Parashas Pinchas

The Midrash expounds (Bamidbar Rabbah 21:3):
Just as the Holy One Blessed Be He involves Himself in the praise of the righteous, to publicize them within the world, so, too, He involves Himself with the denigration of the wicked, to publicize them within the world. He publicized Pinchas with praise, and Zimri with denigration. Regarding them both it is written (Mishlei 10:7): “The remembrance of the righteous shall be for a blessing, while the name of the wicked shall rot.”
The Torah presents, along with the laws that govern our lives, a number of stories about events in the lives of various prominent people. It describes the successes of righteous people such as Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, and Yosef. And it describes the downfall of wicked people such Korach and Zimri. Both the stories about the righteous and the stories about the wicked help motivate us to do good and avoid evil, and Hashem therefore saw fit to include both types of stories in the Torah. There is, however, an essential difference between the two types of stories, which is hinted at in the verse from Mishlei with which the Midrash concludes. The Maggid brings out this difference with a parable.
An aging merchant decided to take his son on a business trip, as a step toward readying him to take over his business. In preparation for the journey, the young man’s mother packed him a suitcase with clothes for various types of weather and a large quantity of delicious home-cooked food. While packing the suitcase, she remembered that her son would occasionally come down with a certain illness, and she therefore also included a vial of medicine for treating the illness in case of need. When she finished packing, she called her son over and showed him all the items in the suitcase. She described the food at length, and gave him an enthusiastic blessing that he should eat heartily and enjoy. She also pointed out the vial of medicine, and said: “I put your medicine here, if you need it.” She did not give him a blessing after showing him the medicine like the one she gave him after showing him the food, urging him to use it – she hoped he would stay healthy and be able to leave the medicine alone, rather than get sick and need to use it.
Similarly, Hashem packed the Torah with the supplies we need for our journey through life. He included stories about the successes of the righteous, in order that we savor these stories and yearn to follow in the footsteps of the people they tell about. He also included stories about the downfall of the wicked, to cure us if we fall ill and feel a desire to commit similar evil deeds. Hashem wants us to focus on the glorious tales of the righteous – to take a large helping of them, reviewing them again and again. In parallel, He hopes that we only rarely fall ill and need to take in the unfortunate tales of the wicked. The remembrance of the righteous should be for a blessing – it should enter our hearts in great measure and well up inside us. But the name of the wicked should rot – the unfortunate tales of the wicked should, so to speak, rot away out of lack of use.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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