Rabbi Raymond Beyda
More than Meets the Eye
Before Bilaam, the wicked gentile prophet, left King Balak he gave him some
advice as to how to bring destruction upon the Jewish people. "It's true
your plan to have me curse them has failed," he said, "But I can tell you
how to beat them. The G-d of these people hates promiscuity-- and they love
the finer things of life. Set up a market on the outskirts of their camp
with older women selling fine linen, silks etc. When they start to get
involved in buying the merchandise, offer them the "better goods" inside
the tents. There you should station beautiful young Midianite girls to
seduce the Jews into serving your Idols. The wrath of G-d will be kindled
by their lewd behavior and you will be done with them forever."
The plan was set in motion and the anger of G-d was kindled. A plague
started to spread throughout the camp of the Children of Israel. To make
matters worse, the leader of the tribe of Shimon brought the beautiful
young princess of Midian into the camp and mocked Moshe before taking her
into his private quarters. Pinhas bravely and miraculously entered the camp
of the tribe of Shimon, killed the pair with a spear and carried them
around the camp as a display of the punishment due anyone who should
desecrate the name of G-d.
The great reward showered on Pinhas was G-d's covenant of peace--eternal
life. G-d exclaimed,"He has zealously avenged my vengeance!" Rashi
explains the magnitude of his deed --"He expressed the rage with which I
should have been enraged." Rabbi Moshe Feinstein Zt"l explains that the
great reward received by Pinhas was due him because he acted in a way That
G-d himself would have and should have acted under the circumstances. From
here Rabbi Feinstein Zt"l concludes we learn that other misvot where a
person acts "in place of Hashem" [so to speak] earn abundant reward.
The Talmud tells of the wicked Turnus Rufus who confronted Rabbi Akiva, "If
G-d loves the Jews why did he make poor ones?" Rabbi Akiva answered, "So
that we by helping them could earn a place in the world to come." In other
words, although G-d certainly can take care of everything and everyone on
his own, He graciously gives us opportunities to act on His behalf so that
we can earn eternal rewards. It is comparable to a mother and child walking
home from the store with packages. The child is eager to help mom who can
get along very with without the child's assistance. She gives the child
some small items to carry to give the little one the sense that she is
helping mommy and a big smile shines from the little one's proud face. The
child's insistence on helping demonstrates love for her mother--and that
gives great pleasure to mom. That is what we are doing when we do Misvot,
like charity, whereby we "help" G-d do his job of taking care of everyone.
The almighty is quite capable of doing everything by Himself. It is only
due to his great kindness that he allows us--the human being --the
opportunity to demonstrate our love for him by helping His needy ones.
TABLE TALK QUESTION FOR THE SHABBAT TABLE
"May Hashem, G-d of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the
assembly, who shall go out before them... [Bemidbar:27:16/7]
Why does the verse specify that the leader "shall go out before them"? What
quality did Moshe ask that his successor have and why?
The Talmud predicts that the generation of Mashiah will have a "face
similar to the face of a dog"[Sanhedrin 97a]. Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, zt'l,
explains that when a dog is walking with its master it runs up ahead of its
owner BUT constantly stops to look back for direction. Although the dog
appears to the casual observer to be leading the owner the dog is actually
following the master's wishes.
Our history is full of leaders who ruled and decided issues of public
concern based on the Torah not based on popularity. Our religious leaders
were not concerned with whether their decisions would be popular or whether
they would be accepted by the masses. They studied the Torah to find the
proper course and ruled accordingly. In the times preceding the coming of
Mashiah [speedily in our days] weak leaders will arise. Their decisions
will be subject to the will of the people. Their wisdom will be blinded by
a desire to be popular. They will in effect resemble the dog in that they
will appear to be leading but in fact will be following.
Moshe Rabenu realized the danger of such a society. He prayed to Hashem
that his successor will be one "who will out before them" - who will lead
by principle not by popular opinion polls. Yehoshua was truly the one who
fit the bill and so he was chosen to lead.
Text Copyright © 2003 Rabbi Raymond Beyda and Project Genesis, Inc.