Torah Weekly

For the week ending 15 July 2006 / 19 Tammuz 5766

Parshat Pinchas

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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G-d tells Moshe to inform Pinchas that Pinchas will receive G-d's "covenant of peace" as reward for his bold action - executing Zimri and the Midianite princess Kozbi. G-d commands Moshe to maintain a state of enmity with the Midianites who lured the Jewish People into sin. Moshe and Elazar are told to count the Jewish People. The Torah lists the names of the families in each tribe. The total number of males eligible to serve in the army is 601,730. G-d instructs Moshe how to allot the Land of Israel to Bnei Yisrael. The number of the Levites' families is recorded. Tzlofchad's daughters file a claim with Moshe: In the absence of a brother, they request their late father's portion in the Land. Moshe asks G-d for the ruling, and G-d tells Moshe that their claim is just. The Torah teaches the laws and priorities which determine the order of inheritance. G-d tells Moshe that he will ascend a mountain and view the Land that the Jewish People will soon enter, although Moshe himself will not enter. Moshe asks G-d to designate the subsequent leader, and G-d selects Yehoshua bin Nun. Moshe ordains Yehoshua as his successor in the presence of the entire nation. The Parsha concludes with special teachings of the service in the Beit Hamikdash.


The Seeker

“And Hashem said to Moshe, ‘Take to yourself Yehoshua ben Nun, a man in whom there is spirit...’ ” (27:18)

What is the essential ingredient of greatness?

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz, zatzal, one of the great Torah scholars of the previous generation was once visiting his uncle, Rabbi Avraham Yafin, zatzal, the Rosh Yeshivaof the Nevardok Yeshiva. As they entered the Beit Midrash (study hall), Rabbi Shmuelevitz asked Rabbi Yafin, “Who is your sharpest student?” Discreetly, Rabbi Yafin pointed out a certain pupil. “And who is the most studious?” Rabbi Yafin showed him another. “And who has the greatest breadth of knowledge?” Rabbi Yafin indicated yet a third. “And who,” said Rabbi Shmuelevitz finally, “is the best student?” Rabbi Shmuelevitz was surprised when Rabbi Yafin indicated none of the previously mentioned students, but another one entirely.

“He is my best bachur (young man),” said Rabbi Yafin.

“But until now you didn’t mention him.” said Rabbi Shmuelevitz, “What makes him the best?”

Rabi Yafin looked at Rabbi Shmuelevitz and said, “This one is a seeker.”

In the ascent to greatness, the most precious quality that a person can have is the desire to seek, to pursue truth with a ceaseless and tireless longing.

“And Hashem said to Moshe, 'Take to yourself Yehoshua ben Nun, a man in whom there is spirit....’ ”

The Sforno explains the phrase, “a man in whom there is spirit,” to mean “prepared to receive the Light of the Face of the Living G-d.” The Sforno compares Yehoshua to the artisans who crafted the Mishkan and its vessels in the desert. About them G-d said, “And into the heart of all wise of heart, I have placed wisdom.” (Shmot 31:6)

The closest those artisans had come to the extremely skilled work needed to construct the Mishkan was shlepping cement to build Egyptian treasure-cities. How were they able, with no previous experience, to fabricate something as beautiful, delicate and spiritually precise as the Mishkan?

To be “wise of heartmeans to be prepared to receive "the Light of the Face of the Living G-d;” to be dissatisfied with the knowledge that one has already, and to want more; to want G-d’s radiance to illuminate our minds. Whatever those artisans, those painters, builders and draughtsmen lacked in experience was more than made up for by their overwhelming enthusiasm to build the Mishkan.

When the Torah lists the heads of the Jewish People who were sent to spy out the Land of Israel, it lists them according to their importance. Yehoshua appears fifth in that list. G-d chose him to be the leader of the Jewish People precisely because of the quality that he was a seeker and wanted more.

When Moshe ascended to the supernal realms, Yehoshua waited for him at the foot of Mount Sinai for forty days. Yehoshua took no tea breaks, no days off. Even though he could have rushed out to meet Moshe and resumed his learning as soon as Moshe returned, Yehoshua was not prepared to waste those few precious extra moments between the camp and the foot of the mount.

Such is the nature of a seeker.

Oh, by the way, I almost forgot. That student that Rabbi Avraham Yafin described as his ‘best bachur’ became better known as the Steipler Gaon, one of the greatest halachic arbiters of his generation.

  • Source: Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz in Sichot Mussar; with thanks to Rabbi Mordechai Perlman and Rabbi Eli Merl and Rabbi Reuven Lauffer

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