The legendary rosh yeshiva and author, Rav Shimshon Pincus, zt”l, was a talmid chacham, ba’al avodah and tzaddik, who served as Chief Rabbi in the Negev city of Ofakim with self-sacrifice and love.
A talmid of Rav Pincus suffered from an acute dental condition. Numerous infections had caused him to lose teeth and painful gum inflammation. Not wanting to trouble anyone, the young married man — an avreich in Ofakim — tried to hide his condition and downplayed the perpetual discomfort he was experiencing.
One day, his wife approached Rav Pincus and shared her husband’s suffering with the rav. He was unable to chew and was in such pain that he could barely sleep. Exhausted and racked with pain, he was losing weight dangerously. Without hesitation, Rav Pincus excused himself and returned a few minutes later with several thousand shekel. He then spent some time making phone calls to various contacts to help the avreich’s wife find an oral surgeon who could help.
The Pincus family lived very modestly and the incident took place at a particularly difficult time with regard to their parnasa. A friend of the avreich who was aware of the situation asked the rav how he could give away such a large sum of money when he himself was struggling to cover his growing family’s needs.
Rav Pincus looked quizzically at the talmid for a moment, and replied with a wide smile and a wave of his hand. “This avreich can’t sleep! He can’t eat … Tell me, if it was my son, and he needed emergency dental work, would you understand the expense? What’s the difference if it’s my son, your son or the Ribbono Shel Olam’s son?”
“And Bilam rose in the morning and saddled his donkey …” (Bamidbar 22:21)
Our parsha describes how Balak, the king of Moav, contracts the evil prophet, the respected and powerful sorcerer Bilam, to curse Am Yisrael. Rashi points out an important lesson in the alacrity with which Bilam responds to the invitation: “From here, we learn that hate causes a disregard for the standard of dignified conduct, for Bilam saddled his donkey by himself.” As a result of his intense, irrational hatred of Jews, Bilam didn’t wait for his servants, and rushed to saddle his donkey on his own —relishing the opportunity to embark on this mission to cause harm to Am Yisrael.
Rashi continues by juxtaposing Bilam’s actions with Avraham Avinu’s, at the Akeidah: “Hakadosh Baruch Hu said (to Bilam), ‘Rasha, wicked one! Their father, Avraham, has already preceded you,’ as the pasuk says: ‘Avraham arose in the morning and saddled his donkey (Bereishit 22:3).’”
When Avraham Avinu rose early in the morning, eager and prepared to fulfill Hashem’s will at the Akeidah, he was “alacritous to perform the commandment.” This, the Gemara explains (Sanhedrin 105b, Rashi), is an example of how “love negates the standard conduct of those of prominence.” In this case, Avraham Avinu’s passionate dedication and love for Hashem negated his normal conduct, and he rushed to bind his son on an altar.
This coming week begins the period of bein hametzarim, when our focus intensifies on making a tikkun for the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash. It is a time for us to consider our dedication to both our brothers and sisters, as well as our passion and fervor in mitzvah observance. Perhaps, it is a time as well for us “l’kalkeil shura — to break the rules of conduct” in our ahavat Yisrael and go beyond our typical standards of giving and doing on behalf of others.
May we learn from the opposite examples of Balak, and lehavdil, Avraham Avinu — as well as the holy actions of Rav Pincus, zt”l — and may we do whatever it takes to help others and fulfill Hashem’s will.
Rabbi Judah Mischel is executive director of Camp HASC, and mashpiah of OU-NCSY. He is a member of Mizrachi’s Speakers Bureau ( www.mizrachi.org/speakers ).