Rabbi Yakov Haber
Rabbi Yakov Haber

Every Person a Star

"And a man of the Children of Israel came and he brought the Midianite woman to his brethren before the eyes of Moshe and the eyes of the Children of Israel; and they were crying at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting" (Balak 25:6).

Thus begins the tragic episode of the death of Zimri at the hands of Pinchas after Zimri publicly sins with a Midianite woman. Pinchas' action puts a stop to the plague which took 24,000 lives and ultimately leads to Pinchas' elevation to a position of prominence. Commenting on the source of the "crying", Rashi writes that it was over Moshe's apparent inability to act. He had temporarily forgotten the halacha that one sinning with a non-Jewish woman publicly may be executed by "zealots". The Divine reason for his forgetting, Rashi explains, was so that Pinchas should receive that which was destined for him.

Much was at stake here. Moshe's silence resulted in danger to the entire Jewish nation's existence (see Pinchas 25:11). Yet the stage was set for Pinchas, not Moshe, to rescue the Jewish people by removing the Divine anger and in so doing cause his own elevation. An important principle emerges from this episode. Every individual has his unique destiny to fulfill. The Master of Providence arranges the person's environment and sometimes even events concerning the entire Jewish people or even world events in order to allow that person to fulfill their destiny. Pinchas could have reasoned, "now Moshe is not acting; who am I to act?" and his destiny would have remained unfulfilled. Rather, upon consultation with his rebbe, he rose to the occasion. From here we learn further, suggests Rabbi M. M. Schneerson zt"l (whose yahrzeit was marked this past week), that just because a particular course of action or project was not attempted by even great people of previous or the current generation does not necessarily mean that the action should not be followed. Perhaps that course of action was reserved by Divine Providence for a particular individual to accomplish. However, as Pinchas did, any innovative action should only be done upon consultation with Torah giants.

A similar lesson seems to emerge from an episode occurring in next week's parsha, Pinchas, concerning the daughters of Tzlafchad. They claim that they should be entitled to a share of land in Eretz Yisrael since their father died without sons. Moshe, upon presenting their claim to Hashem, indeed confirms their right to such a portion. There too, Rashi (27:55) similarly comments that the reason why that halacha was not originally revealed to Moshe was so that this portion of the Torah should be revealed through the request of these righteous women who desired a portion of the Holy Land. Interestingly, Ramban notes that unlike all the other tribes, whose sons are described in the parsha and not their daughters, Asher's daughter, Serach, is listed together with Asher's sons - as are the daughters of Tzlafchad under the tribe of Menashe. Citing Targum Onkelos, who translates "and the name of the daughter of the wife of Asher was Serach", Ramban explains that Serach was the daughter of Asher's wife who had been previously married and that Serach was an only daughter to her father. The purpose of the Torah listing all of the children of the tribes at this point is to indicate to whom the Land of Israel would be divided (Pinchas 26:53). Serach is therefore listed among the the other sons of the tribes, as are the daughters of Tzlafchad, since she too, having no brothers, would inherit land in Israel just as the daughters of Tzlafchad would. If so, why didn't Serach, an extremely pious, wise woman who merited a very long life (see Sota 13a, Koheles Rabba 9:2 and elsewhere), also request a share of Eretz Yisrael? The answer would appear to be that Serach's unique mission was expressed through her other accomplishments. It was not her destiny to be the cause of the revelation of a new portion of Torah. This was the mission of the daughter's of Tzlafchad -- just as it was not Moshe's destiny to stop the plague by killing Zimri; this was to be Pinchas's role.

A well-known Midrash states that there are 600,000 letters to the Torah, the original number of the People of Israel. One of the messages of this Midrash is that each member of Klal Yisrael, man or woman, has a unique set of tasks specifically designated for him or her to accomplish. The Talmud states "makom hinichu li avosai l'hisgadier bah - my ancestors have left me room to make my mark!" (Chulin 7a). May we all merit to utilize the tools which Hashem has provided for us to fulfill our unique mission in our lives. (See also Lo Tachmod: Mazal, Destiny and the Prohibition Against Coveting for additional material on the topic presented here.)

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