Yeshivat Reishit


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In Every Generation

By: Andrew Gluck

Both the beginning and end of Sefer Bamidbar feature censuses. As we read them in shul, we have the unfortunate tendency to tune out and view them as trivial lists of names, places, numbers, and other boring details. However, these counts of B’nei Yisrael, suggests Rabbi Jonathan Grossman, are to be seen as more than just bookends to the sefer.
The Torah states explicitly that none of the people from the original census were still alive for the second one. This is an entirely new generation, and thus, this census serves as a transition from those originally counted to the new generation, the one that will enter the Land of Israel. Two examples of this are demonstrated by the children of Korach, who do teshuva, and are not swallowed by the earth, and B’not Tzlefchad, who petition Moshe for the right to inherit their father’s land.

Both of these groups of progeny represent the future. Both Korach and Tzlefchad were sinners who perished because of their sins. (Some opinions state that Tzlefchad was the m’koshesh etzim, and that he was killed for that transgression. Some understand that he sinned intentionally and martyred himself to restore a sense of power to Moshe’s judgments).

Pinchas, too, is a transitional figure. He was born after his father, Elazar, was anointed a Kohen and, therefore, was not included in the original Kehuna of his grandfather, uncles, and father. He, unlike any other Kohen before or after him, received his Kehuna by direct decree from Hashem, for his actions in the end of last week’s parsha, Parshat Balak.

It is interesting to note that the parsha of Pinchas always falls right before, or right at the onset, of the Three Weeks, this time of avelut. There is a famous adage recounted in Masechet Yoma (in Talmud Yerushalmi) stating that any generation in which the Beit Hamikdash is not rebuilt, it is as if it was destroyed during their time.

The lessons of Pinchas, and of the saying in Yoma,are clear. As Jews, we have a rich tradition from which to derive many lessons. Our history has taught us much. However, it is up to each generation to look forward to our promising future. It is up to us, now, to make that transition.

Let us use the impetus of the lessons of Parshat Pinchas to bring about the coming of the Mashiach.