Pearls of Rashi – Pinchos

In this week’s Torah portion, Pinchos, Hashem commands us to[1] “Distress the Midianites, and smite them.” The Torah continues by telling us that the reason for this is[2] “for they distressed you with their plots which they contrived against you in the incident of Pe’or …” Pe’or was an idol. The Midianites tempted the Jews to become involved with this form of idolatry in order to see to it that Hashem would punish them. Just what was the service of the Pe’or? Why was it called by this unusual name? Rashi tells us that it was[3] “because they bared (Po’er) themselves before it and relieved themselves. This was the manner of its worship.”

This requires an explanation. How is it possible to tempt Jews to perform such a lowly act? How could the Jews have been persuaded to worship an idol in such a degrading manner?

This can be better explained by understanding the deeper explanation of Pe’or. The Alter Rebbe explains that all physical pleasures are derived from the “waste products” of the supernal angels[4]. When a person eats food, it animates and strengthens him. In other words, the person is receiving from the food. If he eats the food for the sake of Heaven, i.e. in order to have strength to serve Hashem, he elevates the food[5]. In other words, he does not merely receive from the food which he eats; he is adding something to it as well. However, if he is eating just in order to satisfy his earthly desires, he is only a recipient of the food. That which he receives comes from the waste of heavenly angels.

This is the deeper, mystical concept behind serving the Pe’or. It is benefitting from this world purely to satisfy one’s bodily pleasures. In that case, it is as if he is serving and bowing down to the angel’s waste.

Whenever we make use of the bounty of this world, we must keep in mind that Hashem gave it to us for a reason. Hashem wants us to benefit from it; but we must keep in mind to use it in order to serve Him. We need to eat, drink and sleep with the intention of having the energy to serve Hashem. Even the time we use during the summer to relax and exercise, must be done in order to enable us to serve G-d with a healthy body and in a relaxed state of mind.

Wishing one and all a good Shabbos! May we merit the time of the complete and true redemption which will begin an eternal Shabbos!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 28, Page 157-164

Mr. Sholom Moshe Hacohen
ben Reb Shlomo Meir Hacohen ע”ה Cohen
Passed away Shabbos Parshas Beshalach, 13 Shevat, 5779
May His Soul be bound in the Eternal Bond of Life
* * *
לעילוי נשמת
ר’ שלום משה הכהן בן ר’ שלמה מאיר הכהן ע”ה כהן
נפטר ש”ק פ’ בשלח, י”ג שבט, ה’תשע”ט
ת. נ. צ. ב. ה.
יו”ל ע”י בני משפחתו שיחיו

[1]. Our Parshah, Bamidbar 25:17.

[2]. Our Parshah, Bamidbar 25:18.

[3]. Parshas Balak, Bamidbar 25:3.

[4]. See Likkutei Torah Parshas Shelach, 46, d. See also the sources which are cited there.

[5]. See Tanya Chapter 7.

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