Parashat Pinchas is always read just before or at the beginning of the summer mourning period. The Talmud says that Pinchas, the priest, and Elijah, the prophet and announcer of Mashiach, are the same person. It is as though G‑d is giving us the cure before the malady by telling us not to worry: if parashat Pinchas is being read, then Elijah is soon to arrive and announce Mashiach's arrival! What can we do to help this happen? First, we can learn from Pinchas' actions. He did not wait for Moses or any other great person of his generation to correct a wrong that angered G‑d. Without even considering the risk to himself, Pinchas hurled himself into action. Each of us must be a zealot for G‑d's honor like Pinchas. When no one else may be capable or willing to take charge (like when someone is drowning), each of us must see ourselves as being personally responsible and take action!

Later in the Torah reading, we see another example of taking initiative. Five sisters came with a claim to the leaders of their generation, a generation in which each person was on the level of a prophet. Their father died, leaving no male heir, and the portion of the Land that should be given to their branch of the family would consequently be given to another branch. These women said, "We care so much, why should we lose?" According to G‑d's response, Moses changes the system accordingly. By including this whole exchange as part of the Divine Scripture, the Torah makes these women into heroes.

In both situations G‑d on high responded to a claim made from below….

But there is another interesting point. The verse says that the sisters made their request standing before Moses, Elazar the priest, the tribal princes, and the whole congregation at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. (Num. 27:2) Rashi comments, "First before Moses and afterwards in front of Elazar? Is it possible that if Moses did not know, Elazar would?" Rabbi Yeshaya says, "No! We must switch the two expressions around - that they came to Moses last, after bringing their request to the all the other leaders listed in the verse; Aba Chanan, in the name of Rabbi Elazar, has an alternate explanation: These leaders were, in fact, all together in the study hall and the women stood in front of them at the same time with their request.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains how the story of the daughters of Tzelofchad is similar to the institution of Pesach Sheni (Second Passover - see Num. 9:1-14), which came about when Jews did not want to miss the opportunity to sacrifice the Pascal Lamb. In both cases the Jews were saying, "this is so important to us, why should we lose out?" In both situations G‑d on high responded to a claim made from below! (This is in contrast to Moses teaching G‑d's commands - the emphasis on receiving rather than initiating.)

These ideas are particularly pertinent today…it is not enough for us to sit and wait for the right moment….

Both events emphasize how much we can accomplish through our Torah study and mitzvah observance in this world, when we truly care. This also connects to the two different explanations of Rashi. "Switch the expressions" can also be read: "Switch the normal order of reality". Instead of G‑d being the initiator, these fundamental changes came from below, from people who understanding and sincerity led to their claim. The same can be said for the second explanation, that everyone was sitting in the study hall, again emphasizing the power of Torah study and self-initiative from below.

These ideas are particularly pertinent today. We did not create this world and its injustices. The Torah tells us not to sit passively while negative things go on around us. We can transform our environments. Most importantly, when great leaders have promised us that Mashiach's arrival is imminent, it is not enough for us to sit and wait for the right moment. It is in our power to initiate the coming redemption by insisting, through our thought, speech, and action that the current situation is not correct - we want to merit Mashiach now!

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

Copyright 2003 by, a project of Ascent of Safed (// All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.