Parashas Pinchas 5780 – The True Leader !

The Parasha recounts the act of bravery demonstrated by Pinchas, risking his life for the sake of Kiddush Hashem. When Rabbi Akiva was about to be killed by the roman YM”S, he said – “All the days of my life I was pained over the fact that I did not have the opportunity to risk my life Al Kiddush Hashem, and now I have the opportunity. The Shlah Hakadosh explains that the Mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem is not like most other Mitzvos, where one is supposed to seek to do the Mitzvah. Rather the Mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem is only when the opportunity comes, but one should not run after it. It is for this reason that the Torah does not speak about the Mesiras Nefesh of Avraham Avinu, rather it is only alluded to. Avraham broke the Avodah Zarah of his father Teirach, and he was thrown into the furnace as he would not accept any other God besides Hashem. However, had he not broken the Avodah Zarah he never would have been put in that position. While it was proper for Avraham Avinu to do what he did, for at that point he needed to make it known that Hashem runs the world, the Torah did not report it explicitly for us not to learn to break Avodah Zarah which may cause us life threating situations. Then, why Pinchas did what he did? He put himself in grave danger and could have been killed. While it is nice to be Moser Nefesh, one is prohibited to put oneself in a life-threatening situation. To that the Torah says, “Klal Yisrael was in grave danger, for the wrath of Hashem was upon them. Klal Yisrael were in great peril and could have been abolished. Therefore, Pinchas had no choice; he could not stand by idly and watch. Pinchas’s action was not popular but showed the character of a great leader who puts forth the interest of the Bnei Yisrael before his. He was a perfect fit for what the Verse describes: “Who will go forth before them and come before them, who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of Hashem will not be like sheep without a shepherd” (Numbers 27:17) Rashi defines the traits of a Leader, “Who will go forth before them” – Not in the way of the kings of other nations who sit in their palaces and send out their soldiers to war, but like me [Moshe] who personally fought with Sichon and Og, as stated, “Do not fear them” (Numbers 21:34), and as Yehoshua also did, as stated, “And Yehoshua went to him and said to him, are you for us”? Regarding King David too it says, “All Israel and Judah loved David, for he marched at their head” (Shmuel 1 18:16). Rashi explains, when going to war King David marching at the head and entered the battle first. “He led them” – with his merits, “And he brought them back” – with his merits. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh offers a different approach to the words of the Verse; “He marched before them”, the definition of a true leader is when the nation shows the will to emulate his actions as he inspires them. Only Hashem can determine the proper leader, the one person who will care with every individual. Therefore, Moshe Rabbeinu became the leader as he demonstrated his genuine love for every person. He led them in every venture and without him they would have been like herd without a shepherd. Even when Hashem informed him that the time of his passing had arrived, he refused to die and leave the Bnei Yisrael without a leader. Only after Hashem announced that Yehoshua will succeed him that he felt at ease. These are the traits of a true leader! The true leader marches before the nation, he does not hide behind them. He inspires the people to rise to his level, he does not feel threatened by it, in contrary this is his deep aspiration. He is confident in the purity of his motives and therefore marches before them without having to turn back to check if he is followed. People feel he sacrificed his life for the general good, and therefore naturally drawn to him. However, a leader who follows the congregation is pulled in after them to their low level. Rabbi Yisrael Salanter sheds light to the Talmud [Sotah 49b] teachings; “At the time of Mashiach, the face of the generation will resemble the face of a dog” – what is the meaning and the purpose of this parable. Rabbi Yisrael Salanter explains the nature of a dog is to go ahead of his master but constantly looks back to check if his master check direction. Whilst the dog marches ahead he does not lead, the master does from behind. In the times of Mashiach “the face of the generation” – namely the leaders of the generation will resemble that dog. Despite marching before the nation, they do not inspire as people feel their lack of integrity and truth. Hence people will not fall in line behind them. So, they will lead with their head turned back just like the dog, as their direction is influenced by the community’s opinion or mood. Moshe asked Hashem to choose a leader for Bnei Yisrael who will bring them back from war without losing anyone in war like the war of the Midyan where it says, “No one was missing”. The Zohar explains only the Erev Rav died. Hashem informed Moshe that Pinchas acts of selflessness make him a perfect leader, which will inspire people through his actions not his politics! The following story illustrates this beautifully: As a devout chassid, Rabbi Shmelke stood out in Mikulov (Nikolsburg), the center of Moravian Jewry, many of whom had yet to be exposed to the Chassidic movement. Hence, despite serving as the head Rabbi of the city, the congregations felt his customs were strange. This bothered the Nikolsburg council. Convening for a short meeting, they determined it was time to fire Rabbi Shmelke. The beadle was called in, he was informed of the decision, and ordered to deliver it to Rabbi Shmelke. Though simple, the beadle was also honest. He raised an eyebrow and asked; “But what has he done?” His question immediately prompted a ripple of exasperated looks from the council members. “This has nothing to do with you. Just do what you’re told.” Undaunted, the beadle politely pressed them for an answer. “It’s the way he acts,” someone explained, “He is not fit to lead Nikolsburg if his customs are so peculiar.” “I disagree,” said the beadle. “In fact, I happen to know that he is a righteous man.” This was a remark that would have been overlooked, but the beadle, never having spoken an untruth, had piqued the interest of the Nikolsburg council. There was a silent pause as they all regarded the simple beadle. “But how would you know?” The beadle smiled. “At the hint of dawn, as you probably know, I always go around knocking on doors to rouse people for the morning prayers. Whenever I passed by Rabbi Shmelke’s house, despite the hour, the window to his study was lit up, and he would be inside, swaying over an open book. Another man, whom I did not recognize, sat opposite him, learning with him. “‘Who is this man studying with you?’ I asked Rabbi Shmelke once my curiosity no longer allowed me to hold my tongue. He replied with a name I never expected, “Eliyahu the Prophet.” “One time, I was slightly behind schedule, and got to the Rabbi’s house a little later than usual. I saw then the Rabbi outside holding a pair of candles as he escorted out two men: one was the individual who studied with him nightly, Eliyahu the Prophet, and the other wore a golden crown. They bid Rabbi Shmelke farewell and soon disappeared. “I immediately asked, ‘Who is the man with the crown?’ “‘That is Menashe ben Chizkyiah,’ answered Rabbi Shmelke, referring to the evil king who caused the people of Israel to serve idols. “My eyes must have widened to the size of saucers. ‘But what business does he have with you? I asked’ “‘Well, he wanted to settle a question that involved him,’ explained Rabbi Shmelke, furrowing his brow. ‘You see, his question came to me due to a recent incident that occurred in a small town. Some man there walked into a church and proceeded to wreck the entire place, with no justification. He was imprisoned and swiftly sentenced for hanging. “‘Usually, when a man suddenly died, the townspeople would put together funds for his wife and children. However, in this case, even though the man’s widow came begging, they turned her away. Self-endangerment, they claimed, was not covered, and her husband’s reckless actions were nothing short of that. “‘This heated dispute was sent right to the town’s rabbi, who, in turn, referred it to me. It was, indeed, an interesting case. I deliberated for a while yet could not issue a verdict-each side had a reasonable claim. So, Menashe appeared in my dream and revealed that his soul was reincarnated in that man’s body. This man’s unusual actions and death were needed for the ultimate cleansing of his soul. The widow deserved the money.’” Upon hearing the beadle’s story, the council members conceded that their rabbi was a pious and holy man, whom they would continue to engage with honor. Rabbi Bunim of Pshischa, who retold this story, would end off by commenting on the righteousness of the beadle. “This simple beadle merited to see Elijah the Prophet every single night-never once did he boast about his own experiences. Instead, he lauded Rabbi Shmelke’s worthiness.” A true leader leads through honorable actions, not with a survival kit!
-yes By Rabbi Shimon Friedman – Din Torah Of NMB, FL 305.399.0393 / rabbifridmann@badatzmiami.com990 NE 171 Street  |  North Miami Beach, Florida 33162  |  (305) 918-1502  |  www.badatzmiami.com 

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