Torah Fax

Friday, July 22, 2005 - 15 Tammuz, 5765
Torah Reading: Pinchas (Numbers 25:10 - 30:1)
Candle Lighting time: 8:02 PM
Shabbat ends: 9:08 PM
Pirkei Avot: Chap. 6
Sunrise, Sunset
In most parts of the Torah, the dialogue between G‑d and Moses consists of G‑d addressing Moses and telling him what he should say to the Jewish people. Occasionally, Moses pleads with G‑d or asks Him for guidance in obscure areas of Jewish law. In this week's parsha, however, we find Moses, more or less, suggesting/telling G‑d what He ought to do.
Moses says to G‑d: "Let G‑d appoint a leader over the congregation." To this request of Moses G‑d replied, "Before you demand that I act for My sons, demand that My sons act for Me". G‑d then proceeds to tell Moses about the need for the Jewish nation to bring a daily sacrifice in the Temple.
The question arises how the demand of Israel to bring daily sacrifices is an appropriate response to Moses' request for a leader who would take the people into Israel after his passing.
The following answer is an adaptation of an explanation given in the Chassidic work, Shem Mishmuel. The daily sacrifice was offered on behalf of every Jew. Moreover, every Jew personally participated in the daily offering by virtue of his contribution of a half-shekel every year. The combined shekalim funded the daily sacrifice. This implies that the daily sacrifice was a symbol that all of Israel had one unified practice and one unified purpose.
G‑d's response to Moses was thus: A leader is not a magician who with the wave of a magic wand can unite and lead the people. The leader needs the cooperation of his people. All of the people, despite their different interests and levels, must possess, at least, one cause that they share equally. Even if we cannot agree on anything else, we must find one central issue and cause that unites us. And at that point, the people are ready for a true leader, who takes the solitary unifying element and capitalizes on it and renders it the fuel that energizes the people in all other areas of life.
This explanation, however, begs another question. Granted that the daily sacrifice was the unifying element that made them candidates for a genuine leader, why was there a need for two daily sacrifices?
Perhaps we can offer the following thought: The two daily offerings were brought in the morning and in the afternoon; the time of the sun rising and setting, respectively.  For unity to be effective it must be consistent. There are two times when our unity is tested. When our national fortune is on the rise, there is always a danger that each of us will go his or her merry way, in pursuit of the better life. In times of crises, when the sun seems to be setting, we often find it to be easier to unite. The morning daily sacrifice that united us in the hours of the sun rising was the response to that challenge. 
Conversely, when our national fortune is on the wane, and things seem to be deteriorating, it can also test our unity, just as marriages are often threatened in times of crisis. The afternoon daily sacrifice addresses that issue. Unity is needed and must be pursued in times of the sun setting as well.
We are presently living in paradoxical times. Our sun is rising and setting simultaneously. The Jewish people have risen from the ashes of Auschwitz, reclaimed their ancestral land and made the desert bloom. The same is true for the Jews in the Diaspora. Never before have Jews enjoyed as much freedom, prosperity and acceptance in the Western world.
Yet, the Jewish Homeland, the Land of Israel, has never before been threatened with terrorism and the prospects of Iran procuring nuclear weapons like today. Israel is also facing unprecedented international isolation and de-legitimization. Radical Islam with its anti-Jewish obsession is quickly spreading throughout Europe and indeed the entire world.
We have thus been given a double challenge: Our sun is rising and setting. It is rising because we are on the threshold of a new age, which we have been anticipating for thousands of years - the Messianic Age. Our sun is also setting, precisely because the forces of evil recognize they are soon to be vanquished and thrust into obsolescence. This is their last stand.
As we await the imminent arrival of the ultimate Jewish leader, the Moshiach, we must learn the lesson G‑d gave Moses: When you are ready to accept a true leader, you must offer the daily sacrifice-the "unity rite"-in the paradoxical time of the sun rising and setting. Our mission is to meet this dual challenge unique to our day and age by finding ways of uniting in spite of the differences that we cannot currently resolve.
Moshiach Matters
To ease the birth pangs of Moshiach, every individual should learn as much as possible. Each person is duty-bound to set aside time for daily study, which he should uphold unfailingly, never missing a day. (The Chofetz Chaim on Awaiting Moshiach)
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