Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz points out that the Mishna in Avos encourages us to be “Like a talmid of Aharon: Love peace and pursue it, love everyone and bring them close to torah. If these are the defining character traits of Aharon, and indeed what we would expect the behavior of all Kohanim to reflect, how did Pinchas in his zeal, reach the level and be zocheh to receive the Kehuna for his actions? Where do we see the love identified with the middos of a Kohein in the killing of Zimri?
He answers that we see in the pasuk that the torah emphasizes that Aharon was a direct descendant of Aharon, implying that he more than anyone else possessed these middos. How then do we resolve this seeming contradiction?
The actions of Zimri and shevet Shimon did not just warrant “punishment”. The shevatim were on the verge of going in a bad direction and needed tough love to get them back on track. Only someone with love for every jew could do it. Had anyone else done it, (even moshe!) it might have seemed like an action done out of anger, revenge or the like. Only someone with the middos of a Kohein, who loves all and purses peace could act in such a way and educate the masses properly. (Perhaps this explains why shevet Levi always seems to take the tougher stand when necessary throughout history, given their middos only they can do it without being suspect of ulterior motives).
As parents and mechanchim, we must remember this lesson. Not only are we sometimes required to act with “tough love” but more likely than not we are the only ones in our children’s and students’ lives in a position to do it and have it received properly. How often do we fear this route because we don’t want to anger them, “turn them off” or the like (which are certainly important issues to consider, though this does not patur us, just obligates us to figure out how best to do it). Children themselves know this, though they have trouble putting it into words and will even deny it. The people in a person’s life who really care the ones who have expectations, who are willing to be tough for their sake, to do what’s difficult, make the tough call, etc.
An important thing to remember before a long summer vacation. We can and should remind our children, it is because we love them we are scared for them. It is because we believe in them that we have expectations of them and sometimes get disappointed. It is because we care that we will make the tough decisions and guide them. And it is because of all this that when others turn on them or are not there for them, we will always be there for them.
Shabbat Shalom, Have a great Shabbos and a great summer!
Ari Deutscher MSW