Even when the chances of success seem slim, remember that God can make anything happen.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Balak” (Numbers 22:2-25:9) and it deals primarily with Bilaam and Balak’s plan to destroy the Jews in a supernatural manner – by cursing them. Since we have spoken about this in past years (links to past articles down below), I would like to discuss a lesser known narrative that appears at the end of the Torah portion.
This section of the Torah portion records the immoral incident in which Zimri, the Prince of the Tribe of Shimon, had relations with a Moabite princess, Cozbi, in full public view. Even Moses was present when this scene was playing out. It was a horrible sight that brought people to tears. It was such a shock to see someone who was supposedly a holy and righteous Jew and leader of a tribe engage in relations with a Moabite, that everyone present froze. Nobody knew what to do.
In fact, there is a law that says that one who publicly cohabitates with a non-Jewish woman may be killed on the spot. As mentioned, nobody knew what to do. Moses was mysteriously speechless when asked what should be done about this blasphemous sight. But Moses forgot the law. He didn’t know what to answer.
Wait a second — did we just say that Moses forgot a law? The greatest rabbi that ever lived forgot a law such as this? What’s going on over here?
It is explained that God orchestrated things so that Moses would indeed forget the law, and by extension, not implement it himself. It was Pinchas who quickly recalled the law and took action sending a spear through the romantically attached bodies of Zimri and Cozbi.
God wanted Pinchas to fulfill this mitzva, not Moses, so that He would have a great “excuse” to give Pinchas a huge reward. That reward was the Priesthood. Yes, Pinchas became a Kohen. He was the only one to ever become a Kohen, instead of being born one.
This sequence of events offers an important lesson for us. When God wants to give someone a job, a promotion, an opportunity, or anything, He will make it happen even if the chances might be overwhelmingly against us.
Pinchas should never have become a Kohen. Only Aaron and his descendants were designated as Kohanim. But God needed a “big ticket” action to give Pinchas a “big ticket” reward. Hence, the people were silent, in shock, and didn’t move. The coast was clear for Pinchas to get the job done.
For Moses, forgetting a law as important as this one would be like a driver suddenly forgetting to stop at a red light. It was not in the normal order of events for Moses to forget the law to kill Zimri. But when God wants someone to succeed, when God wants someone to excel, it’s going to happen – even if you’re up against Moses.
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.
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