(Torah Portion Pinchos) Individual Power!
A terrible plague ran rampant through the Jewish encampment in the desert claiming the lives of 24,000 men. One individual, singlehandedly identified the source of the plague and heroically eliminated it, causing the plague to come to an immediate halt.
The person who acted bravely and daringly was Pinchos. The person whose immoral act brought the awful plague was Zimri, the prince of the tribe of Shimon.
Thus we have two individuals; one who caused such destruction and death and the other whose righteous action bore such benefit, relief and blessing.
One would think that since Pinchos halted the plague the public’s opinion of him would have been high and most appreciated. However, our sages tell us the contrary. Many had a hard time accepting that Pinchos acted altruistically when eliminating Zimri, and they began humiliating Pinchos by pointing out that his mother’s ancestors worshipped idols.
This lack of confidence did not deter, embitter or anger Pinchos, whose special qualities were that he was calm, humble, and well thought out and he did not become irate when dealt with adversity.
The Torah relates that G-d Himself attested that Pinchos was indeed righteous and his intentions completely noble. As a result he was rewarded by being inducted into the Priesthood, and G-d associated his name with a covenant of peace.
When the Jews were about to enter the land of Israel, Joshua, their leader at that time, sent two spies. One of the spies was Pinchos. Despite the fact that 40 years earlier 12 spies were sent on a mission which failed, the mission that Pinchos was involved in was successful. The Book of Joshua relates that this was because it was Cheresh – it was a secret assignment, and not subject to public scrutiny.
Pinchos was successful in all that he did because he had the ability to focus on what was correct and appropriate for that particular instance and set of circumstances, even when it went against his basic peaceful nature.
Another example of the power of the individual: The Torah relates that the Moavites and Midyanites desperately tried to make the Jews unworthy of G-d’s affection and protection by entreating them to sin.
The King of Midyan in his extreme desperation to cause the Jews to sin encouraged his own daughter Cuzbi, to entice the Jews to sin. In fact, Zimri, the prince of the Tribe of Shimon was brazenly intimate with princess Cuzbi and this union triggered the plague against the Jews.
After the plague ended, G-d instructed Moshe to wage war on the Midyanites to retaliate for their women bringing the Jews to sin.
G-d however did not instruct Moshe to attack the Moavites who were just as guilty as the Midyanites. Why were the Moavites spared?
Our Sages teach us that it was because G-d foresaw that Ruth, a descendant of Moav, would become a righteous convert to Judaism. Thus G-d spared an entire nation because many generations later, one righteous individual would emerge!
Rabbi Ahron Shteinman asks, why didn’t G-d instruct Moshe to wage war on Maov and to spare the Moavite family from which Ruth would emerge, just as the Jews saved Rachav, the one righteous woman and her family, when they attacked the City of Jericho?
Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that Ruth was the daughter of the King of Moav. Since her ancestry stemmed from the monarchy itself, sparing the Moavite monarchy would have been tantamount to sparing the entire nation. Thus G-d allowed the entire nation to be spared just because of Ruth.
King David descended from Ruth, and over time, 300 High Priests descended from Pinchos!
We see the enormous influence of our individual deeds, actions, triumphs and accomplishments; their effects can be amazing and everlasting.
Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks