Pearls of Rashi: Parshas Pinchos

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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 idol worship to see to it that Hashem would punish them. Just what was the service of the Pe’or? What is the source of 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?

We can understand this by first understanding the more profound explanation of Pe’or. The Alter Rebbe explains that all physical pleasures stem 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 diet. If he eats the menu for the sake of Heaven, i.e., to have the 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 merely eating 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 more profound, 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 to serve Him. We need to eat, drink, and sleep to have the energy to serve Hashem. We must even use the time during the summer when we relax and exercise to enable us to serve G-d with a healthy body and in a relaxed state of mind.

I wish one and all a good Shabbos! May we merit the time of the complete and the true redemption, which will mark the beginning of an eternal Shabbos!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 28, Page 157-164

מוקדש לזכות כ”ק אדמו”ר נשיא דורנו מליובאוויטש

חיילי “צבאות השם” חיים ועדן עודד שיחיו מאריס
נדפס ע”י הוריהם
הרה”ת ר’ מנחם מענדל וזוגתו מרת חי’ מושקא שיחיו מאריס

[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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