The Benefits of Personal Initiative by Chaim Gartenberg


Parashat Pinchas is notable for the sheer amount of personal action within it. The events in the Parashah occur with minimal Divine Intervention; rather, the Parashah discusses those of independent individuals. The two areas in the Parashah in which such behavior appears are incidents with Pinchas as well as the daughters of Tzelofchad.

The incident with Pinchas is sadly ironic—just after Bilam attempts to have Hashem destroy Bnei Yisrael and then blesses Bnei Yisrael’s camp’s purity, the Benot Moav bring Tum’ah to the Machaneh, thus causing a plague that kills twenty-four thousand members of Bnei Yisrael. However, as matters reach their most dire point, one man decides to act despite Hashem’s already instituted punishment for the Benot Moav—Pinchas Ben Elazar takes matters into his own hands, and cuts off the problem ’s source by killing Zimri, the Nassi of Shimon who begins the sins with the Benot Moav. Rather than allowing Bnei Yisrael to be punished, Pinchas helps prevent them from sinning. For this act—an unrequited and unsolicited act of personal initiative—Hashem rewards Pinchas by making him a member of the Brit Kehunah, in which he can direct spiritual connections to Hashem. Pinchas’ episode inspires the zeal we must take to avoid transgression with peers and ourselves, and manifests the great benefit and connection to Hashem that such action can bring about.

The opposite side of personal action takes place with the daughters of Tzelofchad. Tzelofchad dies earlier in the Midbar, victim to his own sin. However, his daughters are instilled with such a love for Eretz Yisrael, and continuing their father’s legacy, they are courageous enough to appeal to Moshe directly in an attempt to maintain their father’s Mesorah. Their action enables them to inherit their portion in Eretz Yisrael—the value of which is further revealed only in the adjoining narrative of Hashem revealing Eretz Yisrael’s glory to Moshe. Because of their willingness to take action in a positive manner, the daughters of Tzelofchad are able to inherit the land in Israel, whose value for Am Yisrael in its ability to connect with Hashem is unparalleled.

May we be able to acquire Pinchas and Benot Tzelofchad’s zeal and willingness to go out of their way to perform Mitzvot—both positive and negative, and for themselves and others—and to learn to apply these lessons to our lives, and, with the Hashem’s help, be able to reach the level of spirituality equal to that of Pinchas and the Benot Tzelafchad.

Females’ Far-Reaching Nedarim by Jonathan Karp

Bilam’s Curse and the Meraglim by Ben Notis