Monday, July 24, 2017

Rav Moshe Weinberger - Parshas Pinchas 5777 - You've Got Mail!

B"H, I have begun posting write-ups of drashos by Rav Moshe Weinberger by other adapters which are also approved by Rav Weinberger. I work with these other adapters as well to ensure that these adaptations are largely consistent stylistically with my adaptations until now.

I therefore am happy to present this adaptation of Rav Weinberger's drasha from last Shabbos, parsahs Pinchas 5777, by Refoel Zev Kahane, a talmid of Rebbe. Certainly still very apropos to the Three Weeks and the Nine Days period that we're in now.

See here for past shiurim at's website by Rav Weinberger both as Mashpia at YU and from the past 20+ years. You can also click on one of the following links to subscribe to the shiurim: emailrss feedpodcast, or iTunes. Please note that these drashos will only be available online for one month. If you notice any mistakes, please let me know so I can correct it. If you are interested in a particular drasha that is no longer online, you can email me (right sidebar) and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.

Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Pinchas 5777
You’ve Got Mail
Adapted by Refoel Zev Kahane

This Shabbos we began reading the first of the three haftorahs from Yirmiyahu, describing the imminent destruction of the Beis Hamikdash customarily read before Tisha Ba’av. Hashem warns the Jewish people, "For, behold I am calling all the families of the kingdoms of the north…and they will come and place, each one his throne, at the entrance of the gates of Yerushalayim" (Yirmiyahu 1:15). This is a warning that if the Jewish people don't change their ways, Hashem will call the Babylonian leaders to begin the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash with the placement of their chairs in the gates of Jerusalem, a symbolic act of conquest. Indeed, as Rashi points out, the outcome of this prophecy is recording later in the Navi: “And in the eleventh year of the reign of Tzidkiyahu, on the ninth day of the fourth month, the walls of the city were breached. And all the officers of the king of Babylon entered and sat in the middle of the gate” (Yirmiyahu 39:2-3).

We need to understand what the Navi means when he says "Behold I am calling" the leaders of Babylonia. What does he mean the Hashem called these leaders? Can it be that the leaders of Babylonia were sitting around and suddenly Hashem appeared to them in a vision? Did they hear some sort of Heavenly proclamation from Hashem? The Jewish people today do not receive direct messages or imperatives from Hashem, so how could it be that these Babylonians merited such a thing? We have to understand what this calling really is.

The Radak shares a powerful idea with us. He explains that Hashem is saying that "It is as if I am calling them to come. In other words, I will place in in their hearts that they should come." There was no audible announcement from the Heavens summoning the leaders to attack Yerushalayim. Hashem did not actually say anything. And they did not actually hear anything. Rather, Hashem placed this idea in their hearts. The Babylonian leaders felt as if they were following their own desires. They thought that they were acting based on their own inspiration. But really, their plans stemmed from the Divine inspiration implanted in their hearts by Hashem. Hashem placed these ideas in their hearts in order to carry out His plans. So, what is the calling of Hashem? It is not a booming voice descending from Heaven. The calling of Hashem is a quiet voice heard only in the inner depths of our hearts.

Chazal describe the conversation between Moshe Rabbeinu and Pinchas before Pinchas arose and killed Zimri. (Sanhedrin 82a). Pinchas, after witnessing the terrible act of Zimri's relations with the Midianite woman, came to Moshe with the halacha of kanaaim pogim bo, meaning, if someone witnesses two people engaged in such an act, a zealot should get up and execute the violators. Pinchas was bothered by the fact that nobody was getting up to take action, as the halacha seems to mandate. What was Moshe's response? "Let the one who reads the letter be the agent to fulfill its contents." Moshe was telling Pinchas that if he was the one who recalled such a halacha, then he should be the one to act on it.  

The Ran points out a difficulty in the response of Moshe Rabbeinu. While it is true that the halacha is kanaaim pogim bo, there is a second halacha that tells us that we do not actually teach this law when asked. We conceal that this is in fact the halacha. We will not find this halacha in the Shulchan Aruch. The rebbe is not supposed to teach his talmid this halacha. This halacha is concealed because a zealous act like this can only come about through a spontaneous response. If one only acts after seeing the halacha formally codified, that is not the zealotry permitted by the Torah. And yet, the Ran points out, Moshe Rabbeinu does seem teach the halacha that a zealot may kill those engaging publicly in sexual immorality to Pinchas. When Pinchas asks if this halacha is in fact correct, Moshe's response of "Let the one who reads the letter be the agent to fulfill its contents" seems to be an approval by Moshe Rabbeinu. He seems to be telling Pinchas to get up and take action. How could Moshe approve of this if we do not actually teach this halacha? How did Moshe seemingly permit Pinchas to carry out this zealous act?

The Ran answers that Moshe did not actually tell Pinchas to act. Rather, all he did was point out to Pinchas that he received a letter. "Let the one who reads the letter be the agent to fulfill its contents." What was this letter that Pinchas received? This was the burning desire that Pinchas felt within him to get up and act, a desire that was placed in the heart of Pinchas from Hashem. All Moshe said was that if you received a letter from Hashem, then you should read it, listen to it, and do what it says. If you feel something deeply in your heart, then you should know that it is a letter from Hashem. Just like Hashem called to the Babylonian leaders in the inner recesses of their hearts, so too, Hashem called to Pinchas in the inner recesses of his heart. This is the calling – or letter – of Hashem.  

We also find the calling of Hashem by the construction of the Mishkan. "See, I have called out by name of Betzalel, the son of Uri, the son of Chur, of the tribe of Yehuda. I have endowed him with a Divine spirit of skill, ability, and knowledge in every kind of craft" (Shmos 31:2-3). What does it mean that Hashem called out to Betzalel? Did a voice come down from heaven? Did Betzalel receive a prophecy which commanded him to be the chief architect and builder of the Mishkan? Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l explains (Drash Moshe, Ki Tisa) that, like the leaders of Babylon and like Pinchas, there was no actual calling. If a person sees that he has certain skills, talents, and abilities, then this is his or her calling from Hashem. Betzalel was a skilled architect and artisan. He had special talents. Hashem gave him these talents for a specific reason. Betzalel listened. He saw these talents, and he understood what Hashem was telling him. Like Pinchas, Hashem sent Betzalel a personalized letter.

We have entered the period of the three weeks where we mourn the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. Chazal tell us that "the humility of Rabbi Zecharia ben Avkolas destroyed the temple and exiled us from our land" (Gitten 56a). Without getting into the details of the story, we see that sometimes humility is a bad thing. Sometimes, we are so humble that we do not hear the calling of Hashem. We fail to read His personalized letter. Perhaps we do not make an effort to listen to the letter, or, maybe even worse, we do not believe that Hashem would even send us a letter at all. This is improper humility. If Hashem gave us talents, we must use them for avodas Hashem. If we feel inspiration deep down in our hearts, we must act on it. We must realize that is the calling of Hashem.

In the haftorah, Hashem tells Yirmiyahu, "Before I created you in the womb, I knew you" (1:5). Hashem was telling Yirmiyahu that he had given him certain talents and abilities which would enable him to lead the nation. Those talents were destined to be given to him even before Yirmiyahu was born. And yet, Yirmiyahu responds, "Hashem, I don't know how to speak. For I am still a young boy"(1:6). Yirmiyahu did not believe in himself. He was afraid to read his letter. He did not want to listen to the calling. But Hashem told him, "Do not say that I am still a young boy…Do not fear, for I am with you to protect you" (1:7-8). Hashem was telling him, “I have given you tremendous talents and abilities. I am calling upon you. You will succeed.” We too, have to realize that we are not simple young boys and girls. Hashem has called out to us as well through our inclinations, talents, abilities, and opportunities.

Rav Yeruchum of Mir zt"l once lamented, "How many talents were wasted, and how many gedolim have fallen, and how much Torah has been lost, simply because we did not hear the cry of Hashem, 'Do not say that I am still a young boy.'" Many of us grow up thinking that we are only young boys or girls. Many of us even live out our adult lives thinking that we are lightweights, nobodies. We must listen to the callingp of Hashem from within. We see the talents with which Hashem has blessed us. We cannot make the mistake of not using these talents, or the mistake, chas v'shalom, of using these talents inappropriately.

For some of us, our letter tells us to do beautiful acts of chesed. These Jews are blessed with a heart to be concerned for the needs of others. For some of us, our letter tells us to study and reveal novel Torah thoughts. These Jews are blessed with a mind to understand the depths of the Torah. For others, our letter tells us to compose beautiful niggunim for the Shabbos table. These Jews are blessed beautiful voices and the ability to understand music. And for some of us, our letter tells us to be leaders of Jewish communities. These Jews are blessed with organizational and leadership skills.

Hashem wrote each and every one of us a personalized letter – let's make sure to read it. 

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