Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1)From Mundane to Magnificent

This week we learn about the laws of inheritance; it’s taught here because of five incredible women, who were the daughters of Tzelafchad. Here’s the claim they presented to Moses.Our father died in the desert. He was not among the members of Korach’s faction, who protested against G-d, but he died because of his own sin and he died without leaving any sons. Why should our father’s name be disadvantaged in his family merely because he did not have a son? Give us a portion of the land along with our father’s brothers.Moses brought their claim close to G-d.  (Numbers 27:1-5)Why does the Torah tell us that Moses brought their claim close to G-d?  One might suggest that Moses was not able to answer the question on his own and therefore needed Heavenly consultation, but that wouldn’t explain why their claim had to be brought closeto G-d. The verse could have stated that Moses brought their claim “before G-d” or that he “asked G-d;” what does “close to G-d” teach us?One of the greatest attributes of a Jewish leader is to view the actions and requests of the flock in a spiritual way. Moses did not view the request of the five daughters as merely monetary or territorial, rather he viewed it as a spiritual. Therefore, he brought their claim close to G-d. He understood they were not asking for a cushiony real estate related arrangement but rather as a spiritual quest to have their father’s inheritance perpetuated through a share in the Holy Land of Israel.How do we know if Moses was correct in his assessment?  G-d Himself ultimately corroborates Moses speculation when He says The daughters of Tzelafchad speak properly (ibid. v. 7).An authentic Jewish leader observes a situation or request in a unique way. (S)He seeks to find spirituality in the action or mission, and if it isn’t present, (s)he makes the minor adjustments necessary to make sure that otherwise mundane actions become raised, and even holy. Two stories illustrate this idea.A newly appointed Chassidic Rebbi came to pay homage to Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky (1891-1985), an elderly Lithuanian Torah sage. Along with the Rebbi came a significant group of his Chassidim, who clung to him and were very curious to experience this first encounter between the newly crowned Chassidic leader and the renowned Lithuanian sage.They piled into the house and when began to push toward the front of the table, Rav Kamenetzky, who was accustomed to orderly conduct, asked that the Chassidim be seated. He told them that they could get folding chairs in the basement.One by one, each of the Chasidim brought up a chair, unfolded it, and sat down. After watching this scene repeat itself, Rav Kamenetzky could not contain himself.  He said, “When somebody carries a chair from the basement and then sits on it, he’s simply a shlepper, but if he brings a chair for someone else, then he becomes elevated. Instead of being a shlepper,  you can become kindhearted men who are helping one another! The exact same action can transform you from being a chair-shlepper into holy person, one willing to do an act of kindness for his friend!  The Chofetz Chaim (1839-1933) was once traveling with his son-in-law, Rav Tzvi Hirsch Levinson (1863-1921), in a taxi. When they arrived, his son in law took out his wallet and paid the driver; the Chofetz Chaim sighed. When asked why, he explained that there is a Mitzvah in the Torah to pay a worker on time (see Deuteronomy 24:15). Every time a person has this in mind (before paying), (s)he fulfills a Mitzvah. His son in law simply took out the money and paid, the same way that everyone else in the world does, but had he stopped for a moment and thought about the opportunity to fulfill a Mitzvah, he would not have lost this opportunity to transform a mundane act, a simple payment, and turn it into something significant-or perhaps, magnificent.We have a chance every day to transform every day acts into Mitzvot. We can eat breakfast the way billions of people do and simply put the food into our mouths or we can think that we are eating to sustain ourselves for the important tasks (Mitzvot) we have today such as working for a living, caring for children, helping people, or engaging in Torah study. We do many Mitzvot in the course of a day and wouldn’t be able to do them without eating. If we think of this every time we eat, we transform the mundane act of eating into a Mitzvah.Similar scenarios to the story above about the taxi driver happen to us regularly. When a service professional finishes a job, instead of just paying him, think that you are doing it to fulfill the Mitzvah of paying a worker on time. I once mentioned to a Jewish appliance repairman that he has a special opportunity every time he fixes a washing machine. He should think of it as doing an act of kindness; the fact that he receives compensation doesn’t detract from the wonderful deed he has done. Imagine how annoying it would be not to have a washer, dryer, refrigerator, or any of the other appliances on which we depend daily; think of how much stress it would causes. Every time he makes a repair, he helps to make that family’s life run smoothly and with less stress.Sometimes I am asked, “how can I be more spiritual” or “how can I lift myself out of the slump of daily living?” One way to answer this question is to make people aware of how many opportunities they have each day to transform a mundane act into a Mitzvah. The opportunities are there if we spend time thinking about them.What seemingly mundane action, something you do every day, are you willing to transform into something magnificent. Each of us has the ability to lead a life that’s more meaningful than just plain old utility.       Good Shabbos
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 Good Shabbos
Rabbi Oppenheim
Charlotte Torah Center