May 25, 2024
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Rav Chizkiyahu Mishkovsky, shlita, a prolific educator and talmid chacham, is mashgiach ruchani of Yeshiva Gaon Yaakov and the menahel of Yeshiva Orchos Torah in Bnei Brak. Part of the leadership of Chinuch Atzmai, he was a dedicated talmid and trusted confidant of Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, zt”l.

One Erev Rosh Chodesh, in response to a particularly challenging time for the Jewish community, Rav Mishkovsky’s wife, Rebbetzin Chaya, joined a special Yom Kippur Katan service at a local shul in Bnei Brak, where women gathered for a day of tefillah. There, she met the tzaddeikes, Rebbetzin Tamar Shteinman, a”h, the wife of the gadol hador. After the powerful davening had concluded, Rebbetzin Tamar turned to her younger counterpart, and in a voice wavering with emotion exclaimed, “Do you see how many tears were shed here today? This shul was filled with brokenheartedness … tzaros upon tzaros … There are so many struggling and waiting for a yeshua, a salvation!”

Carrying the heavy burden of people’s pain, suffering and hardships, Rebbetzin Shteinman was barely able to maintain her composure. “All of us here are pleading with Hashem, davening from the bottom of our hearts for a million different things — safety, health, shidduchim, shalom bayis and parnassa … Oy! But if only we had some seichel! If only we asked for the one yeshua that will bring all the others with it! If only we truly understood that all of our tzaros will cease with the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash and the coming of Moshiach!”

Our sedra recounts the holy zealotry of Pinchas. Facing a deadly plague afflicting Klal Yisrael in which thousands died, the righteous leader rose up, took action and saved the nation from suffering. David Hamelech sang a praise in tribute to the heroism of Pinchas:

”וַיַּכְעִיסוּ בְּמַעַלְלֵיהֶם וַתִּפְרָץ־בָּם מַגֵּפָה: וַיַּעֲמֹד פִּינְחָס וַיְפַלֵּל וַתֵּעָצַר הַמַּגֵּפָה:“

“They provoked (God) with their deeds, and a plague broke out among them.

Pinchas stood up and executed justice, and the plague was stopped.”

(Tehillim, 106:29-30)

In Gemara Sanhedrin (44a), Rebbi Elazar notes that it doesn’t say “vayitpallel —and (Pinchas) prayed,” rather, “vayefallel —and he executed judgment.” And this teaches “פלילות עם קונו” that he entered into a judgment together with his Creator. When casting Zimri and Cozbi down, Pinchas thus addressed God: “Ribbono Shel Olam! Was it not because of these sinners that 24,000 members of the Jewish People fell?”

Rebbe Mendel of Vitebsk, zt”l, resonates with Rebbi Elazar’s insight: in seeing the suffering of the nation, Pinchas was pained by the “tzaar haShechinah — the fallen state of Hashem’s honor.” His motivation was “קנאת ה׳ — Divine zealousness” in intense empathy and oneness with the Creator. When Klal Yisrael suffers, Hashem’s Presence suffers, so-to-speak. This is intolerable to a tzaddik — as it ought to be for any feeling and believing Jew, as well.

Based on Tehillim 8:6, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches: כל מה שחסר לאדם, הן ברוחני הן בגשמי“ — החסרון הוא בהשכינה Everything that a person lacks is actually a lack (of wholeness) in the Shechinah …”“ בודאי יהיה לו צער גדול ועצבות — Surely, realizing this fact will be a great pain and bitterness …” “כי המלך בעצמו מספר לי החסרון שלו —for the King Himself has divulged to me his own sense of lack!” (Likutei Moharan, 89).

Surely, sensing the pain of the Shechinah will make one yearn greatly for Her Wellbeing and motivate a radical action: “עֵת לַעֲשׂוֹת לַיהוָה הֵפֵרוּ תּוֹרָתֶךָ —It is a time to act for Hashem, for they have violated Your teaching (Tehillim, 119:126).” Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato (Mesilas Yesharim, 19) describes this fierce empathetic yearning and active response as an essential element in our individual spiritual development and national identity. As the Zohar teaches, “איזהו חסיד המתחסד עם קונו, Who is a chasid, a pious one? One who does kindness, is mitchased, with their Maker …”

“… Behold, such a chasid, besides the service which he does in performing mitzvos with the proper intent, will certainly feel actual pain over the exile and the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, because these cause ‘a מיעוט — a diminishment,’ so to speak, of Hashem’s honor. He will long for the Redemption, because then the honor of God will be exalted … He will always pray for the Redemption of Israel and the return of Hashem’s honor …”

”ואם יאמר אדם מי אני ומה אני ספון שאתפלל על גלות ועל ירושלים וכו’, המפני תפלתי יכנסו הגליות ותצמח הישועה? תשובתו בצדו, כאותה ששנינו (סנהדרין ל”ח): לפיכך נברא אדם יחידי כדי שכל אחד יאמר בשבילי נברא העולם, וכבר נחת רוח הוא לפניו יתברך שיהיו בניו מבקשים ומתפללים על זאת, ואף שלא תעשה בקשתם מפני שלא הגיע הזמן או מאיזה טעם שיהיה, הנה הם עשו את שלהם והקב”ה שמח בזה.“

“… One might say: ‘Who am I, and what importance am I, that I should pray about the exile and Jerusalem? Will the exiles be gathered and the salvation sprout because of my prayers?’ But the answer to his question is obvious, as we have learned: “The human being was created alone so that each person should say, ‘For my sake the world was created.’ (Sanhedrin, 37a). It brings gratification to God that His children desire and pray for this. And even though their request may not be fulfilled, whether because the proper time has not yet come or for some other reason, nevertheless, they have done their part and HaKadosh Baruch Hu rejoices in this!”

Indeed, if only we would believe in our prayers and our ability to actively effect change and bring about the Redemption … and to “bring” wholeness and joy to the Divine Presence in this world.


Rav Judah Mischel is executive director of Camp HASC, the Hebrew Academy for Special Children. He is the mashpiah of OU-NCSY, founder of Tzama Nafshi and the author of “Baderech: Along the Path of Teshuva.” Rav Judah lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh with his wife, Ora, and their family.

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