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Parshot Festivals

When destiny beckons

  • Parshas Ki Tetze - Rabbi Yossi Goldman
Pinchas, the hero of this week’s Parsha, was previously unheard of. Though he belonged to the “royal family” as the grandson of Aaron, he was an unseeded young man, who with a single act of bravery, was catapulted to stardom.
by Rabbi Yossy Goldman, Sydenham Shul | Jul 05, 2018

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 82a) tells the story. Zimri, a prince of the tribe of Shimon, publicly flaunts his intimate relationship with a heathen Midianite princess. Moses is momentarily stymied. Pinchas respectfully reminds Moses that he himself taught the principle that one who behaves as Zimri did may be executed by the zealous. Moses responds that since Pinchas remembered this, he, Pinchas, should be the one to carry it out. Pinchas does just that, and a terrible plague that had taken the lives of thousands is stilled. G-d blesses Pinchas with His Covenant of Peace, and Pinchas goes down in history as the hero who saved the day.

Rare and precious are those life crossroads when the chance to unleash our inner calling presents itself. But why did Moses forget what he himself had taught? Apparently, divine providence saw fit that the great prophet should suffer a temporary memory lapse in order that young Pinchas could assume his destined status.

Now, Pinchas could have made a simple calculation. Here stand Moses and Aaron, other prominent elders and leaders, and they are all silent. In the face of such brazen moral travesty, all these great men stand back. Who, then, am I to step forward? How can I, little old me, a new kid on the block, stand up and say what I believe in their august presence? Surely I must keep quiet.

But Pinchas did not say that. And thank G-d he didn’t. Had he kept his silence, the plague might not have been averted, and Pinchas would have remained a non-entity.

This, says the Lubavitcher Rebbe, serves as a powerful lesson to all of us. If you witness a situation in which you feel that you can make a difference, then you must. The fact that greater people than you seem paralysed should not necessarily mean that you too should remain idle. Perhaps this is your unique chance to do something historic. Perhaps you are earmarked for greatness, and G-d is opening your window of opportunity. Deny yourself this moment, and you deny destiny.

In the story of Purim, the Megillah records how Queen Esther is asked by Mordechai to intercede with King Ahasuerus on behalf of her people. She explains that she fears this may be suicidal for her. Mordechai responds with rather strong words: Relief and deliverance will come for the Jews from another place, and you and your father’s house will perish. What Mordechai was telling Esther is that the chance to singlehandedly save an entire nation doesn’t present itself every day. It is a unique moment, and ought to be seized. If you won’t do it, someone else will.

Pinchas reminds us that when opportunity knocks, we should open the door quickly. Destiny could be beckoning.

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