ELIJA -PROPHET OF THE BRIT Â
Parashat PinhasÂ It
is common for a Rabbi to find himself tight-roping a fine line. Standing up for whatâ€™s important, without stepping on people’s toes. Values and principles are no less important than peopleâ€™s feelings, causing somewhat of a paradox. Sometimes, the job of the Rabbi is to put his foot down, but even then, to try, as much as possible, not to step on anyone’s pride. The way to do this is first to validate the good in the person, and, only then, mention what needs to be altered in his behavior. It takes creativity and wisdom, patience and respect to be that leader standing firm on important principles, while guarding every individual’s honor.
In this weekâ€™s parasha, Pinhas avenged the sanctity of G-dâ€™s Name. He put his life on the line. He put himself under the scrutiny of the masses, as he unsheathed his hidden sword and assassinated the great and elderly Prince of the Tribe of Shimon, during Zimri’s immoral act. After consulting his rabbi, Moshe Rabbeinu, he avenged the immoral sin, and his zealousness stopped the plague that was taking its toll on the Nation. G-d richly rewarded Pinchas for his action. He became a Kohen, his Evil Inclination was taken from him, he merited immortality and he was given a new name: Eliyahu Hanavi. The Torah packs all these blessings into two words: Briti Shalom, a covenant of peace. All this for standing up for what is important, in the proper way.
In the times of the Prophets (Melachim A, 19;10), Eliyahu Hanavi was frustrated from having rebuked the people, but to no avail. He said to G-d, I avenged your vengeanceâ€¦, for the Sons of Israel have forsaken your Brit, your covenant,â€¦ The midrash tells us that G-d responded: The Jews did not forsake My covenant, my Brit. They circumcise their children. Because you have uttered these words, erroneouslyÂ standing up and accusing them of having stopped performing a Brit Milah, you will need an atonement. From now on, you will go to every Brit Milah and testify that they keep the Brit. Eliyahu replied that since his nature is to avenge, sitting amongst sinners is too much for him to endure. “Maybe the father of the baby has sinned, and it will be difficult for me to be next to him.” G-d answered, “I will cleanse the fatherâ€™s sins.” Eliyahu said, “Maybe the Sandak or the Mohel has sinned.” G-d answered, “I will cleanse their sins, as well.” Eliyahu continued. “Maybe those attending the Brit will be sinners.” G-dÂ answered, “I will forgive all those who attend the Brit Milah.” For this reason, there is a Kisseh Shel Eliyahu, a chair of Eliyahu, at every Brit. Eliyahu attends every Milah in every generation, to testify to the good things that even sinners do. And, at every Brit we go to, G-d forgives our sins.
It is important to have the right outlook about wrongdoers. The Talmud tells us that the great Rabbi Abba Hilkyaâ€™s wifeâ€™s prayers for rain during drought were answered before his own. Rabbi Abba Hilkya explained that he prayed that the sinners perish, while she prayed that they repent. (Ta’anit 23b) Praying for the sinners to repent makes the righteous even more righteous.
The Talmud teaches that, Eliyahu will merit bringing the good tidings of the Final Redemption the day before it occurs. I believe that Eliyahu was given this great honor because finding the good in the people, while bringing them closer to G-d, is what will bring about the Final Redemption. Speedily in our days, Amen.