Saturday, June 29, 2013

“The Exact Moment”

Pinchas the grandson of Aharon knew just what to do. How? In a situation where anarchy reigned, sexual deviance and idolatry fused together in a Dionysian orgy, and a plague mysteriously killed in the tens of thousands, how is it that Pinchas knew what was needed to save the day?

I believe that the juxtaposition of personalities—Bilaam and Pinchas--points to a common trait they shared but then utilized in very divergent ways. Chazal wondered how it was that Bilaam received prophecy. Such a rasha and worthy of prophecy? Chazal explained the verse יודע דעת עליון in terms of his ability to know the one moment of God’s anger. Apparently, according to Chazal when God gets angry He is (as if to say) most vulnerable. At that infinitesimal instant Bilaam was able to use and perhaps abuse God’s will and power.

Pinchas perhaps was capable of the same divination. He also was a aware of God’s moment of wrath and understood that there was an opportunity to be grasped at that moment. Yet, in an heroic display, Pinchas used that knowledge to return, assuage God’s anger, to cool down the wrath of God.

This selfless action, the exact opposite of Bilaam’s, is worthy of distinction—הנני נותן לו את בריתי שלום, here is my covenant of peace. “Pinchas, you contaminated yourself and rendered yourself seemingly unworthy of serving God on high, know that your service in theTemple will be eternal, your covenant of peace ageless.

I can’t imagine what it means to know the moment of God’s anger but I know the moment of my wife’s anger! I know when my close friend is most vulnerable. At that moment I have one of two responses—Bilaam’s or Balak’s.

I can either find ‘just the right time’ to get what I want, ‘just the right moment’ to prey on their vulnerability for my own benefit. Or I can take the high Pinchas road and use that knowledge to ‘return their wrath’, assuage their anger and try to make peace.