7 FOR 70
July 12, 2017
Rabbi H. Greenberg in #1076, Parsha Thought, Pinchas, Yom Tov


Jewish Holidays come in their prescribed times; Passover in the spring, Sukkos in the fall. The way the Jewish calendar is set up, Pesach can never occur in any other season than the spring. Although we follow a lunar calendar in which a year has 11 days fewer than a solar year, we add a leap month 7 times in a 19-year cycle to compensate for the disparity. In this way, Holidays always occur in the same season.

Chassidus teaches us that a Holiday is like a generator; it generates holiness, light and inspiration for the rest of the year until the next Holiday comes around.

However, these Holidays, fixed in their seasons, also have “satellite” Holidays at other times of the year, which allow us to receive the Holiday’s inspiration during other times of the year as well. These are the Sabbaths in which the Torah readings include discussions of the Festivals. One of them is this week’s Parsha, entitled Pinchas. It is one of the Torah portions which discuss the sacrifices offered in each of the Holidays.

The Festival of Sukkos, discussed in this week’s Parsha, has a distinction that over its seven days the number of sacrifices varied and declined day by day. The changes of the numbers of sacrifices, the Talmud states, indicates that each day of the Festival is a separate Holiday and deserves to be acknowledged as such. Whereas on Passover we only recite the complete Hallel (psalms of praise for the miracles G-d wrought, said on all festive Holidays) on the opening day(s) of the Holiday (first day in Israel and the first two days in the Diaspora), we recite the complete Hallel on all seven days of Sukkos. Each day expresses another distinctive festive experience.

One can ask what significance is there in bringing a declining number of sacrifices each day, that justifies designating each day a new Holiday and warrants recitation of the complete Hallel?

If it were the reverse progression, that each day required additional sacrifices, that would understandably enhance the status of each successive day. But, why get excited about the fact that we’re going downhill?

Logic dictates that the first day, when they offered the largest amount of sacrifices, should be regarded as a major holiday. But each successive day seems to be spiritually inferior to the day before it. Why celebrate decline?


It is interesting to note that we find a similar pattern with respect to the lighting of the Menorah on Chanukah. The School of Hillel maintains that one should light one candle the first night and add a candle each successive night, so that on the eighth night we light eight candles. The rationale for this is that in matters of holiness we always ascend and increase; never descend and decrease. Yet, the School of Shammai, who are generally stricter, maintains that one should light eight candles the first night and continue in declining order each successive night.

The Talmud explains that the School of Shammai’s view is based on the pattern of Sukkos where the sacrifices were offered in declining order.

We must now try to understand, why we would want to bring the light of Chanukah into the world in declining and diminishing order.


The Talmud tells us that the total tally of sacrifices over Sukkos was 70 bullocks corresponding to the 70 nations of the world. On the first day of Sukkos they would offer 13 bullocks, the second day 12, ending with seven on the seventh day.

The significance of the descending order, our Sages tell us, is that it represents the diminution of the power of these 70 nations. This relates to the Midrash that describes the status of the Jewish people, historically, vis-à-vis the other nations, as a lone sheep surrounded by 70 wolves. These 70 wolves that threaten the existence and spirituality of the Jewish people lose their power as a result of the diminishing order of the 70 offerings during the festival of Sukkos.

However, there is another Midrash that seems to suggest the very opposite. “If the nations of the world only knew how much they benefitted from the Holy Temple (as a result of these 70 sacrifices offered on their behalf) they would have surrounded the Temple with legions of soldiers to protect it.”

Which is it? Are the 70 sacrifices intended to lend support and power to the 70 nations for which they are expected to be grateful, or do these 70 sacrifices come to diminish their power?

The answer is that these two objectives are one and the same.


The Jewish people were chosen to serve as a light to the nations of the world. Even when the Jewish people were situated in the Land of Israel, far from having direct contact with other nations except for occasional battles with their neighbors, they nevertheless had the power to generate spiritual light that emanated to the entire world.

In the days of King Solomon, when the Beis HaMikdash was built and Jewish power and prestige was at its peak, an unprecedented amount of G-dly light shone on the nations of the world.

When the Temple was destroyed and the Jewish people dispersed throughout the world, we continued to be a light to the nations. The Judaic credo of ethical Monotheism actually influenced and informed other religions that took much of our values and beliefs, albeit watered down, and adapted and often distorted them. Nevertheless, there are some core values that our presence among the nations helped to spread that have changed the world for better.

We all know that Judaism is not and never was a proselytizing religion. G-d does not want or need all of humanity to convert to Judaism. However, the Torah does require that the nations of the world adhere to the Seven Noachide Commandants. Indeed, according to Maimonides, every Jew has an obligation to influence non-Jews to follow the Noachide Code.

If we had lived up to the standards expected of us in the Land of Israel and the Temple had not been destroyed, we would never have needed to go into exile to affect the rest of humanity. The holiness generated in the Temple had the power to reach every far-flung corner of the world.

But because we chose to resist the light of the Temple and drifted into idolatry and other sins during the First Temple era, the Temple was destroyed. We were compelled to spread out to the far corners of the globe to accomplish the same thing that we could have accomplished in Israel.

While our prayers ascribe our exile to our sins, the truth is that exile is not a punishment; it is “merely” transference of our mission from exercising indirect influence over the world to requiring direct contact with the world we were commissioned to refine and elevate.

Thus, when the Temple stood, the offering of the Sukkos sacrifices radiated outward to the nations of the world and removed some of the negative elements within them. The declining number of sacrifices on this Holiday brought about a commensurate decline of the negative forces of the world. In doing so, the nations of the world were actually strengthened by becoming more refined.

The same is true of Chanukah. The diminished number of candles each night, according to the School of Shammai, is due to our success in removing the darkness the first night. The world has become more refined and the next night requires less light.


With the destruction of the Temple, and the absence of the 70 sacrifices, how do we accomplish the refinement of the Nations of the world?

There are actually several approaches:

First, the Rebbe taught, based on Maimonides’ ruling, that when we come in contact with a non-Jew, we should make an effort to expose the non-Jew to the role he or she plays in preparing the world for Moshiach by observing the civilizing Divine Noachide code.

As a result of the Rebbe’s encouragement in this direction, many non-Jews have embraced the Noachide way of life.

Second, by observing the Festival of Sukkos, with its prayers, Torah readings and other Mitzvos, this holiday has the effect, even in times of exile, to positively influence the nations of the world.

Third, on this Shabbos, the reading of the abovementioned 70 sacrifices empowers us to reduce the negative energies associated with the 70 nations.


This effort is actually the way we prepare for the Messianic Age, when the entire world will recognize one G-d.

Now we can see why Maimonides prefaces the discussion of the Messianic Age with the laws concerning the seven Noachide commandants. He meant to teach us that we pave the way for the Messianic Age by influencing people to observe the Seven Noachide Commandments.


All lessons of the Torah can be applied on both a macro scale and micro scale.

What was said before about the refinement of the 70 nations can also be understood in terms of self-refinement.

Each of us possesses a micro version of the 70 nations. These are the seven emotional traits of our Animal Soul, with each trait broken into ten sub-traits; representing the most complete expression of our emotional makeup, which defines our character.

In preparation for the Messianic Age, (hinted in the very name of the Parsha “Pinchas,” whom our Sages say is Elijah the Prophet, the one who announces the coming of Moshiach) we must work on refining our own internal “U.N.”, that is to say our own “70 wolves.” The light that emanates from the refinement of our own 70 emotions will spread to the entire world and finally bring an end to darkness, with the imminent arrival of Moshiach and the true and complete Redemption!

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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