As the Three Weeks begin, we hear news that the government of Great Britain intends to implement rulings that would force all schools in England to adhere to a curriculum which is antithetical to Truth as revealed by the Torah.
Let’s look at this week’s Torah Portion.
It is almost impossible to imagine the intense burden that Pinchas ben Elazar ben Aharon Hakohain took upon himself. Alone, among all of Israel, he challenged the terrible chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s Name) and confronted the Prince Zimri ben Salu. Moses, for whatever reasons, was unable to act. There was no one else! Pinchas ben Elazar ben Aharon Hakohain was, in his way, as alone in the world as was our Father Abraham when he challenged the prevailing worldwide cult of idol worship.
Social pressure is extremely difficult to withstand. I for one am frequently thinking about what other people will say about what I do. I am not defending it, but I know it to be a significant part of the human condition. Look at the miraglim (the spies who entered the Land of Israel whom we read about several weeks ago). They reinforced each other and the nation went along with them. They led the Children of Israel to the edge of the precipice.
When I was about fourteen years old, I spent the summer on a tour of the Western United States. One of the highlights was our ascent of the Grand Teton, the namesake mountain of the spectacular Wyoming national park and one of the most beautiful mountains anywhere. The summit stands at 13,775 feet above sea level and about seven thousand feet above Jackson Hole, the alpine plain from which it abruptly rises.
This ascent was one of the scariest moments of my life. In retrospect, it was insane to allow young teenagers to attempt such a climb, even after a day of intense preparation at the Exum School of Mountaineering. But we did it. The trip up was bad enough. But the trip down – and there is no way to get off the summit but down! – was the epitome of terror.
There was a 150-foot cliff just below the summit. We had to “rappel” down this cliff, which means lowering yourself by rope. Yes, we were tied – to something – in addition to the rope which we kept lowering over our shoulders. But that wasn’t the worst part. In order to reach the place where we began the rappel, we had to traverse an icy ledge which I remember as being about ten inches wide. Each of us was alone as we traversed this ledge. Yes, there was a rope attached to the rock wall next to us, but that did not offer much solace. Beneath this icy ledge was a straight, vertical drop of probably hundreds if not thousands of feet! This was not Disney World; it was the real thing. I have never been so petrified as I was traversing that icy ledge. Apparently, I must have made it across, since I am here to tell the tale!
My friends, the Children of Israel were on the equivalent of that icy ledge as we encamped in the Plains of Moav. One slip – G-d forbid – and it would have been all over. Only Pinchas ben Elazar ben Aharon Hakohain saved us. He was the rope which prevented us from falling into the abyss which waited below.
Such an abyss now presents itself again at this moment in our history. I have spoken often about the dangerous situation which confronts us at this juncture in history. Indeed, the entire world is trembling with anticipation. The other nations, lehavdil, believe that their age-old dream may soon be realized in which they can eliminate us forever, G-d forbid, age-old thorn in their side.
My friends, we make a terrible mistake. We keep thinking it is abnormal when the nations of the World oppose the Nation or the Land of Israel. We keep telling ourselves it is normal for us to be part of them and that, when they oppose us, it is simply a temporary aberration.
If we educate them, for example, they will surely not oppose shechita (kosher slaughter of animals); they just don’t understand how humane it is. If we educate them, they will surely support Israel. If we educate them, they will surely allow, even encourage their Jewish friends and neighbors to teach our own Torah-sanctified curriculum in our schools.
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis A”H used to tell us how surprised Hungarian Jews were in 1944. Jews were so respected; they were even part of the Hungarian government. The same was true in Germany itself before the War. Jewish citizens were “honored” and “respected.”
My friends, “It is halacha that Esav hates Yaakov.” (Rashi on Genesis 33:4, quoting Sifri Beha’alosech 69) It is not coincidence or a passing storm; it is a law woven into the fabric of the nations among whom we have been forced to live for almost two thousand years!
When are we going to wake up? It will not do to place any faith whatsoever in Yishmoel (the Moslem world) or Esav (the Western Nations) or their descendants. We are totally alone. We have only Hashem on whom to depend. As we read last week: “Behold, it is a nation that will dwell in solitude and not be reckoned among the nations.” (Numbers 23:9) Why do we not accept what the Torah tells us? Why do we expect them to love us or accept us?
We have to prepare now for the world which is just over the horizon. We have to imitate the courage of Pinchas ben Elazar ben Aharon Hakohain, about whom Hashem said, “Behold, I give him My covenant of peace!” (Numbers 25:12) May our eyes be opened like his eyes, and may the Covenant of Peace descend upon our Holy Nation soon in our days!
PICTURE CAPTION: THE GRAND TETON