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Before making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbi Kook, Eretz Yisrael, Art of T'shuva, War and Peace, and Torat Eretz Yisrael.
I have decided to follow the advice of one of our readers and take a sabbatical from this blog to learn more Torah and write a book in my father’s memory.
In the meantime, here is a dvar Torah by Rabbi Nachman Kahana that sums up many of the points that we have been discussing over the past two years:
Pinchas, through his zealousness for God and the Torah, brought to an end the tragic episode of the Jewish people’s sinning at Baal Pe’or. There are traditions which state that Pinchas, is also known as Eliyahu HaNavi (Elijah the prophet) who never died, and continues to appear in times of great need.
Often, when the Gemara presents a halachic problem which the rabbis at the time could not resolve, the issue concludes with the word "TaYKU," which is an acronym formed by the first letters of the four words Tishbee Yetaretz Kushyot U’sefaykot, meaning: in time Tishbee (Eliyahu the Prophet) Yetaretz (will resolve) Kushyot (rigorous questions) U’sefaykot (and uncertainties.)
Why did Rav Ashi, the editor of the Babylonian Talmud, place the onus of adjudicating halachic difficulties upon the shoulders of Eliyahu HaNavi and not on the more authoritative Moshe Rabbeinu, who was the ultimate human law giver?
I suggest: Moshe was and will always be the ultimate law giver. But Moshe, as great as he was, lived 120 years and then left this world. Eliyahu never died and by virtue of his extended longevity was able to perceive the entire scope of Jewish experience of over 3000 years. This extended participation in all times and places of Jewish life cultivated his ability to see the Torah in all its worldly applications. Hence he is the most qualified to solve these problems.
Why did HaShem grant this great longevity to Eliyahu Ha’navi?
For the Haftorah this Shabbat we read Melachim [Kings] 1 chapter 19. It relates how Eliyahu fled from the evil King Achav and his depraved Queen Ey’zevel (Jezebel) after they murdered all the rabbis and prophets in the northern tribes, except for 100 who were rescued by Ovadia and hidden in caves. Eliyahu, went to find refuge at Mount Sinai, in the very cave where Moshe had hidden from the omnipotent presence of the Almighty.
To HaShem’s enquiry as to why he was there, Eliyahu replied:
"And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, thrown down Your altars, and slain Your prophets with the sword: and only I am left; and they seek my life to take it away."
HaShem became angry at Eliyahu’s incrimination of Bnei Yisrael for stating "Israel have forsaken Thy covenant." It is related in the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni 71):
“And the Lord said to him, "You were zealous at Shittim when the Jewish people engaged in sexual transgression, and now again you are zealous. Upon your life you shall be present and see every brit mila (circumcision ceremony). Because of this the rabbis enacted that a chair be placed at every brit mila for the "angel of the brit" (Eliyahu Ha’navi).
HaShem could not bear to hear lashon hara (unfavorable judgment) of His people, Israel, even from one as great as Eliyahu. Thus, HaShem gave Eliyahu longevity so that he would see for himself that the Jews always continued to honor the brit.
Eliyahu could not have foreseen leaders like Ezra the Scribe, who rebuilt the second Bet Ha’Mikdash and the Men of the Great Aseembly. Nor could he have foreseen the revolt of the Maccabim in the name of the Torah, or the Tannaic and Amoraic generations. Nor the hundreds of thousand of talmidei chachamim and millions of faithful "simple" Jews over the generations. He could not have foreseen the many faithful Jews whose last gasp of air in the gas chambers were used to utter Shema Yisrael. Nor could he have foreseen our great generation which stubbornly struggles to rebuild God’s Holy Land despite the impossible odds.
HaShem sent Eliyahu to see the extent to which Jewish fathers and mothers would sacrifice to have their sons carry on their bodies the sign of HaShem’s covenant with His holy people, a covenant which will never be abrogated.
But, indeed one can sympathize with Eliyahu, when the fruits of his labors to bring the Jewish people closer to HaShem seemingly failed, and in return for his efforts he was hunted down by the monarchy like a wild beast.
There are times when one sees the conduct and decisions of the government of Israel and wishes he could run off to Mount Sinai; which of course he cannot, because Menachem Begin gave away the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in 1978.
Now is one of those times.
The government gave to the Hizbullah murderous gang live terrorists in return for dead bodies. By doing so, the government has put into danger every Jewish soldier who might, God forbid, fall into the hands of any Arab group, because they know that Israel will pay "big" even for a dead soldier, so why go through the effort of keeping him alive.
Government spokesmen keep declaring that this was an act of high Jewish morality, to do all and pay all for even a dead body. However, the last entity to speak about what is Jewish or not, is the government.
This week’s parasha teaches us what Jewish morality is.
HaShem commands Moshe to send an army to utterly destroy the Midianite nation for using their daughters to entice Jewish men to sin.
No talks. No exchange of ideas. No negotiations. Just obliterate the Midianites- young and old.
Were it in my hands, I would have given Hizbullah one hour to return Ehud Goldwasser and Udi Regev, and the Hamas in Azza one hour to return Gilad Shalit, and if after 60 minutes they were not brought back, Lebanon and Azza would cease to be the home of even one Arab.
We who are still healthy and normal of the Jewish nation feel the great frustration of Eliyahu. But we must also adopt in our lives HaShem’s command to Eliyahu to return to life and continue the struggle to reach the goal that one day we shall be a "Kingdom of kohanim and a holy nation."
There are too many observant people who have given up the struggle and cry "Mashiach now", and many "secular" Jews who have no need of a Jewish homeland. And there are the Jews in chutz la’aretz (the Diaspora) who are irrelevant to the future of Judaism.
Then there are the people who form the various degrees of “Haredeism. Some view the Medina as being born like a badly handicapped child with no potential. Others view it as a child born out of wedlock. The more extreme Haredees view the Medina as a child born in sin, and the traitors who go off to Teheran view the Medina as a goyishe child.
The students of Eliyahu HaNavi are those who have studied the entire gamut of Jewish history and know that galut, even the sweetest of them, will bring eventual decay and death to our people.
The students of Eliyahu are those who see the Medina for what it really is: a beautiful, healthy and holy child, which must be nurtured and cared for until the time when its inner holy soul will become revealed. The governments of Israel are not the soul of its people. They are, at best, an embarrassment to our intelligence and our history. But they will go, and one day we will merit not only a nation of Jews but a "Jewish Nation."
Our sages enacted that at the Pessach seder each family pour a cup of wine for Eliyahu HaNavi. By this our rabbis are teaching us that the Torah of Moshe at Mount Sinai and the command of HaShem to Eliyahu at Mount Sinai never to give up, are at the heart of the covenant between HaShem and His people.
One who leaves the Torah, or one who is scrupulous in keeping its mitzvot, but escapes ones responsibility in bringing about the total renaissance of our people in Eretz Yisrael, has "forsaken Thy covenant".