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Friday, July 18

The Weekly Shtikle - Pinechas

As we approach Shiv'ah Asar B'Tammuz, we commemorate the yahrtzeits of two of the Roshei HaYeshivah of Ner Yisroel - R' Yaakov Yitzchak (ben Yehudah Leib) Ruderman whose yahrtzeit was yesterday and R' Shmuel Yaakov (ben Yitzchok Mattisyahu) Weinberg whose yahrtzeit is this Sunday.
As well, today is the Yahrtzeit of my wife's grandmother, Chaya Shaindel bas Alexander, after whom our daughter, now one year old, is named. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas all of the above.
    We began sefer Bamidbar pointing out the recurring theme of leadership found throughout the sefer. Parshas Pinechas offers a number of insights into this theme. Moshe Rabbeinu's request for a successor touches on the need for appointed leadership. But in the beginning of the parsha, HaShem gives His stamp of approval to Pinechas' heroic act in putting an abrupt end to the plague that was devastating B'nei Yisroel. Here we find the importance of "civilian" leadership, a regular member of the community who stands up and stands out from the crowd - to "be a man where there are no men" - and become a hero.
    But while positive leadership plays a big role in the parsha, there is a fair share of negative leadership as well. First, the war against Midyan involved the specific targeting and elimination of Bil'am. Although his involvement with the Midyanites might not have been very obvious. But he was clearly identified as the man behind the evil plan and was thus singled out for "removal."
    There is yet another less obvious portion relating to negative leadership. As part of the census, when discussing the sons of Eliav (26:9), the Torah recounts the fate of Dasan and Aviram who rose up against Moshe and Aharon as part of Korach's campaign and were subsequently swallowed up by the earth while the sons of Korach did not perish. The Ohr HaChayim HaKadosh, whose yahrtzeit, ironically, is today as well, is bothered by this passage. It does not seem to belong at all in a discussion involving the census, much less in the portion discussing the tribe of Reuvein. He suggests that this recounting of the Korach episode is meant to reveal the true masterminds behind the scheme as Dasan and Aviram, not Korach. Korach was a political pawn, a front man for Dasan and Aviram. Indeed, we find that when Moshe Rabbeinu attempts to make piece with the group, he sends messengers specifically to Dasan and Aviram, no Korach. He even goes so far as to suggest that the statement about Korach's children surviving is meant as a statement of Korach's merit.
    It is certainly of utmost importance to always have leaders whom we respect and revere. At the same time, however, it is often important to be able to identify the true sources of evil, the leaders and masterminds who lie at the root of the problems we face as a nation.
Have a good Shabbos.
Eliezer Bulka


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