Parashat Matos 5781 – Humility Saves!


In Parashas Pinchas Moshe was ordered: “Assail the Midianites and defeat them, for they assailed you by the trickery they practiced against you—because of the affair of Peor and because of the affair of their kinswoman Cozbi, daughter of the Midianite chieftain, who was killed at the time of the plague on account of Peor.” [Bamidbar 25:17-18]. Again, in our Parasha Hashem orders Moshe: “Avenge the Israelite people on the Midianites; then you shall be gathered to your kin.” [31:2]. This raised a serious question, why don’t Hashem orders Moshe to assault the Moabites, as it was their idea to entice the Bnei Yisrael to sin with their daughters? They have actually debauched their own daughters first and then only the Midianites followed suit. Interestingly, the Jews were camping in the desert as Moshe was preparing to review the entire Torah with them prior to them entering Eretz Yisrael. This was the place Moshe was to depart this world. Bilaam in his blessings testifies that the nation was residing peacefully, there was strictly no danger of war. Besides, preparation for war do not go unnoticed, soldiers wear their attire and weapons, they advance in a formation to the battlefield. So, why did the surrounding nations act with such belligerence towards us as if they were provoked? Why, through history, we are always blamed and attacked? The Megillah Eicha [3:6] says; “He has placed me in darkness like the eternally dead.” This refers to every human being, poor or rich, sick or healthy, each feel trapped in a tunnel and is exhorting all sorts of efforts to extricate himself from that hole he is trapped in. Then he turns to Hashem and complain, why have you placed me there, I suffocate and cannot breathe? The Gemara [Brachos 3a] states; “The night consists of three watches. During each watch Hashem sits and roars like a lion and says: “Woe to My children! For, due to their transgressions, I destroyed My house, burned down My Sanctuary and exiled them among the nations of the world.” The Gemara’s message is explicit, we are in control and decide our future. If we abide by the principles of the Torah our lives will be peaceful and blessed. No nation will feel jealousy or the hatred to antagonize us. Our actions control the reaction of the other nations towards us. It took Nebuchadnezzar several dreams, daily voices, and the appearance of an angel to convince him he could destroy Jerusalem. Despite his might he was shaking like a leaf in the wind out of fear of Hashem’s powers. If that is the axiom, as mentioned above, the Jews were residing peacefully in the desert and preparing to review the entire Torah with Moshe. Why did Balak and Bilaam antagonize them? Isn’t the nations’ hatred and their jealousy awoken only when we do not behave according to the principles of the Torah? Then, there was then nothing to justify the belligerence of Moav and Midian. The Zohar reveals that the princess Kozbi, before she was sent to lure Moshe Rabbeinu to sin with her, Balak and Bilaam, the two greatest sorcerers that have ever existed, adorned her with all kinds of magical spells so Moshe will be unable to refuse her advances. As we know, she never made it to Moshe, instead, Zimri the prince of the tribe of Shimon got trapped and ended paying the ultimate price for his behavior. Why was Moshe saved and not Zimri? The princes of the tribes were great and righteous people, why did he deserve to fail the test? The answer is simple; Evidently, the practice of the Mitzvos is essential. Thus, in the inside too work must be done, to be humble. This is the test to great and righteous people; is their humility towards Hashem bullet proof? When Moshe recognizes the test, he falls to the ground and cries to Hashem. On the other hand, Zimri stands his ground and faces the test brazenly with the confidence he will pass it. Zimri fails, and Moshe passes the test, the opposite outcome of what secular intelligence would predict. Humility connects the person to the above world and decuplet his powers, to the point that even the worst sorcery does not affect him. In our daily lives one is tested, someone pushed you or cuts the line before you, without apologizing. The brazen will be outraged, how dared he? Did he never learn any manner? While the humble will brush it off without any further thought. The brazen’ s self-righteousness will trap him in a dark hole while the humble will sit under the sun. Humility, not erudition, is the single trait that enables the Tzaddik to perform “miracles”. What one perceives as “miracles” is for the humble effortless and natural. Here is a story illustrating it: Aiming to assimilate the next generation of Jews, Czar Nicholas issued a decree mandating the conscription of Jewish boys into his army for 25 years of service. He pressured town councils to fill an enforced quota, and community leaders scrambled to find who to send. Kidnappings became the frightening norm, usually occurring when boys were on the way back from cheder, and the children were often never seen again. Parents lived in perpetual dread. In the barracks, the boys, often as young as 8 years old, were subject to treatment intended to coax them to abandon the Jewish religion. Those who refused baptism endured beatings, torture, and starvation. Eliyahu, a timid boy raised in a Chassidic family, had been snatched from his shtetl’s street by a man on a horse. Joining a group of other conscripted boys, Eliyahu defied the odds over the many years, tightly gripping the sliver of Jewish identity he managed to preserve. By the time he was discharged, he was a grown man alienated from his family, whose whereabouts remained unknown. He settled in St. Petersburg and started a business, which quickly took root and flourished. Another happy development soon followed when Eliyahu met his wife, a Jewess, and the two lived a quiet life, observing Judaism to the best of their abilities. Several hundred miles to the south lay the small but animated town of Lubavitch. Here lived the Rebbe Rashab, Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber. Jews from far and wide traveled long distances to meet with him, request his blessing, and ask him to intercede in heaven on their behalf. One day, a widow, mother to three daughters, approached the Rebbe, seeking his guidance as per her friends’ advice. Sobbing miserably, she described her dilemma. Money didn’t come by easily in her home. Thank G-d, she was blessed with fine daughters, but she had no idea how she would pay for the weddings she hoped to celebrate. “Travel to St. Petersburg,” said the Rebbe, thus ending their audience. The widow left the Rebbe’s room completely bewildered. Overwhelmed by helplessness, she started to cry again. The Chassidim milling around offered their help. “The Rebbe told me to go to St. Petersburg,” sniveled the widow. “I have no idea what he means, and he hasn’t told me where. I don’t know anyone in St. Petersburg. Even the fare I’m unable to afford.” The Chassidim calmed her down, explaining that the Rebbe’s advice was never for naught. Someone volunteered to go around collecting, and a little while later they presented the widow with a fair sum of money. Hope reignited, the widow ventured off, still puzzled by the Rebbe’s instructions. Stepping off the train in St. Petersburg, she wondered where to start. St. Petersburg is by no means a small city, and with no directions to follow, the widow began tracing its streets aimlessly. For hours on end, she kept her feet moving, hunger and exhaustion slowly inhibiting her search. Despair finally overtook her right outside an imposing residence. Anxious to take the weight off her feet, she sat on its steps, lay back, and closed her eyes. Sleep fell over her effortlessly. She was awoken by yelling. A servant of the residence had found her asleep on the steps and assumed her to be a common beggar woman. Face burning, the widow gathered herself and prepared to leave. At that moment, the front door swung open, revealing a man who looked on curiously. He asked the servant the reason for the noise. As the servant stuttered an explanation, the man realized the woman was a Jewess and ordered the servant to have her admitted. Once inside, the widow was ushered to the dining room where the man and his family were having dinner. Someone sat her down and a plate of hot food and a steaming cup of tea appeared in front of her. Noticing her hesitation, the man explained that he descended from a long lineage of Chassidim; everything in his house was kosher. The warm atmosphere and her host’s kindness made the widow feel at ease. At his request, she divulged a bit about herself and about her deceased husband, mentioning his name. From the head of the table, the host made a strange sound. Blood drained from his face, and it was obvious he struggled to say something. Several moments later, the man asked the widow to repeat her husband’s name. Suddenly, the man was very interested in her relatives, and he could speak of nothing else. The widow was questioned, almost interrogated, on her various family members, while the man became more and more agitated. “So, your husband is my younger brother!” he finally cried. The man, who introduced himself as Eliyahu, now told the widow about his brother and their idyllic childhood. Unfortunately, while still very young, Eliyahu was kidnapped to serve in the Czar’s army. Then, all connection with his younger brother abruptly ceased. When Eliyahu heard the widow’s financial plight and her inability to marry off her daughters, he promised to help. The woman gained the financial security she and her daughters needed. But more importantly, they all savored the joy of reconnecting after so many years of separation.

By Rabbi Fridmann * [email protected] * 305.985.3461

Have A Question? Ask The Rabbi and he will Answer

Print Friendly, PDF & Email