Monday, July 16, 2012

Shabbos With Pinchas

Last Shabbos Micha and Maariv I taught a class at the shul of my youth.  I spoke about Parshat Pinchas.

I shared the ideas of the Baal HaTurim. There were many questions, which felt right. Someone raised the fact that - according to the medrash - Pinchas remembered the law and asked Moshe if he should proceed with his act of zealotry. If you want to see more about this online see this essay by Rabbi Tzvi Leshem (Blobstein) who raises the possibility that in a way Pinchas' asking made matters worse for him. Clicking on this link will lead you to a list of online articles regarding Pinchas asking Moshe about the law and much more.

In this Shaloshudes shiur I mentioned the idea (of Rav Nachman Kahane) that Pinchas wasn’t rewarded being given the title of being a kohein,rather the act that he did transformed him into being a kohein. This led to a discussion about the tradition that kohanim are somewhat impetuous and/or have tempers. There’s a story about the Chafetz Chaim meeting the Ohr Sameach and them having a lesheim shamayim disagreement and at some point agreed that they should part and end the discussion as they were both kohanim and liable to get heated up.

One of the attendees at the class questioned the idea of kohanim having tempers. He was the only kohein there. He raised an interesting point, the mishnah in Avot says to be like the students of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace.

A discussion opened up (I’m pleased that I said it was a good question and that I didn’t have an immediate answer as it allowed people to feel comfortable to help out by speaking up). Someone pointed out that Moshe was up for being a kohein too but they split titles and roles. Moshe had the tougher personality, which fits with being a kohein - Aharon was more the anomaly. Someone else said that we only know Aharon's professional disposition. I pointed out how careful we have to be with how we speak about the holiest people who ever lived (and yet we also need to be careful to learn from them by learning about them).

(I just noticed that it says to be like the students of Aharon, I wonder what might be inferred from that phrasing as opposed to it simply saying to be like Aharon.)

We went through the examples of the theme of replacement in Parshat Pinchas. I zeroed in and closed with Yehoshua replacing Moshe. Moshe got what he asked for, as Rashi points out. Moshe asked for someone who would connect with every individual's personal spirit. And Hashem tell him that Yehoshua has that quality. Clearly this is a key quality for a leader and for any human being to have.


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