By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey
Pinchas, the hero of this week’s Torah portion, Pinchas (Bamidbor [Numbers] 25:10-30:1) was previously unheard of. Though as a grandson of Aaron he belonged to the “royal family,” he was an unseeded young man, who, with a single act of bravery was catapulted to stardom.
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 82a) tells the behind the scenes story. Zimri, a prince of the tribe of Shimon, publicly flaunts his intimate relationship with a heathen Midianite princess. Moses is momentarily stymied. Pinchas respectfully reminds Moses that he himself taught the principle that one who behaves as Zimri did may be executed by the zealous. Moses responds that since Pinchas remembered this, he, Pinchas, should be the one to actually carry it out. Pinchas duly does just that and the terrible plague that had taken the lives of thousands is stilled. G-dblesses Pinchas with His Covenant of Peace and Pinchas goes down in history as the hero who saved the day.
Now Pinchas could have thought. Here stand Moses and Aaron, other prominent elders and leaders and they are all silent. Who, then, am I to step forward? Surely I must keep quiet and hold my peace.
But Pinchas did not say that. And thank G-d he didn’t. Had he kept his silence, the plague might not have been averted and Pinchas would have remained a non-entity.
This, says the Lubavitcher Rebbe, serves a powerful lesson to all of us. If you witnessesa situation where you feel that you can make a difference, then you must. And the fact that greater people than you seem paralyzed should not necessarily mean that you too should remain idle. Perhaps you are earmarked for greatness and G-d is opening your window of opportunity. Deny yourself this moment and you deny destiny.
Sometimes the moment is yours. Sometimes greater people may vacillate and the responsibility and opportunity rest with you and you alone. Each of us has so much unlocked potential. Rare and precious are those crossroads of life when the chance to unleash that inner calling presents itself.
Similarly we find this thought played out in the story of Purim. The Megillah records how Queen Esther is asked by Mordechai to intercede with King Achashverus on behalf of her people. She explains that she fears this may be absolutely suicidal for her. Mordechai responds with rather strong words, Relief and deliverance will come for the Jews from another place, and you and your father’s house will perish. What Mordechai was telling Esther was that the chance to single handedly save one’s entire nation doesn’t present itself every day. It is a unique moment and ought to be seized. If you won’t do it, someone else will; but this once in a lifetime opportunity may be lost to you forever.
Pinchas reminds us that when opportunity knocks we should open the door quickly. Do not hesitate. Destiny may be beckoning.(Excerpts from Chabad.org - from Rabbi Yossy Goldman)