The Right Thing
By Rabbi Label Lam
Therefore say, “Behold I am giving to him My covenant of peace!
On the surface there’s room for confusion. Pinchus kills a couple of
violators and he’s given the “peace prize”. Moshe hits a rock instead of
talking to it and he’s denied entry to the Holy Land. Avraham almost
sacrifices his own son and he’s the recipient of promises galore. Yaakov
deceives his father and walks away with the family blessings. The spies
speak ill of the Land of Israel and a whole generation is doomed to die in
the dessert. It’s too hard to figure what the standard is.
It all seems so uneven and unpredictable which deeds big and small earn
which degrees of punishing results light and heavy. Yet the Torah tells us
and we live confidently with the notion, “The rock, His doings are perfect
that all of his ways are just, He is a reliable G-d and He makes no
mistakes, a Tzadik and He is straight.” (Devarim 32:4) We must ask
ourselves, “What are we missing?”
Years and years ago I made my first public appearance at a family wedding
with a Yarmulka planted atop my head and Tzitzis peaking out from beneath
my jacket. I tried to socialize and mix but for some mystical reason the
reaction I was receiving was one of disgust and repulsion. I sensed that
people were looking at me like I had some communicable disease. My Aunt
Fanny motioned that she wanted to talk to me. I approached her and leaned
over to hear what she had to say. She was one of my grandfather’s nine
siblings and from the crop that had lived in Europe. I was bent over low
to catch her soft voice and I believe I remember her pulling my beard to
get even closer. She told me, “Darling, I want to tell you something.
Everybody thinks you’re crazy!” I thought to myself, “This conversation is
really going someplace!” Then she said, “I want to tell you something
else!” With this, her voice jumped up to volume ten. “You’re doing the
right thing!!!!!” She shouted, as if to say, “Who’s going to give names
for the ones gone lost and who is going to carry on into the future?! I’ll
be grateful forever for her zetz of encouragement.
Avraham had only done what HASHEM had asked him to do. Yaakov was
following a direct commandment from his mother Rivka. Moshe failed to
speak to the rock as he was told to do. Even a slight deviation is not
tolerated. The spies too violated the spirit of their mission and more.
Although what Pinchus did was amazingly difficult and perhaps grossly
unpopular at the time, ultimately he did what Hallacha- Jewish Law
required and for the right reason. Why then did Pinchus get, of all
things, the ‘Peace Prize”? When putting our heads on the pillow at night
what allows us to sleep peacefully is the knowledge that we have done the
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.