Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1 )
GOOD MORNING! People often ask the question, "How do I know there is a God?" There are intellectual answers and evidence -- if you are curious, you would enjoy Permission to Believe by Lawrence Kelemen. There are intuitive appreciations that there is a God -- you see a newborn baby, watch the sun set over the ocean or look out over the majesty of a mountain range. And then there are experiential confirmations when you see the "hand" of God in your life. My friend, Rabbi David Olesker, shared with me the following story:
Rabbi Olesker gave a seminar in Boston. During a break, one of his students, a Jewish man in his early fifties, asked to speak with him about a very important matter. They agreed to meet for dinner. And where do two Jews go when they want to have dinner? They went to a Chinese restaurant.
About halfway through dinner the man began to broach the issue. He and his wife got married relatively late in life and thank God, were blessed with children. However, now the children were about to enter school. "Rabbi, I want my children to identify strongly as Jews and to marry Jews. I know the tremendous risk of assimilation by putting my children into a public school -- in addition to the problems of the drugs and violence. However, how can I send them to a yeshiva or a Jewish Day School, and have them come home to a non-religious home? Should my wife and I become religious for the sake of our children?"
Rabbi Olesker laughed and the man asked him, "Why are you laughing at my question?" Rabbi Olesker responded, "Because you already know the answer to the question. You are uneasy with the answer; you want me to tell you what you already know. Then you'll disagree with me and feel justified in not following what you know is the right answer." "How can you possibly know that?" asked the man. "Simple," responded Rabbi Olesker, "Why else would you ask this question to an Orthodox rabbi?"
The man laughed and said, "Maybe you're right, but I would still like to hear your thoughts."
"OK," replied Rabbi Olesker, "a parent only owes his child three things -- example, example and example. If having your children being part of the Jewish future is important to you, then there is no better way than to send them to a Day School and to have a consistently religious home."
The man responded, "But it is so hard. I could never change." Rabbi Olesker, who came from a non-observant home, responded, "Look, no one has made more changes than me. If I can do it, you can do it, too!"
The man retorted, "It's easy for you. You are a very adaptable person, but I am too old to change." The conversation continued for a couple of minutes to no avail and then the topic changed for the duration of the meal.
After dessert, the waiter brought two fortune cookies. Rabbi Olesker opened his and began to laugh. "Why are you laughing?" asked his companion. "Look what my fortune cookie says," and handed it to the man to read -- 'You are a very adaptable person." The man joined in the laughter and then queried, "I wonder what my fortune is," as he opened his own cookie. When he read the fortune, he immediately turned white and began to tremble.
"What's wrong?" asked Rabbi Olesker. "It's the fortune from the cookie." Rabbi Olesker took the slip of paper and read -- "You are never too old to change."
Today the man attends synagogue regularly, and he and his family are growing in their observance of the mitzvot. And his children are attending Jewish schools.
The Almighty speaks to every person each and every day. We have to pay attention to get the message and then to understand the lesson in a manner that helps us grow, improve our character traits and observance of Torah and come close to the Almighty. Not always is the answer as direct or as clear as the message this man received. Not always can we understand the whole message. However, if one is searching for buried treasure and only finds one diamond, he is still richer in life. All the more so with our efforts on a spiritual level!
Pinchas, Numbers 25:10 - 30:1
In last week's Torah portion, Pinchas acted to stop a public display of immorality. He thus stemmed the plague of retribution which was killing the multitudes. He is rewarded by being made a Cohen -- by Divine decree.
The Almighty commands Moshe to attack the Midianites in retribution for the licentious plot the Midianites perpetrated upon the Israelites. A new census is taken of the Jewish people revealing that there are 601,730 men available for army duty. God directs the division of the Land of Israel amongst the tribes. The Levites are tallied. The daughters of Tzelafchad come forward to petition Moshe regarding their right of inheritance. Moshe inquires of the Almighty Who answers in their favor.
Moshe asks the Almighty to appoint a successor and the Almighty directs Moshe to designate Yehoshua (Joshua). The Torah portion concludes with the various offerings -- daily, Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh and holidays.
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based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"These are the children of Dan according to their families ... sixty-four thousand and four hundred (Numbers 26:42-43).
The Torah also states that:
"These are the sons of Benjamin ... forty-five thousand, four hundred" (Numbers 26:41).
What lesson for life can we learn by comparing these numbers?
The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, the greatest rabbi of his generation, points out something very interesting: Benjamin had ten sons; Dan had only one son, Chushim. Yet, Dan had more descendants that Benjamin!
From here we can learn, said the Chofetz Chaim, that if the Almighty wants a person to be successful, he will succeed even if it appears at first that he has less of a possibility than someone else. We must put forth our every effort, but realize that in the end success is out of our hands -- it ultimately depends on the Almighty ("man proposes, God disposes").
A corollary -- we should at least appreciate what we have. After all, it too is a gift from the Almighty. A wise man once asked, "If you don't appreciate what you have, how will you appreciate anything else that you will receive?"
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