PINCHAS (Numbers, 25:10-30:1) — “Mosquito Repellant”

“You’re kidding with me, right?”

“No, Dad, I mean it.”  You really can’t hear it?”

“Not a thing.  You really hear something?”

“It’s loud and annoying to hear!  You really don’t hear it?”

My son and I were sitting at my computer, listening (or TRYING to listen) to a sound he had just downloaded.  “Mosquito Tone” is a high pitched sound,  audible to those under forty, that was designed to keep teen-agers away from inappropriate places.  Teen-agers fought back by turning it into a ringtone that can be heard by students in the classrooms, but not their forty-plus-year-old teachers.

And it works!

My son’s 17-year-old ears heard it perfectly.  Yet, try as I might, I couldn’t get my almost-half-century-old ears to pick up anything at all.  I guess I’m getting old!  After my son left my office, a 34-year old co-worker walked in.  “Do you hear this,” I asked.

“Ouch!” he cried.  What IS that?!”  A 60-year old walked in.  Nothing.

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What is plain and obvious to some of us goes totally ignored and unnoticed by others.

The people of Israel sinned gravely.  Idolatry and immorality were rampant in the Camp of Israel. As a result, G-d’s wrath was kindled against His People and He sent a plague into the camp.  People were dying by the thousands.  No one could figure out what to do.

No one but Pinchas.  He double-checked with his teacher Moses, to make sure he remembered the law correctly.  Then he picked up a spear and killed two of the sinners.

Was he right?  Was it the correct thing to do, to carry out a death sentence against two people who were apparently not deserving of the death penalty?

Apparently, Pinchas did the right thing.  How do I know?  It’s obvious.  G-d immediately ended the plague as soon as Pinchas killed those two people.

Instant cause and effect.  You hit a light switch and a light goes on.  You hit it again and the light goes off.  Israel sins and G-d sends a plague.  Pinchas kills the sinners and the plague ends.  He did the right thing.  It’s obvious.

Pinchas was a hero.  He saved his nation.  G-d proved that with a miracle.  Yet, in spite of the clear Divine endorsement of his actions, Pinchas was reviled by many.  It took an additional announcement by G-d to confirm what should have been obvious to all:

G-d spoke to Moses, saying, “Pinchas … turned away my wrath from the Children of Israel when he zealously avenged My vengeance among them, so that I didn’t destroy the Israelites in My vengeance.”  (Numbers, 25:10-11)

It should have been clear for all to see.  Yet, it wasn’t until G-d clarified the facts that people understood.

(For more details on Pinchas’ actions, see “Righteous Indignation vs. Abortion Clinics”.)

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Yes, what is plain and obvious to some of us goes totally ignored and unnoticed by others.

That’s why many in our government are prepared to confer “rights” upon terrorists, frustrating our ability to defend ourselves from them.  That’s why “respected” newspapers feel justified in releasing national security secrets, further endangering our troops and citizens.

That’s why an Israeli government ignored the obvious folly of kicking thousands of their own citizens out of their homes, giving them as a gift to our enemies as a new base for terror operations.

That’s why you can have nations of the world who react in horror when Israel tells her enemies that you can’t kidnap our soldiers and bomb our cities with impunity.

And that’s why, after two millennia of living in the Diaspora, we can still fool ourselves into thinking that our survival is anything less than miraculous.

We are, once again, in that 3-week period of mourning leading up to Tisha B’Av, the anniversary of the destruction of both Temples.  We are still under siege from our enemies all around us who seek to destroy us.

A little over a month from now we will begin our daily blowing of the Shofar to remind us that Rosh Hashanah is around the corner.  The sound of the Shofar is there to remind us to prepare for the Day of Judgment and to ask G-d to watch over us.  Will we listen to the “ringtone” of the Shofar, or will we turn a deaf ear?

What is plain and obvious to anyone who is paying attention is that we must pray with all our hearts to our Father in Heaven.  We must pray for the safety of our brethren in Israel and throughout the world.  We must rededicate ourselves to G-d’s Torah, and hope that He will choose to listen to our prayers.

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After everyone left my office, I closed the door.  I turned the volume up all the way, put my ear up to the speakers and sat very quietly.  I clicked the “Play” button and listened very closely to see if I could hear the Mosquito Tone.  Outside my office, someone yelled, “CUT IT OUT!”

Then I heard it!  Very faintly at first, but if I listened carefully I was able to just make out a high pitched tone.  How do you like that!  These old ears still work after all!

You’re never too old to hear G-d’s call.  Are you listening?  Are you REALLY listening?

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

To leave a comment about this article, or to read other readers’ comments on this article, scroll down past the archive links.

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From the Archives 

“G-d’s Apology” (2011)

…This is a very troubling passage.  It seems to imply that G-d made a mistake.  In His efforts to rectify His error, He becomes more and more entangled in His mistake.  In the end, in His frustration, He throws up His hands and says, “I give up!  I tried to make you happy, but I couldn’t satisfy you. Forgive me… for I have sinned.”

IS THAT WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?!  Are we, G-d forbid, to understand that our Creator “blew it?”  Did the Master of the World fall asleep at the wheel?  What does this mean? …

Read more.

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“A Covenant of Pieces” (2010)

… This grandson of Aaron, the man of peace, picked up a spear and carried out an act of war.

What was Pinchas’ reward for his “act of war”?

“Therefore, tell him that I have given him My Covenant of Peace.”

Covenant of Peace?  He picks up a spear, creates a human shish kabob, and ends up with a Nobel Peace Prize?!!…

Read more.

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“Why Don’t You Just…um, uh… Speak Nicely?” (2007)

The Torah records, by tribe, the names of the major family groups… the Torah lists the families based upon the sons of the heads of the tribes…

There are a few exceptions in this method of listing.  One of those exceptions is the Tribe of Asher.  The list starts off typically, mentioning Asher’s sons and their families.  Then we see some grandsons. (Still typical.)  Suddenly, the Torah throws in a “token” daughter:

The name of Asher’s daughter was Serach.

That’s it.  A brief mention of Serach, and no mention of her descendents.  Who was she and what is she doing in this list?!…

Serach was an old lady.  A very old lady.  … How did Serach manage to get so old?  How much older did she get?  How old was she when she finally succumbed? …

What did Serach do to deserve this special treatment?…

Read more.

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“Mosquito Repellant” (2006)

“You’re kidding with me, right?”

“No, Dad, I mean it.”  You really can’t hear it?”

“Not a thing.  You really hear something?”

“It’s loud and annoying to hear!  You really don’t hear it?”…

…My son’s 17-year-old ears heard it perfectly.  Yet, try as I might, I couldn’t get my almost-half-century-old ears to pick up anything at all.  I guess I’m getting old!  After my son left my office, a 34-year old co-worker walked in.  “Do you hear this,” I asked.

“Ouch!” he cried.  What IS that?!”  A 60-year old walked in.  Nothing…

What is plain and obvious to some of us goes totally ignored and unnoticed by others…

Read more.

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“Righteous Indignation vs. Abortion Clinics” (2005)

… What could possibly lead a supposedly religious person with Bible-inspired reverence for human life to perform such dastardly deeds?  How could a person opposed to the murder of pre-born humans justify the murder of already-born humans????

Some would try to justify his actions based upon last week’s and this week’s Torah  Readings…

Read more.

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“The REST of the Story” (2003)

… G-d put us in control of His world for six days per week.  We, the “movers and shakers” of Creation, are given an opportunity to stop moving and shaking for a while.  We can take some time to reflect on what life is REALLY all about.  Family.  Spirituality.  Family.  Study.  Family.  Synagogue.  (Did I mention family?)

Isn’t it sad that people look at the Sabbath from the outside and see nothing but a day of restrictions?  “Why can’t I drive?”  “Why can’t I use the telephone?  You call THAT rest?!” …

Read more.

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“King?…President?…or LEADER!” (2001)

… It was time to pass the mantle of leadership on to a successor.  Moses wanted to make sure that the Israelites had proper leadership.  He wanted to make sure that the next leader would be one who could meet their needs…

That event took place over 3,000 years ago.  Despite persecutions and tribulations that would have led a lesser nation to extinction, we have, somehow, managed to survive.  How have we done it?  We have done it through the merits of our leaders.  … These great leaders have given us the encouragement and guidance we have needed in order to endure.

Who were these leaders?  Were they Herzl and Ben Gurian?  Were they Weizman and Rabin?  Not quite …

Read more.

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This is the weekly message at www.torahtalk.org.   Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (www.Brisrabbi.com) and chaplain inMonsey,New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on July 13, 2006 at 12:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

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