Monday, July 10, 2006

A Radical Dvar Torah

We read at the end of this past week's parasha, the shocking story of Pinchas -- the grandson of Aharon the Cohen Gadol, the high priest. The Jews in the desert were tempted to prostitution and idolatry by the daughters of Moav, and then -- one of the leaders of the tribes, Zimri, and Cuzbi a Moabite princess started "going at it" for all to see.

Moshe, Aharon, the Elders were all horrified into shell shock. Not able to stand the offense, Pinchas grabbed a spear, and stabbed Zimri and Cuzbi -- impaling them both. Only then did G-d's wrath subside...and in return, Pinchas is granted by G-d, a covenant of peace for him and his future generations.

In Israel, there's a common expression - "Oh Tzalash, Oh Tarash" -- which means, either a medal of honor...or the bottom of the barrel. You break the rules and face the consequences; either receive a medal and the mantle of leadership...or you are relegated to the garbage pail of history.

One example that comes to mind is Ariel Sharon. He disobeyed direct orders in the Yom Kippur war, yet managed to lead the IDF to victory. Had he failed, he would have been demoted and I doubt we would have heard from him again.

Dr. Baruch Goldstein is another example -- many claim that he was trying to save the Jewish people in Hevron when he opened fire on a room full of praying Moslems in the Machpelah Cave. Had a videotape shown that the Arabs were planning an attack on the Jewish community, and this was their final prayer before going out to massacre the Jews...and a cache of 30 automatic weapons had been found under their prayer rugs...then Dr. Goldstein would have been viewed by all as a hero. Instead, he is currently destined to the trash basket of history by the majority of Jews, as the settler doctor who killed 2 dozen Moslem worshippers.

Perhaps the real explanation of the Israeli expression is, "The ends justify the means."

And surprisingly, this would appear to perhaps be the same lesson from Pinchas. All the rabbinic literature claims that being a kanna'i, a radical, is a bad thing -- since they operate outside the fold of normative rules. If everyone ignored the rules, there would be chaos...which is obviously unacceptable.

However, the ends apparently do justify the means -- and Pinchas the radical, is so overwhelmed by this blatant desecration of G-d's name...that he acts and kills these 2 people with no tribunal, no warning, and no chance to defend their actions.

And yet, the proof that the ends could justify the means, would be that in the end...G-d rewards Pinchas with a covenant of peace.


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