Saturday 11th July 2020 19th Tamuz 5780
PARASHAT PINCHAS by Rav Yehuda HaKohen (with additions)
Numbers 25:10 – 30:1; Jeremiah 1:1 – 2:3; John 2:13-22
A true pursuer of peace/completeness is one who identifies the obstacles to HaShem’s ideal for this world and works passionately to remove them.
Fearing Israel’s Divine protection, Moav and Midian followed Bilaam’s advice. They sent their women to entice the Hebrew tribes toward sexually promiscuous and idolatrous behavior that would betray Israel’s values and sever our connection to the Kadosh Barukh Hu (the Holy One).
The women were successful, primarily with the tribe of Shimon, and a plague broke out in the Hebrew encampment that ultimately claimed 24,000 lives.
The foreign women did not merely succeed in promoting immoral behavior within Israel but also in spreading seductive ideas that legitimized human weaknesses and challenged the Torah objective of strengthening man to be in control of his own desires.
An ideological conflict arose between those enticed by a worldview focused on the wants of the individual and those primarily concerned with the moral and spiritual health of the Hebrew collective.
When Shimon’s tribal chief Zimri son of Salu attempted to challenge Moshe by publicly fornicating with the Midianite Princess Kozbi, Pinḥas son of Elazar killed Zimri and Kozbi in a zealous act that ended the plague and saved Israel from further harm.
“HaShem spoke to Moshe, saying: Pinḥas son of Elazar son of Aharon HaKohen, turned back My wrath from upon the Children of Israel, when he zealously avenged My vengeance among them, so I did not consume the Children of Israel in My vengeance. Therefore, say: Behold! I give him My Brit Shalom (covenant of peace/completeness). And it shall be for him and his offspring after him a covenant of eternal kehuna (priesthood), because he took vengeance for his G-D, and he atoned for the Children of Israel.” (Bamidbar 25:10-13)
A true Rodef Shalom (pursuer of peace/completeness) is one who identifies the obstacles to HaShem’s Ideal for this world and works to remove them in order to bring history closer to its Divine goal. Pinḥas was awarded the Brit Shalom (covenant of peace), for challenging and overcoming evil. Moshe was then instructed Pinḥas to complete the task he had begun with the killing of Zimri and Kozbi, by leading Israel’s holy war of vengeance against Midian.
Pinḥas received more than elevation to the kehuna for his zealous act. He was also awarded everlasting life and a central, albeit often behind-the-scenes, role in the story of Israel until the final redemption.
“My covenant was with him, life and Shalom; I gave these to him for the sake of the fear with which he feared Me, for he was in awe of My Name.” (Malachi 2:5)
Pinḥas continued to appear as Israel’s Kohen Gadol Ihigh priest) and a prominent national leader throughout the generations. Following the conquest of Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) under Yehoshua’s (Joshua’s) leadership, Pinḥas prevented a civil war between the tribes east and west of the Jordan River (Yehoshua 22:13-34). Just as he had made peace between Israel and the Kadosh Barukh Hu, he also achieved peace between the Hebrew tribes.
But over two hundred years later, a significant event occurred in Pinḥas’s life that appears to have diminished his role.
The tragic incident surrounding Jephthah’s vow and the fate of his daughter (Judges 11:30-31, 34-40) was partially attributed to Pinḥas’s unwillingness to show honor to Jephthah. As the Kohel Gadol, he could have annulled Jephthah’s vow, but would not diminish his own position by approaching a less-than-perfect national leader who he believed should come to him.
“Was not Pinḥas the Kohel Gadol around to overturn the vow? Yes, but Pinḥas said: ‘He needs me. Why should I go to him?’ And Yiftaḥ also said: ‘I am the leader of Israel. Why should I go to Pinḥas?’ And between the two of them, the girl was lost. This is why Pinḥas was punished, and his Holy Spirit and gift of prophecy taken from him. As the verse in Divrei HaYamim I (9:20) states: ‘Hashem had been with him.’” (B’reishit Rabbah 60:3)
For the next two centuries, Pinḥas seems completely absent from the major national events surrounding Shmuel, Shaul, David and Solomon. He played no visible role in the splitting of the Hebrew Kingdom or in the subsequent conflicts that erupted between rival kings.
Whereas this story about zealotry is mystifying at many levels – for how can someone be rewarded with a covenant of peace and the eternal priesthood, for committing a double homicide …..? Yet, our God desires that no one should perish but that all should come to the knowledge of truth. And, simultaneously, our God is jealous for the restoration of the sanctity of His great name and reputation (Ezekiel 36).
We who confess Yeshua as our Lord and Messiah are not required to commit a homicide in order to demonstrate our commitment to and zeal for Him, but we are commanded to be willing to lay down our lives for another human being.
"This is My commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this: that he lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.
There are three Greek words for life in the new covenant:
1. bios (biology) – natural life
2. zoe (zoology) – divine life; the life of the Spirit, and
3. psuche (psychology) – our will, our rights
We are commanded to be willing to lay down our will and our rights for the sake of another (being right is the booby prize of life). When we do this, we are operating in the spirit of Pinchas.
Furthermore, when we practice Kiddush HaShem - to sanctify God’s great Name and reputation – we are walking in the spirit of Pinchas. We do so bt walking as children of light and guarding our tongues, for our words can be words of life or of death. These seem mundane tasks but they are of great import.
This is a word of God for the generation of redemption. Ephesians 5 – ‘the days are evil …. Therefore be filled with the Spirit..”.