אלה הדברים — These are the words...
So begins Moshe’s last powerful and heartfelt message to his beloved people prior to his final departure.
An enigmatic Midrash states the following:
If one wants to fathom [the concept of the notion that] Pinchos is Eliyahu, one should see [these words] אלה הדברים — These are the words.
The Second Rebbe of Modzitz, Rav Shaul Yedidya Elazar Taub, offers a fascinating interpretation of this cryptic statement. (ישא ברכה)
The Holy Arizal taught that each of the Jewish months correspond to specific limbs of our body. The months of Tamuz and Av match with the right and left eye respectively.
In Eichah we recite how, על אלה — Over these things I weep; עיני עיני — my eyes run with water... (איכה א טז)
The tearful tragedies all began on the seventeenth of Tamuz, when we worshipped the Golden Calf and compelled Moshe to break the Tablets. In Av, our weeping continued with the Sin of the Spies and the ‘tears for naught’, that has not yet ceased because of the destruction of both Temples and all the suffering we have endured, nationally and personally, in this seemingly endless exile that is embodied within those two events.
Our tearful right eye aligns with Tamuz, and the left eye with Av. Our eyes are still running with water.
When the people miscalculated Moshe’s delay, thinking he had died, Aharon sought a tactic to delay their rebellion until Moshe’s return. He summoned their gold ornaments and cast it into a fire, but due to the intercession of the Eiruv Rav, a golden calf emerged, and they declared defiantly in unison, אלה אלהיך — This is your god, O Israel..., initiating the sequence of events that led to the breaking of the Tablets.
On the night of the ninth of Av the spies returned from their ‘mission’ seeding dissent with their slanderous report, inciting panic among the people and causeless weeping. On that very night it was decreed that G-d would give ‘worthwhile’ reason to cry in future generations, until this sin of the spies would be fully rectified.
The Talmud asserts that everybody violates אבק לשון הרע — the [traces] dust of lashon hara — slander. ((ב"ב קסה.
The first letters of this unrequited sin spell out א-ל-ה.
These two major sins, that we are still encumbered with, are both thus specifically and appropriately alluded to in the אלה הדברים of Moshe’s reproach to the nation.
The saintly Bnei Yisasschar reveals that the numerical value of פינחס אליהו equals 260 the equivalent of עין — eye, twice, representing both eyes. [עין = 130 x 2 = 260]
Pinchas, who tradition teaches is also Eliyahu, the one who will herald the final redemption from these sins, personifies the perfection of our ‘two eyes’ that will correct those two flaws, and will finally wipe away the tears that obstruct our unfettered perception of the Divine Presence in our lives.
The Rebbe goes onto state that there are two views of G-d that instill cognizance of His involvement in our lives. The יראת העונש — fear of punishment, and יראת הרוממות — awe of His loftiness.
With these two aspects of awareness, we can overcome the deficiencies we inherited from our ancestors in rectifying the past and attaining redemption.
The Rebbe does not elaborate how exactly one accomplishes this.
May I humbly suggest an understanding and application of this mission.
The Arizal adds that the right eye is the eye of חסד — kindness, and the left the eye the one of גבורה — strength.
Perhaps this translates as one eye perceiving the ‘bigger picture’, the understanding that there is much more going on than the specific item or situation we are focused on.
The eye of strength is the one of ‘discernment’, the one that seeks to delve into fathoming the details and depth of what one is observing.
When we faced the frightening absence of our devoted leader Moshe, we panicked and suddenly lapsed in our awareness of G-d’s greatness, benevolence and constant presence and devotion to us. The Satan played on our doubts and depicted in our minds an image of Moshe in his bier.
The awe of G-d’s sublimity should have eclipsed the instinctive fear that ensued. We failed in seeing the greater role of G-d in our lives who time and again throughout history has shown us His unfailing devotion to us.
During the episode of the spies, we lapsed in standing up to the challenge, and instead cowered with feelings of inadequacy and retreated. The fear of punishment is not intended to scare us into service as a ‘crack of the whip’. It is precisely because G-d is counting on us that He informs of how much power, talent, and responsibility we possess to perfect the world and bring it to its pristine state. We can do it and make a difference, otherwise there could be no consequence.
Pinchos/Eliyahu never forgot that lesson.
With a clear sense of awe in G-d’s greatness and benevolence, coupled to an awareness of the faith G-d has in us to carry out His will effectively in the world, there was nothing that could hold Pinchos/Eliyahu back from taking on whatever challenge they faced. Never would they forget G-d’s presence, nor would they doubt their mission.
When we talk about the need for שמירת עינים — guarding our eyes, we often think only in terms of the inappropriate images and the danger of temptation to sin. But it much more profound than that.
G-d endowed us with windows — our eyes, by which to see Him in every encounter in life orchestrated from on high. Everything we see beckons a response. At times to step up and assist, at times to run the other way. But as the Baal Shem Tov taught there is a lesson to be learned from each experience. When we seek to place our windows facing the wrong direction, we are abusing the remarkable gift of sight for that which it isn’t intended for. If we by chance see an improper sight, it was intended perhaps to awaken us to be more vigilant, as the Talmud states if one sees the episode of an adulterous wife being adversely affected by the drinking of the Sotah water one should disavow oneself from wine, the catalyst of lessened vigilance and sin.
Perhaps that is precisely why Pinchos was deserving of being the one to quash the flagrant violation of decency of Zimri publicly ravishing Kozbi, because as the Talmud reports, ראה מעשה ונזכר הלכה — he observed an incident and remembered the law. It wasn’t simply his power of recollection but rather his sterling character that ‘framed’ everything and discerning what G-d exactly is summoning him to.
As we will sit on the floor once again to ponder the difficulties, we each face that are part of the consequence and challenge of galus, may we open both eyes and see G-d in each encounter and respond to the call in the spirit of our ancestors who never failed to rise to their challenges with confidence and faith.
In that merit we shall soon see, unobscured, the fulfillment of the prophecy of Yeshayahu, עין בעין — eye to eye they shall see when the Lord returns to Zion. (ישעיה נב ח)
צבי יהודה טייכמאן