Wednesday, June 30, 2010

War on two fronts...

Last week, I saw a very encouraging thought in the sefer Nesivos Shalom, from the late rebbe Reb Sholom Noach of Slonim. 

Concerning the story of Pinchas, the rebbe establishes that there were two disparate sins: 1) the sin of worshiping Ba'al Pe'or and 2) the sin involving the Moabite women. The implication from the text is that the plague that struck the Jews was related to the sin of Ba'al Pe'or, specifically, whereas Pinchas' act (an act of mesiras nefesh - risking his own life by rising up against a prominent member of the tribe, and taking the law into his own hands) was in response to the sin of the Moabite women. 
The rebbe poses a two-pronged question: why was Pinchas' act related to the sin of immorality, and not on the actual sin of Ba'al Pe'or (which was the main sin, after all)? The sin of Ba'al Pe'or was a considerably more severe sin that actually requires capital punishment, as opposed to the sin of immorality, whose punishment is lashes! In addition, why was the rectification (i.e. the justice meted out by this Nasi's death, and subsequent halting of the plague) of this sin done through Pinchas, and not through Moshe? Up until this point Moshe was the savior in every situation, so why did Pinchas have to be the one to carry out this deed?

The rebbe answers that Emunah (belief) and Kedusha (holiness) are two foundations in serving God; when one elevates himself through them, he enhances and raises up his own actions and the Torah itself. Conversely, if he does something that diminishes either of these two foundations vis-a-vis his own service of God, the whole Torah is diminished, God forbid. The source of emunah is embedded within a person; it is an integral part of his being, his nature, his essence. This is an inheritance from the patriarch Avraham, as shown in the medrash: "my children are believers, the sons of believers". It follows that even at a time when a Jew doesn't feel this emunah, we must believe that it is there - albeit buried deeply within him - hidden by the many shortcomings that come along with the human experience. 
When a person is plagued by doubts and questions that chip away at his faith and resolve, those crises can be traced to the diminished effect of kedusha; the satisfaction of base desires for pleasure's sake (the antithesis of holiness) begins with the intellect, and once the mind is corrupted with licentious thoughts, the basis of emunah falls prey as well. This concept is found by the primordial Snake, when God tells it "[man] will pound your head, and you will hiss at his heel" (Gen. 3:15): the destruction of the snake comes through the force of emunah, which is found in the mind, the head. But the downfall of man comes through the attack on holiness (represented by the heel - the lower part of the body where the reproductive organs are found), in which the Evil Inclination possesses greater strength.

In our case, we find that the sin of immorality allowed for the sin of Ba'al Pe'or. Therefore, Pinchas risked himself to root out the source of the evil. When a Jew has issues of faith, their roots lay in issues of holiness, and Pinchas realized that he would have to stop the immorality in order to properly bring an end to the sin of Ba'al Pe'or.

So why Pinchas?

We know that Bilaam and Balak names contain the name of the Jewish People's arch-enemy, Amalek. Amalek's modus operandi is to weaken our resolve with questions of belief and by cooling our enthusiasm for fulfilling the directives of the Torah. To do this, they wage a multi-front battle, bombarding us with attacks on our emunah and kedusha. During the epic war with Amalek, Moshe directs Yehoshua to gather men and fight against Amalek; Yehoshua was a descendant of Yosef haTzaddik. Yosef's defining characteristic is his ability to withstand the most trying temptations, in spite of his surroundings and his station in life.

The war with Amalek, therefore, was waged on several fronts, as well. Moshe led the Jews in matters of emunah, while Yehoshua led them in matters of kedusha, channeling his ancestor's strength.

The same concept applies here, as well. Pinchas, channeling the trait of Yosef haTzaddik (the gemara [Sota 43a] tells us that Pinchas' maternal grandfather was Yosef) was able to challenge and defeat the spiritual blemish that the sin with the Moabite women caused, thereby rectifying the aspect of kedusha, which was in peril. This is why it had to be Pinchas, why he had to risk his own safety in a true act of mesiras nefesh.

The rebbe concludes with an observation that is very pertinent to us, especially in this time of the year, with the Three Weeks upon us:

This is also the challenge of the generation of Ikvus d'Meshicha, in these two subjects (i.e. belief and holiness). 
The closer we draw near to the final redemption and the great revelation of the Messiah, the Evil Inclination's power increases as well, in these matters. The rectification for this is through the aspects of Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben Dovid; Moshiach ben Yosef will first mend the blemishes of the Covenant (i.e. diminished holiness through immorality), and afterward Moshiach ben Dovid, who exemplifies the trait of Malchut, of Emunah, will arrive and mend the diminished emunah.

It is incumbent upon the Jew to learn from Pinchas, who was one man, and sacrificed himself for the sake of all Israel, for all of Israel is responsible for one another. Similarly, when a Jew strengthens himself in these matters, and withstands trial [of faith and holiness], he brings the salvation to Israel!
May we all gird ourselves in preparation for battle; when we feel a sense of responsibility toward one another, and we wage battle shoulder to shoulder, we can bring Moshiach! I bless us all that this year we should merit to observe the Ninth of Av as the festive holy day that it is destined to be, when we stand on the solid foundations of belief and holiness!

1 comment:

karma dude said...