Torah Portion of the Week: PINCHAS
In this week’s parasha, we learn that the perpetrators who died were both distinguished people, whose names were Zimri the son of Salu, a prince of the tribe of Simeon, and Cozbi the daughter of Tzur, one of the leaders of Midian.
In the opening verses of parashat Pinchas, God informs Moses that Pinchas, the son of Elazar, the son of Aaron the priest, will be rewarded for turning back G-d’s wrath from upon the Children of Israel. We learn that only because of Pinchas, did G-d not destroy the Children of Israel in His vengeance.
In Numbers 25:12-13 the Torah then declares, לָכֵן אֱמֹר, הִנְנִי נֹתֵן לוֹ אֶת בְּרִיתִי שָׁלוֹם. וְהָיְתָה לּוֹ וּלְזַרְעוֹ אַחֲרָיו, בְּרִית כְּהֻנַּת עוֹלָם, תַּחַת אֲשֶׁר קִנֵּא לֵא־לֹקָיו, וַיְכַפֵּר עַל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל , Therefore, say: “Behold! I give him My covenant of peace. And it shall be for him, and his offspring after him, a covenant of eternal priesthood, because he took vengeance for his G-d and he atoned for the Children of Israel.
Similarly, with King David. Had King David been allowed to build the Temple, the Temple, because of David’s exalted status, would have lasted forever. But, the world was not ready for the eternal Temple. But when it will be ready, it will be King David and his descendant, the Messiah, who will build it. Although David was surely worthy of building the Temple, the world was not yet worthy.
Reb Chaim distinguishes between the true zealot, whose actions are intended to honor God, and who has the best interests of society at heart, and the false zealot, who is motivated by self-righteous and fanatical belief. Reb Chaim explains that while both housewives and cats hate mice, the former hates having to kill them and hopes never to see any, whereas the cat eagerly awaits catching more mice.
Reb Chaim further explains that the difference between the two is evident in their attitudes toward violence. The truly pious person agonizes when, after all options have been exhausted, they feel they must resort to violence. The person motivated by false zeal secretly celebrates having to do so.
Killing was the last thing that Pinchas wanted to do. He was brokenhearted over the fact that he had no other recourse. His primary intention was to bring sanctity to the camp of Israel and to save the people from the plague that had already killed 24,000 people. It is in this merit that God gave him the בְּרִית כְּהֻנַּת עוֹלָם , the everlasting covenant of the priesthood. Shabbat Shalom