Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pinchas, Bamidbar 25:11. The Hole's in My Cabin, So Mind Your Own Business

You know the story about a passenger on a boat that was drilling a hole in the floor of his cabin. His fellow passengers grabbed him and took his drill away. Angrily, he said, "You troublemakers, why are mixing into my affairs? It's my cabin!"

Yes, it's true that a breech threatens us all, not just the people who are doing the breaching. But the interdependence and mutual responsibility of the members of Klal Yisrael can sometimes seem to be a pain in the neck. I would guess that it actually benefits us all, as we see that even Moshe Rabbeinu's high madreiga of nevu'ah stemmed from his position as leader of Klal Yisrael, so it seems that we all are elevated by this arvus. But sometimes, our individual responsibility for others' behavior results in very unpleasant things such as the hafganot in Yerushalayim (assuming that they stem from real anger about chillul shabbos and are not just an assertion of political power and entitlement).

Anyway, this week's parsha relates to this topic in two ways.

25:11. Velo Chilisi. The Shai Latorah here brings rayos and quotes anonymous rishonim that an individual’s sin can provoke punishment upon the entire community. Examples: Zimri and the fact that if not for Pinchos, there might have been a ‘chilisi.’ Beshalach 16:19– there were warned to not leave Mahn overnight. Two people did, and Hashem said “Ahd ana mei’antem.” Yehoshua 7– Achan was the only man who took from the shallal, and because of his sin, thirty six people died at the next battle, and Hashem said it was because “vegam lakchu be’keileihem.” He asks, but why then, by Korah, did Moshe argue “ha’ish echad yecheta ve’ahl kol ha’eidah tiktzof?”? He brings from Reb Dovid Soloveichik that Korach had a din “nivdal,” as Moshe had told him and his people “hibadlu mitoch ha’eidah.”

It's a drash, not a lomdishe shiur, so I wouldn't expect him to bring contrary rayos, but there are plenty of mekoros that guilt is personal except in the case of widespread and openly notorious behavior. But anyway, the point is that Reb Dovid Soloveichik said it.

25:12. Brisi Sholom. Everybody and his uncle talk about the apparent conflict between the act and the reward; some ask that a medal for an act should reflect the act, others say that it has to stem from the act and it doesn’t here.
First: Rav Shamshon Refoel Hirsch on Parshas Pinchos says that peace - shalom - isn't quiet or appeasement, but rather the restoration of rights, human and divine, and the creation of harmony between Hashem and His creation. Once again, like the Chasam Sofer's observation that Verav Shalom is the gematria of Machlokes.
Second: Harav Avraham Lawrence told me that he once heard an interesting vort. Rashi here says “bedin hu she’yitol scharo.” But we hold schar mitzvah b’hai alma leka!
That answer is that even if we hold schar mitzvah b’hai alma leka, there is one schar that is guaranteed, and that is “mitzvah goreres mitzvah.” But here, Hashem did not want that to happen, because even if Pinchos’ kana’us was a wonderful thing and a great mitzvah, it would not be good if kana’us was ‘goreir’ more kana’us, and being a kana'i is like going for a ride on tiger; sometimes you come back on it, sometimes in it. So in order to avoid that, Hashem rescinded deferral of schar through the usual ‘goreres’ protocol, and went directly to schar. This is what “bedin hu she’yitol scharo” means.

So: the point of these two ideas in Parshas Pinchas is that sometimes, we have to mix into other peoples' business, if not out of altruism, then out of self-interest, or, as anthropologists like to say, out of selfish altruism. Second, necessary and ultimate good, maybe, but still ugly and dangerous.

Earlier posts on Pinchas:

Flexibility in Psak and Eilu Ve'eilu

A Kohen with Blood on His Hands

1 comment:

  1. >>>sometimes, we have to mix into other peoples' business

    Isn't that the whole idea behind "haniglos lanu ulevaneinu" -- arvus is about fixing a wrong being committed, not just about saying kiddush for someone.