Dealing With The Dumpster
“…because he took vengeance for his G-d” (25:13)
It’s very easy to be a sheep.
Most of the time we do – at best – what everybody else does.
We get up in the morning, wash our hands, mutter a few berachot and go daven. We move our lips, but our hearts are usually silent. We go through the motions. Maybe once or twice a year we rouse ourselves to a higher level of awareness and service of G-d, and then we slump back to the default position. Not that the default position isn’t something. After all, we believe in G-d, we do the mitzvot. We’re doing more than the other 99.9% of humanity, aren’t we?
It’s very difficult to do more than everyone else. Even a little more.
And that is why it’s so precious.
Any little thing that’s more than the norm is a sea-change in who we are.
Let’s say the next time your nose starts to itch, you resist the desire to scratch it, and the next time, and the next time — eventually you will be a person who can control what he does.
And that’s one of the most exciting things in the world.
And if you can control what you do when nothing more than an itchy nose is at stake, eventually you will be able to control yourself when you have an itch to do something much more tempting and disastrous.
Or you walk past the empty garbage dumpster outside your apartment block and see that the dumpster is surrounded by a large pile of bulging black garbage bags, some of which already betray the tentative explorations of the claws of the neighborhood cats.
You could think to yourself, “Why don’t parents teach their children to throw the trash into the dumpster and not at it?” and carry on walking.
Or you could throw the bags into the dumpster.
If you throw enough bags into enough dumpsters, you will become someone who takes responsibility for things regardless of what other people do or don’t do.
“...because he took vengeance for his G-d”
The Ten Commandments were all given in the singular so that each one of us should internalize that I am individually commanded to keep the mitzvot as though the Torah was given to no one else but me; the failings of others are no excuse for my own lacking.
Pinchas certainly could have looked at Moshe and Aaron and the Seventy Elders who stood around and done nothing to stop a gross act of indecency, and thought, “Well if they aren’t going to do anything, why should I be holier than them?”
He didn’t think this way, but rather did what was necessary to protect the Name of Heaven.
It is for this reason that the verse says, “...because he took vengeance for his G-d.”
At that moment Pinchas acted as though G-d was ‘his G-d’ and no one else’s, and that he alone was responsible to preserve the honor of the Kingdom.
- Sources: based on the Chomat Aish in Mayana Shel Torah