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PINCHAS-HOW HEROS LIVE AND DIE

Friday, 10 July, 2015 - 1:05 pm

FOR PINCHAS

 

HOW HEROS LIVE AND DIE

 

Do you have a hero, or multiple heroes? A person to whom you can look up for encouragement, for emulation, or to aspire to follow in his or her ways?

 

Some look up to those who have had to overcome overwhelming, even unimaginable challenges and obstacles, in order to survive. Some have not merely survived, but have thrived.

 

Others are prone to look up to a parent, a teacher, or a friend, who has invested time and effort to promote and encourage the person, setting him or her up to succeed in life.

 

Still others will look up at a person who has harnessed a talent, and has achieved celebrity status as a result. A sports figure, a musician, an accomplished author, and so forth.

 

Another type of hero is a person who sets him or herself to a worthwhile project, and continues to persevere despite ongoing negative outcomes. It is possible that the person may never succeed in pushing through, yet, the person is regarded a hero due to yeoman and non-pessimistic efforts. Not all people who battle terrible odds, like diseases and other maladies, are successful. Their efforts, however, are not lost on those around them. They become a source of inspiration and motivation.

 

And such is also Moses, who, due to seemingly overlooked occurrences in the Torah, emerges as an extraordinary hero.

 

It all begins with the famous story of the Almighty instructing Moses to produce water from the dried-up miraculous source. He was to talk to the rock and command it to produce water. Moses, famously, hit the rock to produce the water. He was subsequently told that this act of non-compliance will have kept him from crossing the Jordan River into the Holy Land. (Bamidbar (Numbers) 20: 7-13.)

 

In this week’s Torah portion, “Pinchas,” Moses in instructed to die. In the Torah’s words: “Ascend here, up the Avarim mountains, and look at the land which I have given to the children of Israel. When you have seen it, you will be gathered to your people (you will die), just as Aaaron your brother was gathered, because you disobeyed My command… to sanctify Me with the water.” (27:12-14.)

 

It seems to be a straight forward instruction to Moses: Go up and see the Holy Land (because he would not be allowed physical entry), and then he will die on the mountain – which is precisely what eventually occurred.

 

Moses then requests that the Almighty appoint an appropriate successor to lead the Jewish people from here and on. Joshua is the man chosen for this mission.

 

Moses, though, does not die here. He continues to be alive and well.

 

This week’s portion is the forty-first portion of the Torah. Moses will not die until the final portion, the fifty-fourth portion!

 

Instead, the Torah presents a steady litany of commands for Moses to die, which, as mentioned, will not occur until the final portion. In next week’s portion, for example, the Torah states: “G-d spoke to Moses saying, ‘Take revenge against the Midianites for the children of Israel. After that, you will be gathered to your people.’” (31:1-2.) The war ends, and still Moses does not die.

 

Later, early in the Torah’s fifth book (its forty-fifth portion), the Torah records Moses as saying: “For I will die in this land, and will not cross the Jordan River. You, however, will cross, and you will take possession of this good land.” (4:22.)

 

And so it goes. The Torah references the death of Moses numerous times – more than ten times! – but Moses continues to live on.

 

The question begs to be asked: Why spend so much time on a matter that does not materialize until much later? Could the Torah not have left the discussion of Moses’ death until the time he actually dies?

 

Moses understood the importance and sanctity of the Holy Land very well. He was there, at the Burning Bush, when the Almighty mapped out the future of the Jewish people: They would leave Egypt, they would receive the Torah on that very mountain, and they would be led into the Promised Land of Milk and Honey. And Moses was present during the numerous times that the Almighty continued His promise to bring the people to the Land. Moses himself extolls the virtues of the Land multiple times in the Torah’s fifth book.

 

Accordingly, Moses desperately desired to enter the Land, and experience all of its great virtues. According to the sages of the Midrash, Moses figured that it should not be too difficult for him to reverse the ban. After all, he had managed to reverse many decrees and negativity threatened by the Almighty against the Jewish people for far worse crimes than hitting the rock instead of talking to it.

 

But it was not meant to be. The Almighty would not reverse this ban. Moses, indeed, never entered the Land.

 

Yet, Moses never stopped trying. Until the last minute, Moses continued to pray, to plead and to beg. He tried everything, pulling out no stops. He truly wished to experience all the great and hallowed experiences available exclusively in the Land.

 

The Torah, for this reason, continues to bring up Moses’ death, because Moses continued to push for his death not to happen, so he could enter the Land.

 

Moses was ultimately unsuccessful in reversing the ban, but he never stopped trying.

 

It is this heroic behavior which the Torah is promoting, beginning with this Torah portion: One should never give up the struggle for a sacred and divine cause.

 

A hero can be an extraordinarily gifted person, or a regular person who has accomplished extraordinary feats. In every case, a hero is one who, despite the odds, keeps at it, inspiring all those around him or her, and even generations to come.

 

 

SUMMARY: A hero is a person who, despite the odds, will not give up. In addition to inspiring those around the hero, the hero can inspire future generations

 

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