Learn from Congregation B’nai Chaim: Torah portion Pinchas

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Rabbi Marc Rubenstein
Rabbi Marc Rubenstein. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Rabbi Marc Rubenstein, Special to Valley News

The week’s Torah portion opens with God blessing Pinchas and his descendants with a life of peace. Pinchas earned this great reward for standing up on behalf of God and carrying out justice even against Moses’ authority for blatant disobedience displayed by the children of Israel.

Last week’s Torah portion ended with King Balak resorting to his final strategy to weaken the powerful leaders of Israel: send beautiful women.

For a quick summary, remember that Balak sequestered the most beautiful women from the tribes of Midian and Moab and sent them to seduce the Jewish leaders. His strategy was a success and led to a passionate love affair between Zimri, the leader of Shimon’s paternal house, and a Midianite woman named Kazby.

Pinchas, in a rage, executed both of them. Did this action make Pinchas a hero?

Our great sages said that Pinchas possessed the soul of Elijah, the prophet who announced the true and complete redemption, according to “Yalkut Shimoni,” par. 771; Zohar 11 190b.

The sages continued, “With his righteous indignation and passionate vengeance, Pinchas achieved a somewhat messianic transformation for the Jewish people of his time, from a situation of spiritual deprivation and national emergency, to one of divine satisfaction.”

The theme of this week’s Torah portion covers “the transformation of the Jewish people from spiritual deprivation to virtuousness,” based on Sichas Shabbos Parashas Pinchas 5749; “Likkutei Sichos,” vol. 2, pages 342-344.

It teaches a great lesson: No matter what state of mind we may find ourselves or feeling of “spiritual deprivation,” God will infuse every one of us with the necessary spirit to transform ourselves to a state of redemption. It is our job, however, to galvanize that spirit into action. This wisdom from our spiritual leaders is based on “Likkutei Sichos” vol. 18, pages 382-384.

Scripture describes our spiritual lives as “branches” on a tree. While we dwell in heaven, our branch – our soul – remains attached to the tree – to God – and in the physical world, Earth, we are detached from the tree.

In heaven, we remain soft and flexible, like a tree branch still attached. However, in our lifetime on Earth, we are like a hardened stick that has formed into a staff or rod. Our relationship with God develops to become strong and unbending like the hardened stick.

Before our existence on Earth, our soul had never faced an obstacle in its relationship with God and consequently, had never enjoyed the additional “bonding” that is brought into the relationship by overcoming obstacles.

However, when the soul is placed in its Earthly setting, in a physical body, all this soon changes. Like a branch that is detached from its trunk, the soul loses its effortlessness and finds itself in a world which is antagonistic to God’s holiness and truth.

But we are promised that, with the necessary effort, the tender “branch” will soon harden to become a firm and rigid “rod” that is unbending in its dedication and service to God.

Our lesson is that God has given us the ability to live according to his laws and commands under all circumstances. It is only a matter of our will and determination, since, potentially we have the fullest capacity to live up to the will and commandments of God, the creator and master of the universe.

Congregation B’nai Chaim is located at 29500 Via Princesa in Murrieta. For more information, visit https://www.bnaichaim.com or find them on Facebook.