Sunday, July 24, 2016

Delicacies from Yechezkel’s Shabbos Table: Parshas Pinchas and the Yichus of 17th of Tamuz


Every year, Parshas Pinchas falls out just before or just after the 17th of Tamuz. Here in Eretz Yisroel, this year was a direct hit. In Chutz L’Aretz, Parshas Pinchas won’t show up until next Shabbos, but regardless, these two occasions are always within a week. In a post that I wrote eight years ago, I emphasized the relationship between Parshas Pinchas and the 17th of Tamuz. I hope to discuss that post again at the end of this one. But for now, I want to point out another fascinating correlation. (Hat Tip - This vordt was inspired in part by remarks made by the Rebbe of Tolna, Shlita during his weekly parsha shiur last Thursday night. - YH).

The first Rashi in Parshas Pinchas is evidently bothered by why the pasuk needs to restate the lineage of Pinchas back to Aharon HaKohen. After all, didn’t the pasuk already do this a few pasukim earlier at the end of Parshas Balak?

I guess an easy answer may be that after a whole week passes by, we may forget the lineage from last week, so the Torah needs to remind us. Nevertheless, this is not the answer that Rashi gives. Rashi quotes an aggadeta in Sanhedrin (82b) that the tribes (i.e., the masses) were deriding Pinchas since on his mother’s side he was descended from the convert Yisro (Putiel). They said, “Have you seen this son of ‘Puti’ whose mother’s father would fatten calves for idol worship and he has the temerity to kill a tribal Prince in Israel?!” For this reason the pasuk comes and expressly affirms his lineage to Aharon HaKohen.

The question is obvious: Were the “tribes” not fully aware that on his other side he is descended from Aharon? If they still felt it was appropriate to deride him for the ignobility of his mother’s lineage, what is gained by the fact that the pasuk is telling us that he has noble ancestors on his father’s side? In what way does this remedy the defect?

Let’s look at a well-known anecdote from those ancient Jewish folklore books:

A couple approached the Rabbi to settle a dispute. The wife had just given birth to a baby boy and they could not agree on what name to give. The wife wanted to name the child after her late father and the husband wanted the child named after his late father.

The Rav asked the wife, “What was your father’s name?” “Nachum”, came the response. He then asked the same question to the husband. “Also, Nachum”, was the husband’s response.

“So, what are you arguing about?”, asked the Rav.

“Well, you see”, the wife began, “my father was a big Yarei Shamayim and Talmid Chacham but my husband’s father was a horse-thief. I do not want the baby to be named after his father, only after mine.”

The Rav thought for a minute and said, “We will have to leave this matter in the hands of the Ribbono Shel Olam. You must name the boy Nachum and wait and see. If he grows to be a Talmid Chacham you will know that he was named after the wife’s father. If he grows to be a horse-thief, we will know that he was named after the husband’s father.”

All students of genetics know that we get physical and personality traits from both of our parents and these traits are embedded “in our genes”. When the traits of two genes conflict, one is dominant and one is recessive. The dominant one overpowers the recessive one and takes control of the person’s character. We are always looking at people’s positive or negative traits and we say, “That humor and wittiness comes from his mother’s side.” Or “He is so stubborn and feisty, he is a true Galumphenstein”.

When the “tribes” saw the behavior of Pinchas they focused on what appeared to them to be an act of wildness and hefkeirus. An act of acting on a whim and losing control. To them it seemed that he took after his grandfather “Nachum the Horse-thief”. Thus they branded him as a descendent of Putiel (Yisro) who stuffed calves for idol worship. But HKBH was telling us otherwise. Pinchas hadn’t lost control. To the contrary, he was doing things that went against his own true nature for the betterment of the nation, just as his other grandfather, Aharon HaKohen had done during the turmoil of the Egel Hazahav. Thus, he was really taking after his grandfather, “Nachum the Tzaddik.”

We seem to have a similar problem of “Yichus” when it comes to the 17th of Tamuz. The 17th of Tamuz likewise has a conflicting dual “Yichus”. On the one hand it was originally a special day of simcha and celebration because it was the day that the first set of luchos were given to Moshe. And this is what it was meant to be for generations. But it also turned out to be the day that the luchos were broken. And for this we have been fasting and mourning for all those generations.

Perhaps we can say that the Torah is hinting at this conflict with the first pasuk of Parshas Pinchas. Since this parsha always falls out on the week of the 17th of Tamuz and, this year in Eretz Yisroel, sometimes on 17th of Tamuz proper, the Torah is telling us that this day, which is being called "Pinchas", has two lines of yichus. One goes to those who fattened calves for idol worship – to the sin of the Golden Calf. The other line goes to Aharon HaKohen, he who is designated to enter the Kodesh Hakadoshim every Yom Kippur and to sprinkle the blood One Above and Seven Below and to atone for our sins. (Note that Yom Kippur is the day that we received the second luchos, those that replaced the ones we were meant to receive on 17th of Tamuz!)

For all the past generations we, the “tribes”, have looked upon this day as the anniversary of the Egel Hazahav and have fasted for this calamity. We view the dominant yichus as that that goes to Putiel who stuffed calves for idol worship. But, hopefully, very soon the “Kasuv” is going to come and redefine the yichus of this day. The Kasuv will tell us that this day will go back to the “lineage” of Aharon HaKohen who will once again reinstate the Avodas HaKodesh in the Bais HaMikdash.

And the 17th of Tamuz will once again become a day of rejoicing.  

במהרה בימנו אמן!  

א-ל קנא בהתאפק במקניאיך דשנים רטובים. מחכים תקים עומדים לעולמים. כנטיעים מחטבים באהבים. האמת והשלום בצומות חטובים. נצח היותם לשמחה ולששון ולמועדים טובים:



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As long as I mentioned my previous post from way back in 2008, I want to add one point to it.

To refresh your memory, the question posed is:
Why are the elaborate details for all the Tamidim and Musafim written in Parshas Pinchas?  They were already briefly mentioned in Parshas Tetzaveh and Emor. It makes no sense that the exact details of these korbanos were only first given now after the Mishkan has been in service for almost 40 years!

Here is the answer that I presented then:


Perhaps, HKB"H "foresaw" our mesorah that we read the Torah on a fixed yearly cycle and there is a spiritual relevance between every Parsha and the time of year that it falls on. As such, Parshas Pinchas is always just before or after 17 of Tamuz and always ushers in the 3 weeks of mourning over the loss of the Bais HaMikdash and the korbanos. [Indeed, one of the reasons for the fast is that on this day the Korban Tamid was nullified!] It is a time of sadness and introspection over what we lost and brings the galus more to the forefront. As such, Hashem wanted especially in this time that we usher in the yemei hachurban [and mourn the loss of the korban Tamid] to remind us that the commandment of the TuM (Tamidim U’Musafim) is still in effect and that we are not to be meya'esh (despair) from them despite the fact that the 3 weeks are beginning "again".


To this I want to add that this can explain the odd term "Tishmiru" that is used in the opening line:

את קרבני לחמי לאשי תשמרו להקריב לי במועדו.


All through the Torah, the term Shemira is used to indicate avoiding transgressions on negative commandments, not the fulfillment of positive ones. Even the term את חג המצות תשמור   and ושמרתם את המצות can be understood as an admonition to avoid eating chametz or to guard the matzos from becoming chametz. The term for fulfilling positive mitzvos is Zechira. Why use the term Tishmiru?

In Parshas VaYeshev it says that the brothers were jealous of Yosef but Yaakov, his father, שמר את הדבר. Rashi says there that the term Shamar means he waited and anticipated for his dream to come to fruition. He was yearning for it to happen.

In line with this and what I wrote in 2008 that the reason that the Tu”M are restated in Pinchas is to tell us not to despair from their being returned to us, we can see the pasuk differently:

את קרבני לחמי לאשי : My “bread “ Korban  תשמרו : you must wait for and yearn for even through the long exile  להקריב לי במועדו : that you will once again bring to Me at the time that is called a “Moed” as is written in Megillas Eicha (1:15): קרא עלי מועד לשבור בחורי.


Maybe this Tamuz or this Av can be the
חדש אשר נהפך להם מיגון לשמחה ומאבל ליום טוב!

:נצח היותם לשמחה ולששון ולמועדים טובים


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