SPARKS OF TORAH
VOLUME 61 NUMBER 8
July 13, 2012
23 Tammuz, 5772
Candle-lighting Time: 8:10 PM
This edition of Sparks of Torah is dedicated in the merit of a speedy recovery for Shalomit bas Avigayil. May she live in good health unil120.
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On His Behalf!
by Rabbi Raphael Leban
There is a time in every child’s life which my wife calls the Golden Age of Helping. It’s that short span of months when a young child is really excited to help out around the house, and it ends just as the child becomes old enough to do anything that’s actually helpful.
During the Golden Age of Helping, when your two-year-old asks to help you unpack the groceries and put them away, you give him the apples and point hopefully towards the fruit drawer in the fridge. You don’t really need his help, and the apples would have a much better chance of arriving at the fridge in edible shape if you did it yourself, but letting him do it for you is one of those relationship-building quality moments that Hallmark cards are written about, not to mention that it keeps him from getting into fights with his siblings.
In this week’s parsha, we see just such an idea, albeit it in a more sophisticated way.
At the close of last week’s parsha, there was a terrible and sordid incident involving a prince of one of the Twelve Tribes and a seductive, idolatrous princess of a nation at war with the Jewish People. It’s as if Vice President Joe Biden was publicly having an affair with Osama bin Laden’s daughter. Only in this case it was even worse, because the honor that was so grievously tarnished was not justAmerica’s honor, it was the honor of the Creator of the Universe.
Pinchas, the grandson of Ahron the High Priest, took the initiative and responded to the desecration of God’s name by executing the two perpetrators, thereby restoring sanctity to God’s name and His people. For this act he is greatly praised. God says about Pinchas, “he avenged my vengeance” and He awards Pinchas the bris shalom, the covenant of peace.
From this verse, explains Rabbi Moshe Feinstein z”l, we learn what Pinchas did that earned him such reward. He did something that was really God’s to do. He performed what was rightfully God’s act of vengeance. God didn’t, of course, need him to do so, He could have punished the offenders quite capably Himself, but the fact that Pinchas rushed in and did it for Him showed the great love that Pinchas had for God.
So too, continues Rabbi Feinstein, with other similar mitzvos in which we do something that was God’s to do, we receive tremendous spiritual reward. For example, the mitzvah of tzedaka, as explained by Rabbi Akiva in his conversations with Turnus Rufus in the Talmud.
Turnus Rufus once asked Rabbi Akiva why God created poor people. He responded, “In order to save us from gehinom,” meaning to say that poor people give us the opportunity to feed them, by giving tzedaka. (The poor have their own opportunities to be saved from gehinom.) Really, it’s God’s job to feed them, and He could so if He chose to, but He allows us to do it for Him, instead, to show our love for Him, His mitzvos and His creations, our fellow human beings.
Appreciating the Good
by Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
The daughters of Tzlofchod approached Moshe and requested a portion of land along with their specific tribe, that of Menashe. They explained that their father was not amongst the rabble-rousers of Korach’s groups, rather he died of his own sin.
There is a discussion as to what they meant when they said that he died of his own sin. Some point out that this means that he did not mislead others when he sinned as did Korach’s mutineers. Others maintain that he was the one that was found desecrating Shabbos and was subsequently executed. In that case, it is possible that they meant to say that he had sinned for the sake of Heaven.
Some commentators explain that the one who desecrated Shabbos did so in order that he would be put to death and others would see the severity of that sin. Based upon that, they meant to say that he was a righteous individual. Another explanation is that he was from those who attempted to go to Israel after the fiasco involving the spies. They were, of course, totally wiped out by Amalek.
Ibn Ezra cites another understanding in the name of Rebbe Yehuda HaLevi. He explains that the phrase that ‘he died of his own sin’ must be understood within the context of the rest of the verse, that ‘he did not have any sons’. They were explaining to Moshe that although he had only daughters and no sons, and that seemingly was a result of sins that he had done, nonetheless, he was not a terrible person as the many others who had been involved in a variety of dreadful incidents. Certainly he was a not a pure soul but that should not prevent him from receiving a portion of land that his daughters could live on.
This insight from the Ibn Ezra presents us with a lesson for life. Too often we feel entitled to the ‘normal’ things that everyone seems to have and enjoy. Everyone appears to be healthy and happy. Many people own their homes and have a car or two. It is not unusual for people to take a vacation or two throughout the year. The list is endless. What we don’t easily understand is that everything that we have or that others posses is only a gift from Hashem.
The daughters of Tzlofchod clearly understood this. Therefore, since their father did not merit sons, they were apprehensive that Moshe might view their father unfavorably and listen to their request. They disclosed their concern and Moshe did not respond adversely, so they realized that they could petition for a share in the land.
The Talmud makes an assertion that one who experiences a miracle often does not realize the magnitude of the kindness that is bestowed upon him. The example that the Talmud cites is that of childbirth. Especially today with the advance of medical technology, we often think that nothing can go wrong. And, truth be told, that is very often the case. Many times there are complications which are summarily dealt with and successfully. On other occasions, difficulties arise that cannot be resolved.
Every morning we recite a series of blessings and we thank Hashem for the everyday physical pleasures and conveniences that we enjoy on a daily basis. We can see, think, walk, get dressed and many other actions that unfortunately many cannot do. If we would focus more intently on those blessings and become more cognizant of the many additional ‘bonus’ blessings that we enjoy all the time, we would appreciate much more the ‘normal’ things that we have.
Byte For Shabbos
Benjamin had ten sons while Dan had only one. Yet several generations later the tribe of Dan far outnumbered the tribe of Benjamin. When G-d ‘wants’ someone to succeed, He sends His blessing to that individual and he succeeds, no matter what the ‘natural order’ might lead us to think.
A Question for the Rabbis
By Rabbi Mordechai Becher
The Torah generally assumes that a leadership role among the Jewish people will be automatically inherited by the son, if he is worthy (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 1:7). Does the rule of inheritance also apply to a rabbinic position? This is a matter of major dispute among halachic authorities; however, Rabbi Moshe Sofer (Chatam Sofer, Responsa Orach Chaim 12) cites a proof from the Torah portion this week that the rabbinate is not subject to inheritance. Moses prayed to G-d to appoint a leader for the community to take over after his death. G-d responded by appointing Joshua (Numbers 27:15-20). The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 21:17) says that Moses was hoping that his son would take his place, since he was a scholar and a G-d fearing individual. However, G-d told him that since Joshua had served Moses more, and had spent so much time with him, he would be chosen as the leader rather than Moses’s son. The Midrash thus indicates that the role of a spiritual leader is not an automatic inheritance (Minchat Asher, Pinchas, 59).
Joke of the Week
What’s a Jew’s favorite candy? Mazel toffee.