Sunday, July 6, 2008

Balak, Bamidbar 25:6. V’heima bochim pesach ohel moed. The Spear of Pinchas

(The following is based on something said by the Gerrer Rebbe and Rav Gedaliah Schorr, and combines verious nuances in its presentation by Harav Avraham Chaim Levin, Chairman of Moetzes Gedolei Hatoah, and the Divrei Yehudah, of the Gerrer family. And, of course, Me.)

Targum Yonasan interprets ‘bochim’ as ‘kor’in k’rias shma.’ When Zimri challenged Moshe Rabbeinu and the entire Torah morality, the Eidah, the Sanhedrin, responded by going to the Ohel Moed and saying Kri’as Shema with great kavanah. Krias shma has 248 words, and represents complete dedication of the 248 limbs of the human body to Hashem. The Gematria of the 248 limbs is Ramach, the Ramach Eivarim. But while all the tzadikim were saying krias shma and demonstrating their absolute and total dedication to Hashem, "Vayar Pinchos ben Elozor ben Aharon Hakohen vayakam mitoch ho’eida vayikach romach beyado." Pinchas was in that eida that was saying krias shma, and he, too, dedicated his ramach eivorim to Hashem through his tefilla. But then he took the next step— Pinchos took the ‘romach be’yado’– and of course, romach is also gematria ramach— he not only dedicated himself to Hashem, but he took that dedication of his ramach eivarim ‘be’yado’, he acted on his convictions and didn’t just sit saying krias shma. They both dedicated ramach to Hashem, but he took it beyodo and did something with it, he acted on it.

There is a time for Titz’ak Eilai, and there is a time for Mah Titz’ak Eilai. In Devorim 15:18, it says Yevarechicho Hashem bechol asher ta’aseh, may Hashem bless you in all that you do. In the sefer Peh Kadosh, Reb Itzaleh Volozhiner (R’ Chaim Volozhiner’s son), says that he was at a rabbinical conference in 1843, where the gedolim discussed the pressing issues the community faced. One of the gedolim got up and said that there is no good solution; we have to place our trust in Hashem and see what happens. Reb Itzaleh said that he learned from that speech that when in says in the Mishneh, that in the time before Mashiach, people will say "ein lonu lehisho’ein elo al avinu shebashomayim," this is one of the klolos of ikvesa de’meshicha, not a sign of faith. There has to be a Bechol asher ta'aseh in order for Yevarechecha Hashem. We're not on Earth to stand and daven. We're here to make ourselves worthy to be a conduit for Retzon Hashem, and to execute that Ratzon through our actions.

This doesn’t have to be seen as a criticism of ivory-tower tefilla. You can say (and this is, in fact, the Divrei Yehuda’s perspective,) that Pinchas’s ko’ach to take the ‘romach’ stemmed from the ‘bochin pesach ho’ohel,’ from the yichud leiv of the ramach eivorim of the people who were saying krias shma. He needed the yichud ramach eivorim of the people, it contributed to, informed and enabled the concrete action of the doer. Pinchas had the wisdom and the strength to convert that potential into action; but his action was empowered and enabled by the tefila of the Eidah-- he was the answer to their prayers. The simple words of the passuk may be seen as supporting this approach, because it says that the ‘eidah’ was bochim, and that Pinchos arose ‘mitoch ho’eidoh.’ He didn’t just jump out of nowhere; he was a member of the Eidah, he was saying Kri’as Shema with them, and it was their yichud leiv that created the possibility, and it was his yichud leiv that was the catalyst for the heroic act.

When you close the tehillim, if you are not changed by it, then you didn’t say the tehillim the right way. And not only do you have to be changed, but you have to walk out of there aware that Hashem will provide you with an opportunity to do something for other people, for the community, for your family. Tehillim and Tefilla is not the ‘job’, it is the introduction to other jobs. And when opportunity presents itself, many people who see the opening say to themselves that they are "not worthy, who am I, what can I do..." And, deep inside, maybe the person tells himself that such a reaction is anivus. Well, you should know that it is not anivus you are feeling, it is atzlus. It’s the Ramach without the Romach. We all have to make a conscious decision to not leave the davenning in shul or the tehillim in the book, because the most important effect of yichud leiv is the empowerment of siyata dishmaya– finding out what needs doing, and getting the job done.


  1. Tremedous vort. How would you relate this vort to the numerous people from very modest means who enter kollel with the motto "Hashem will provide" without any hava aminah of chas vesholom of getting a job and going to work after a year or two in kollel

  2. Thank you.

    I think everyone agrees that Klal Yisroel needs individuals who are 'Kulo Torah,' pure souls whose entire lives focus on our tradition; there is just so much to know, and it is so easy to gain a superficial knowledge and to convince yourself that you are a talmid chacham, so we definitely need individuals who are pure torah. How many? And at whose expense? And at what point should a person admit that he is not one of the elect? That is the unanswerable question.

  3. I am shocked I thought You would definitely bee on the other side of the Argument