Firing Up Our Hearts

At the very end of last week’s parashah, we learned how the unimaginable had occurred. Zimri, the Nasi of Shevet Shimon, who according to some was one of the original seventy souls who came to Mitzrayim and was therefore over 215 years old, committed a shocking and incomprehensible act. Then Pinchas stepped forward, and after consulting with Moshe Rabbeinu, killed Zimri and Kozbi.

This week we learn of his reward.

The first words of this week’s parashah begins with Hashem telling the yichus of Pinchas, the son of Elazar, son of Aharon Hakohen. The Midrash on this passuk states, “Hakadosh Baruch Hu states, ‘Badin hu sheyitol secharo — he is justified in receiving his reward.’”

What is the connection between Pinchas’s lineage and the fact that he was entitled to reward for his action? If he had stemmed from a different family, would his actions have been any less praiseworthy?

The Ben Ish Chai explains with a parable of a king who went hunting in a forest accompanied by his powerful bodyguards. He was attacked by a band of robbers, but one of his bodyguards easily managed to defeat the attackers.

The king did not reward or even praise the bodyguard for his deed. A few days later the king was back in the forest, this time accompanied only by a simple servant who was unschooled in defense tactics. Once again the king was attacked. Sensing that the king was in grave danger, the servant seized the king’s sword, and with every bit of strength he possessed he successfully fought off the attackers. This time the king generously rewarded his benefactor for his bravery.

When asked about the disparity in his responses, the king explained simply: “The bodyguard’s business is to ward off attackers. He is suited to the job and well trained for it. The servant, on the other hand, really isn’t cut out for this type of defense; only because of his great love for me did he exert himself and find the strength to save my life.”

Pinchas was a member of the Sanhedrin, a son and grandson of kohanim. He did not have the ability to engage in physical battle, let alone to kill two people with a single thrust of a spear and then carry both bodies on the tip of the spear throughout the encampment. Only because of the great love for Hashem that burned in his heart was he able to accomplish the seemingly impossible.

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All of us have hidden strengths. All of us can accomplish far more than we even imagine. It is all a matter of firing up our hearts by acknowledging the infinite love for Hashem that exists deep within us.

There was a water carrier in the city of Slonim who married off his daughter to a simple and totally illiterate Jewish boy. Determined that, at the very least, his son-in-law should be able to recite brachos on food and daven from a siddur, the water carrier began the laborious task of teaching him how to read. He also taught him the translation of the passuk of Shema Yisrael and explained to him that Hashem is the only G-d, and that He created the heavens and the earth.

He then taught him the next passuk, “You shall love Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your possessions.” He explained that Hashem, the Ruler of the entire universe, has commanded us to love Him with our entire hearts.

At this point the son-in-law raised an objection.

“How is it possible that such a great and awesome G-d, to Whom the entire universe belongs, should want someone as insignificant as me to love Him?”

“Indeed, that is the meaning of the passuk,” the water carrier replied firmly.

The son-in-law, however, insisted that this could not possibly be the meaning of the passuk. The two decided to take the matter to the Slonimer Rebbe, the Divrei Shmuel, zy”a.

The Rebbe, of course, confirmed that the father-in-law was right in his translation of the passuk.

The son-in-law became very emotional. “If this is so,” he cried out, “that Hashem is commanding us to love Him, it must mean that He loves us very much, with a very great love and therefore wants us to love Him as well. If Hashem loves me so much, then I love Him as well!”

The Divrei Shmuel later told this story to Harav Mordechai of Slonim, zy”a, adding, “This is the true madreigah of ahavas Hashem.”

If we reflect upon the infinite acts of kindness that Hashem does for us every second of the day, if we only contemplate the great love Hashem has for us, we will find it far easier to fire up our hearts for avodas Hashem.