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The Blessing of Embarrassment

Topic: Well Being | Posted:July 8, 2015

The portion Pinchas is unique in that usually every portion tells a story, or a few stories, from beginning to end. However, this story begins in last week’s portion - the actual action of Pinchas killing Zimri and Cozbi occurred in last week’s portion - and picks up in the middle of the story in this week’s portion.

We know that all of the portions, as we have them divided, were set by the Creator and given to Moses. So why is this the one portion in the Torah where the story is cut off at the end of last week’s and picks up in this week’s? It is not a coincidence. The action of Pinchas last week is what merited the great blessing, the achievement of the level of Immortality that he receives on this Shabbat; the Creator speaks to Moses in this week’s portion and says, "Because of the action that Pinchas has done, I give him My Covenant of Peace."

Rashi explains, and it’s from the Midrash, from the Talmud, that in the beginning of this week’s portion everybody was not only making fun of Pinchas, but they were embarrassing him, despising him, and were actively showing contempt for him. The life of Pinchas did not get any better after his great action. As a matter of fact, it got a lot worse.

So, what does that have to do with this week’s portion? The answer is simple, and it’s a powerful lesson that I hope we both understand and accept. The action that Pinchas did would not have brought him immortality. This is because there are two aspects to how much Light any action reveals. One is the action itself, its quality and quantity. And the second is the embarrassment that it brings.

Had everybody clapped and been happy with the action Pinchas did, he would have gotten great blessings. He probably would have gotten the priesthood. However, he would not have gotten immortality; because you cannot receive that great blessing unless you are despised or embarrassed to some degree because of the action.

We asked the question, why did the story get cut off in the middle? Because the story was over in last week’s portion. Pinchas did a great action, he was going to get blessings… but certainly not good enough for immortality. Certainly not good enough to be Elijah the Prophet, who will bring about the End of the Correction. The only person, or people, who can merit their actions bringing to them the Light of the Final Redemption, is a person who is both willing to, and actively receives, embarrassment for their actions, their spiritual work, and their spiritual path.

There is a story about one of Rav Ashlag’s students who was a well-known rabbi from a well-known family in Jerusalem at the time. Once, because people were very upset at Rav Ashlag teaching, they grabbed this rabbi in the middle of the street and shaved off, I believe, half of his beard. He went to Rav Ashlag, and was all shaken up, as one can imagine. He was both physically assaulted and completely embarrassed. And Rav Ashlag told this student that he had no idea how much Light he has received now. He told him that chances were that even if Rav Ashlag could teach him for the next hundred years, the student would still not receive the Light that he had just received from being so embarrassed.

Rav Ashlag understood the secret of this portion - that you cannot be in the process of bringing the End of the Correction if you are not being embarrassed by the work that you are doing. That idea is foreign to so many of us. We are doing the work, and we get upset if we do not get the standing ovation for all the good that we are doing. But we need to start understanding that the only way our work can actually bring the Light and blessings that it is meant to is if we get embarrassed by it. The only way to merit our work revealing Light is by being able to be embarrassed about it - both the smallest things and the greatest things.

If you want an action to reveal Light, ask yourself this question before you do it: Am I willing to do this action and be completely ridiculed by one person, or many people, because of it? If the answer is no, then, yes - you will receive some Light - but not the ultimate Light.

The action that Pinchas did was only the lesser part; the greater part was in this portion of Pinchas, when they started making fun of him. Then he received the complete connection to the Light of the Creator. And that is the blessing we can receive on this Shabbat, at least a piece of it - to taste it, to be able to be part of bringing the End of the Correction. But the only way we can merit that is if we are willing to let everybody make fun of us all day and all night. And on this Shabbat of Pinchas, may we truly merit understanding, accepting, and living this, and through that, receive the great blessing of this Shabbat - the great blessing of Immortality.

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