Pieces of Peace: Parshas Pinchas

1 07 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com class by Mrs. Shira Smiles

As reward for his zealous execution of Zimri, Pinchas is granted a covenant of peace with Hashem, thereby conferring priestly status to Pinchas and his descendants. That peace be offered in recognition of violence seems incongruous. Seeing as
a priest who murders forfeits his privilege to bless the people and serve in the Temple, appointing Pinchas to become a priest is confounding.

To resolve this conflict, we examine both the sequence of events and the motivation of Pinchas. First, this was not a rash act of violence. When Pinchas witnessed Zimri’s brazenness, he remembered what the halacha, Jewish law, dictated: When a Jew sins with a non-Jewish woman in front of at least ten people, a zealot should kill him. But since Moshe himself had not taken action, Pinchas ran to him to verify the law. Only after Moshe’s confirmation did Pinchas pick up a spear and implement the prescribed procedure. After God’s honor was upheld within the parameters of halacha, His anger was appeased and the plague ended.

Now let us analyze Pinchas’ motivation. We have already determined that Pinchas was not motivated by the negative emotions of anger or pride, but overwhelming love for Hashem, and His nation. He could not bear to see the name of Hashem dishonored, nor could he bear to see the suffering of his people. In fact, the S’forno says, his compassion for Bnei Yisroel was greater than his sense of Heavenly justice, and Tehillim tells us that Pinchas prayed for Bnei Yisroel at this time. His intention was pure, to stop the plague and restore the peace and harmony that his grandfather Aharon was renowned for. This is the Torah paradigm of a zealot.

A mitzvah performed selflessly, atones for many sins, even those of others. It creates a bond of love between the doer, Hashem, Bnei Yisroel and all of creation. It was this altruism that brought about the end of the plague. Pinchas understood that if this mitzvah presented itself to him he must fulfill it, even though it was against his natural inclinations. He picked up the spear, and relied on Hashem to help him. In the census that followed this plague, Hashem affirms the actions and motivation of Pinchas by joining His name to the tribes of Bnei Yisroel – Each family and tribe is named with a “Heh” at the beginning and a “Yud” at the end, “Horeuveini,” “Hashimoni”. Hashem
again brought us close to Him through the atonement generated by the pure motivation of Pinchas’ action.

In his love of Hashem and Bnei Yisroel, Pinchas mirrored his grandfather Aharon’s traits. The Torah records the joy with which Aharon went to meet his brother even though he knew Moshe was chosen to lead Bnei Yisroel out of Egypt. Aharon’s love for Hashem precluded any jealousy toward Moshe. Aharon’s reward was the Priesthood. Appropriately, Pinchas too merited the priesthood for his demonstration
of love.

True love of Hashem means loving all people, as when each of us carrys out His will, His Name becomes more glorified. It precludes feeling jealous of another’s accomplishment. There was much Torah study in the Temple era, and many acts of gemilat chassadim, kindness. Yet, each begrudged the other his accomplishment. This was not love of Hashem, but love of self, fear of one’s own honor being diminished, and lead to sin’as chinom, the unwarranted hatred that brought about the destruction of the Temple.

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