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“…Pinchas son of Elazar, the son of Aharon the kohen, has turned My anger away from Bnei Yisrael by his zealously avenging Me among them, so that I did not destroy Bnei Yisrael because of My zeal…” – Bamidbar 25:11

פִּינְחָס בֶּן אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן הֵשִׁיב אֶת חֲמָתִי מֵעַל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּקַנְאוֹ אֶתקִנְאָתִי בְּתוֹכָם וְלֹא כִלִּיתִי אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּקִנְאָתִי – במדבר כה, יא

 A deathly plague was spreading among Bnei Yisrael, killing thousands of people.

Meanwhile, Zimri, the leader of the tribe of Shimon, took a Midianite princess into his tent. Moshe, Elazar and the elders of Bnei Yisrael all witnessed Zimri’s brazen act, but were at a loss of how to respond.

Pinchas, who had no previous position of importance, remembered what Moshe had taught was the correct response to such a situation. He brought the law to Moshe’s attention, and Moshe urged him to fulfill it: “Let the one who reads the letter be the agent to carry it out!” Pinchas entered Zimri’s tent, caught him sinning with the non-Jewish woman, and killed him, whereupon the plague miraculously stopped. G-d rewarded Pinchas for his zealousness with an eternal covenant of goodwill, and kehunah, priesthood, for him and his descendants.

Commenting on this episode, Rashi (on Bamidbar 25:6) remarks: “At the incident of the Golden Calf, Moshe successfully confronted six hundred thousand people…and here he was so helpless? Rather, this happened so that Pinchas should come and take what was suited for him.

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The story of Pinchas teaches us that there are times when we must not look to the leaders alone for instruction. In the case of Pinchas, the lack of clarity on the part of the leadership was Divinely orchestrated in order to allow Pinchas to take “what was suited for him.” Similarly, when an area in which you can have a positive impact comes to your attention, you must step up to the plate and do what you can. The inaction of “those responsible” and the silence on the part of the regular sources of inspiration is not an indication that you too can stand by idly. For every person is charged with a unique spiritual mission, a part of the Divine plan that no one else in the world can fulfill. The inaction of others may be G-d’s way of facilitating that you should claim the moment that is rightfully yours.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 2, pp. 342-343


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