motzei Shabbos: parasha Pinchas 5782
“Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned My wrath away from the children of Israel, in that he was very jealous for My sake among them, so that I consumed not the children of Israel in My jealousy.” – Numbers 25:11, JPS 1917 Tanach
“In the case of Abraham Scripture says, (Genesis 24:40) ‘[G-d] before whom I walked’; Noah needed G-d’s support to uphold him in righteousness, Abraham drew his moral strength from himself and walked in his righteousness by his own effort (Genesis Rabbah 30:10).” – Rashi, commentary on Genesis 6:9, sefaria.org
There are particular moments in life, that stand out in relief against the ordinary. Sometimes, we may think of these moments as opportunities to experience life, to a greater degree, than our previous collection of unique times. Yet, there are moments that are not about passive experience, rather, that demand a response, to meet the requirement of some challenged presented to us in a manner that we had not previously expected.
When B’nei Yisral (the Children of Israel) were weeping in front of the Mishkan after realizing the gravity of their aveiros (sins), an Israelite Prince brazenly took a Midianite Princess into his tent, in front of Moses, Aaron, and the people. This was the same type of effrontery that the people were grieved over; yet, no one responded except for Pinchas. Because of the zealousness of Pinchas, the plague was stopped, and he was rewarded an eternal covenant of peace.
Pinchas leapt into action, even without a nod of the head from either Moses and Aaron; he acted out of zealousness, on the spur of the moment. Yet, the people, as brought out in Nesivos Shalom, were indifferent to what they witnessed, despite their immersion in teshuvah (repentance) at that moment. An adage, attributed to Simon Wiesenthal would be of benefit for us to drawn an example from what occurred: “For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing.”
Thus, sometimes life may demand a response from the individual person, whose conscience compels him or her to stand up for what is right. How do we define what is morally right or wrong? Although we would like to believe that our conscience will automatically inform us, it is our conscience in turn that is informed by the higher values imbued from parents, society, and any ethical system that that one attempts to uphold. Yet, the standard received on Sinai is G-d’s commandments, meant to inform our conscience, so that we may be guided by G-d’s words.
On the one hand, we are not to stand by while evil is influencing the lives of others; on the other hand, we are not called to be activists, especially not within the framework of the pseudo-morality of the current social justice paradigm. So, even when something appears to be good, or just, we must evaluate that something by the standard of Torah. If evil appears in a form that attempts to conceal its true nature, by claiming to be fair, then it must be exposed for what it really is.
Currently, we are at a juncture – a crucial moment in time – that demands a response from each and every individual, in regard to his or her own conscience. Do not be interested in “standing on the right side of history.” Rather, know that you should stand on the side of your conscience, ideally as influenced by G-d’s Word, and guided by His Voice. Let us make His Voice our own, so that we can navigate the challenges ahead.