THOUGHT FOR PARSHAT PINCHAS 5779
BY RABBI CHAIM FACHLER
The story goes that Napoleon once walked past a Shul and heard adults and children chanting Eycha, Lamentations, on Tisha Ba’Av. Many of them were plainly weeping. He asked them what was wrong. They replied that their Holy Temple was destroyed. When did this happen? he asked them. They told him. To which he responded, “A People that can feel so strongly about something that happened 2,000 years ago, will outlive and outlast all of us.”
This Shabbat, we start the period leading up to Tisha Ba’Av referred to as The Three Weeks. Next Shabbat, we will pray for the month of Av and the start of the Nine Days. This timeline is designed to remind us of the calamities that befell our people throughout our troubled history.
Theoretically, those of us who are fortunate to live today in Israel should feel more when thinking about the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. But do we? It’s doubtful. We all go about our daily routine. We don’t feel enough “ownership” on tragedies, when we are not directly and personally affected.
Naturally, each and every individual reacts differently to the loss of a loved one. Be it a parent, a sibling, a child, a friend. The closer you are to the person, the more you feel the pain. And yet my late father-in-law Rabbi Benzion Lapian would openly cry when he heard that an Israeli soldier was killed in action. He had never met the soldier. But he felt the loss like it was his own.
On the face of it, Aharon’s grandson Pinchas was not personally affected by the brazen and very public and provocatively sinful act of Zimri with the Midianite Princess Kozbi. Oh no? Of course he was! This was an affront to every Kohen. To every member of the loyal Tribe of Levy. To every single member of the Jewish Nation as they journeyed towards the Promised and Holy Land.
Pinchas took it personally. So personally, that he took very drastic action. And as a result of claiming ownership over a potentially devastatingly destructive situation, Pinchas was rewarded by HaShem with “Brit Kehunat Olam” – the covenant of eternal priesthood.
By doing this, HaShem was showing us that we need to feel more. We need to care more. We need to mourn, not just for immediate losses, but for Israel’s losses. By being personally affected by the destruction of the Temple, we are surely taking a small step to its future restoration and proving Napoleon right.