asked for. He will be able to relate to the spirit of each individual.” As the Talmud states, “People’s views are not the same any more than their faces are the same” (Berachot 58a). Joshua was a leader who could include in his heart and mind all of Israel in their various streams, groups and schools of thought.

2. Moses also sought a leader who would provide a personal example and would go at the head of the camp, who would “come and go before them”. He would not be like other kings, who sit in their palaces and send their soldiers off to war.

3. He also wanted a leader known for his righteous, moral conduct, one whose merit would defend the nation: “Let him bring them forth and lead them” – “by way of his merit” (Rashi).

Today, our leaders has just as great a need of those same traits and characteristics that Moses sought of G-d for the leaders of Israel then, to keep Israel from being a shepherdless sheep:

1. We need leaders who are “men of spirit”. They have to be able to relate to the spirit of every citizen of the State, and to unite the entire Jewish People as one man with one heart, even if their views are as different as their faces. We don’t need leaders who cause divisiveness and civil wars. And what unites the people? Not just economic interests, and not even wars (we have already seen wars that led to further divisiveness amongst us). Rather, first and foremost it is spirit that unites us, the roots of the Jewish People. Just as the branches of a tree are united at the roots, so is the nation united through its roots.

Not only the past unites us, but mostly the future of the State of Israel. We have arisen to rebirth in our land, to be a light unto the nations, i.e., to reveal the benevolent soul of the Jewish People, thereby fulfilling the promise to Abraham: “I will make you into a great nation…. You shall become a blessing,…. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3).

2. Like the air we breath, we need leaders willing to go at the front, leading the camp. We need leaders who can provide a moral and ethical example and take responsibility for their deeds. It is not enough to be smart and sly in order to hold the reins of leadership.

3. A leader has to be a pure-hearted person, honest and upright, and through such behavior he will bring merit to the entire nation. As Isaiah said (3:10): “Say of the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.” Mesillat Yesharim on “Chassidut” comments that every generation benefits from the merit of its righteous leaders. By such means will be fulfilled through that leader, “Invest him with some of your splendor so that the entire Israelite community will obey him” (Numbers 27:20).

Looking forward to complete salvation,


Shabbat Shalom




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Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Beit El
“Red Lines”

Question: I too, favor relating to the Jewish People with love and faith. Yet perhaps we have already crossed lines beyond which we cannot remain silent. Perhaps, regarding some personalities we should be proclaiming the truth of the Torah, and saying, “That is a corrupt man! He is not ours! He must be removed to outside the camp!”

Answer: Certainly that time has arrived, and not just from today, but from the time of Moses, who commanded, in G-d’s name: “Instruct the Israelites to send out of the camp everyone who has a leprous mark or a male discharge, and all who are ritually defiled by the dead” (Numbers 5:2). Rashi quotes our sages who said that these three categories do not have the same laws: “One is exiled out of all three camps [Kohen, Levi and Israel], one is exiled out of two [Kohen and Levi], and one is only exiled out of one [Kohen].”

The Ishbitzer Rebbe explains that there are three blemishes here. The person suffering from discharges [i.e., the “zav”] is a slave to his passions. He is therefore exiled from the “Machane Shechina”, the “camp of the Divine Presence” where the Kohanim resided, as well as from the camp of the Levi’im, who performed G-d’s service, but not from the camp of Israel. It is a terrible thing when a person is consumed by his passions, and he certainly has no portion with those whose lot it is to serve G-d. Yet he still can remain within the Israelite camp.

The second category is the person ritually defiled by the dead. Such a person is a mourner, and is sorrowful over his loss. Such a person has no place in the camp of the Kohanim, for it is well-known that the Divine Presence rests only where there is joy. Yet he still has a place in the Levite camp, where those engaged in the divine service lived. There are many people who are sad, bitter, depressed, yet still serve G-d devotedly. Yet the priestly camp of the Divine Presence, the abode of strength and bless, is not their place.

Worst is the tzarua, the Biblical leper. That is a person who spoke lashon hara, evil gossip, and he is banished from all three camps. Of him it says, “He must remain alone, and his place shall be outside the camp” (Leviticus 13:43). Why so? In 1848 a terrible plague broke out in Russia, and Jews began to snoop around for sins that might explain the plague. One such person approached Rabbi Yisrael Salanter and tattled that a particular individual was committing a certain sin. Rav Salanter answered him, “When a Biblical leper was sent out of all three camps (Arachin 16), it wasn’t because he had spoken falsehood, but even if he spoke the truth. Rather, people who looked for the sins in others were told, “You are such an expert in finding sin! Go outside the camp. Be alone with yourself and look for your own shortcomings and sins.”

We may derive from this that whoever wishes to banish others outside the camp is only banishing himself. If someone calls his fellow Jews “the mixed multitude”, he, himself, might be from the mixed multitude. As the Vilna Gaon wrote:
“There are five types of ‘mixed multitude’ amongst the Jewish People: The first is quarrelers and gossips… The quarrelers are the worst of all, and they are called Amalekites…” (Even Shleima 11:8). And may G-d save us from this evil trap!

Let us not forget how severe a sin is lashon hara. Regarding the sin of the spies, an explicit mishnah states, “Evil speech can result in a more severe sin than evil deeds, for we find that our ancestors’ fate in the desert was sealed exclusively through the sin of lashon hara” (Arachin 15a).

Our sages say there that it is a worse sin to cast aspersions on an engaged girl than to rape her. Certainly rape is a heinous sin, causing enormous suffering and leaving an open wound in the victim, but the victim is not suspected of any sin. If, however, someone libels her, then even after it becomes clear that he lied, perhaps not everyone will believe her, but will say, “There is no smoke without fire.” How then will she bear the shame?

We can derive a lesson from Moses:
We find that when G-d said to him, ‘Go down, for the people have become corrupt’ (Exodus 32:7), he held on to the Tablets and could not believe that Israel had sinned. He said, ‘If I don’t see it myself, I don’t believe it.’ We read, ‘As he approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses displayed anger, and threw down the tablets that were in his hand, shattering them at the foot of the mountain’ (Exodus 32:19). Thus, he didn’t break them until he saw it with his own eyes. Woe to people who testify on matters that they have not seen! Yet could it be that Moses didn’t believe in G-d who told him that the people had become corrupt? Rather, Moses was making known the proper path to Israel. Even if someone hears something from a trusted individual, he is forbidden to accept his testimony and to act in accordance with it if he hasn’t seen it himself.” (Shemot Rabbah 46:1)





Rabbi Eran TamirLecturer at Machon Meir
You Are Clothed With Glory and Majesty

The change of the guard from Moses to Joshua, mentioned in our parasha is not just a technical matter of “switching presidents”. Rather, it is first of all a shift from the character of leadership of Moses to that of Joshua, as in G-d’s command to Moses (Numbers 27:17-20): “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man of spirit…. and invest him with some of your splendor.” Our sages deduce (Rashi), “‘Some’ of your splendor, but not all of your splendor. We find that the countenance of Moses was like the sun, while that of Joshua was like the moon.” Malbim explains this as follows:
“The difference between ‘hod’ [splendor, rhymes with ‘load’] and ‘hadar’ [glory] is that ‘hod’ connotes inner beauty whereas ‘hadar’ connotes external beauty. The Midrash teaches, ‘G-d invested Moses with ‘hod’ and Aaron with ‘hadar’. Had G-d invested Joshua with ‘hod’, as well, no human being could have borne being in his presence. Joshua had external ‘hadar’ to begin with, for he was a mighty warrior. Moses, possessed inner ‘hod’, and he was no soldier… For that reason he did not enter the Land.”

In other words, there are two ways of leading the Jewish People. One is conduct via “hod”, which finds expression in a leader whose spirituality is inside him. He is holy, hidden, removed from society, and his influence on society stems from the inner spirituality that he radiates. The people feel removed from him, precisely as with Moses, who in order for Israel to be able to speak to him was compelled to place a veil over his face. The skin of his face had become luminous (Exodus 34:29), hence the people were afraid to approach him, exactly like with the sun, which we cannot look at without special glasses that enable us to absorb the sun’s great light. Such conduct is suited to the desert, where Israel lived a miraculous existence, under Moses’s spiritual leadership. There were very few demands on the people to take an active role in conducting their lives.

The second type of leadership is that of “hadar”, which finds expression in a leader whose spirituality appears in his active life. He is holy and spiritual, yet he keeps in touch with the public, and with their needs and dilemmas. The people are partners with him in their practical lives and in effecting improvements. Therefore, the connection with him is a basic component of their lives. Such was the nature of their connection with Joshua, who was like the face of the moon. We can look at the moon and enjoy its light even on the level of Israel. Such leadership is appropriate for Eretz Yisrael. In this approach, the leadership does not remain unfathomable. Rather, the leader deals with the public in supplying all their needs and in dealing with all their complexities. Without a doubt, the spiritual and practical leadership suited to the Jewish People today, as provided by our rabbis and politicians, must be such that the public feels attached to it. They must be able to feel close to it and to identify with it. If we achieve that, we will be able to actively fulfill in our day-to-day lives, by means of practical cooperation, all of our goals and values.

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