Following excerpt from “Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1)”
by Rabbi Ari Kahn,
of Aish Jerusalem.
At the conclusion of last week’s Torah portion, we read about the act of Zimri and the response of Pinchas. The episode is described as follows:
And a man from the Children of Israel brought a Midianite woman in front of his brethren, in sight of Moses and the entire community, and they engaged in sexual intercourse in front of the Tent of Meeting. Pinchas, the son of Elazar, son of Aaron the Kohen, saw them. He arose from the community and took his spear with him. He approached the man of Israel by the tent and he pierced them both by the tent. The plague in Israel was stopped. (Numbers 25:6-8)
While the story was told last week, in Balak, certain elements about the episode are held in abeyance until this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Pinchas. Named for the protagonist of this episode, it informs us of the lineage of the perpetrators of the deed:
The name of the man of Israel who was killed, together with the Midianite woman, was Zimri son of Saluah, a prince from the tribe of Shimon. And the name of the Midianite woman killed was Kozbi, the daughter of Tzur, the head of the nation of Midian. (Numbers 25:14-15)
These were not simple people; both were aristocrats, from leading families of their respective tribes. Rashi points to this fact as an indication of the Midianite’s burning hatred for the Children of Israel — they were willing to send their own daughters into the fray.
The Targum (Yonatan, Yerushami) identifies Tzur with none other than Balak himself! His hatred was so profound that he was willing to prostitute his own daughter for the chance to corrupt the Jews in the process.
Following excerpts from “Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1) ”
by Rabbi Nosson Weisz,
of Aish Jerusalem.
“The laws of inheritance would have been written in the Torah through Moses even if the daughters of Zlafchad had not presented their petition, but since the daughters of Zlafchad were meritorious they were written through their agency… The proper punishment of one who desecrates the Shabbat, such as the Mekoshesh, would have been written in the Torah by Moses even if such an incident had never occurred, but since the Mekoshesh was guilty it was written through him – to teach you that benefit is awarded through the meritorious and harm through the guilty.” (Baba Batra 119a)
[The incident of the Mekoshesh is described in (Bamidbar 15:32-36). The Talmud (Shabbat 69b) debates which particular desecration of the Shabbat laws was involved. According to the Talmud, Moses knew that the desecrator was liable to the death penalty but he did not know which one. God informed him that he should be stoned. Thus the exact penalty for the desecration of the Shabbat was written in the Torah as a consequence of the transgression of the Mekoshesh.]
* * *
The connection between the daughters of Zlafchad and the Mekoshesh has deeper roots. Rabbi Akiva taught that the Mekoshesh was none other than Zlafchad himself (Sifri, Bamidbar, 15,32). Thus Zlafchad and his daughters were both responsible for laws being written in the Torah as a result of their activities. His daughters are described as having merited the honor, while Zlafchad is chastised for having brought it about through his guilt.
Nevertheless the family connection and distinction is glaringly obvious. The statement made regarding Zlafchad and his daughters – that something would have become Torah through Moses but was written down instead as a response to the activities of another – is rare indeed. There is no such statement about anyone else in any connection as far as the author knows. Zlafchad and his daughters share the distinction of being singled out from the rest of humanity as the only people in history who preempted Moses from serving as the human agent to deliver Torah law to the world. This unique connection between Zlafchad and his daughters is surely more than mere coincidence.
From the Orchards of Jerusalem,
reprinted with kind permission of:
by Daneal Weiner
opens with the zealousness of Pinchas which comes right after the end
of last weeks parsha which was…the zealousness of Pinchas?!? But before we get into that, I must preface this weeks vort with some preface-like words from Rav Wolfson.
Rav Wolfson wants it to be clear that Prince Zimri, whom Pinchas killed, was the very same Prince Shelumiel son of Tsurishadai who merited bringing a sacrifice at the inauguration of the Mishkan. To this day we do not say tachanun on the 5th of Nissan in celebration of his korban. His is certainly not a wicked man! Not even an average man. The point is that we can’t imagine the spiritual level that he was on nor the trials he had to endure. There is no question of what act was taking place, however, G-d forbid we should look at Zimri as just some womanizer.
Rav Wolfson speaks in the name of the Satmar Rav zt’l, Rav Yonatan Eibschitz zt’l, Rav Chaim Vital zt’l and other Torah giants, all who praise Shelumiel/Zimri. He actually had 4 names. Another is Shaul son of the Canaanitess. This means he was one of the 70 who went down to Egypt 250 years earlier! No, no average man. So we know what he did but we don’t know what he was doing. The aforementioned Rabbonim talk about it but, unfortunately, that’s beyond the scope of this paper. (Always wanted to say that.) Either that or I haven’t any of their sforim.
The same idea applies to all Israel of that generation. We know that they failed 10 tests but we won’t understand their actions until after the mashiach comes. I did get a hairs breadth worth of help from Rabbi Tatz who explains the word ‘midbar.’ The definition is desert. ie: sand, barren of life, dry heat. That’s fine for when we were 8 years old but what comes next? Every word in the Torah has 70 facets, even the word ‘midbar’. For kids over 8, Rabbi Tatz explains a ‘midbar’ is a place that is SPIRITUALLY barren of all holiness. There are no vacuums, so when the Kdusha isn’t there, you can bet your radon detector that tuma is. A midbar is a place devoid of all kedusha and filled with every type and force of tumah!
The clouds of glory weren’t just the worlds first sun block. They were like cells of healthy marrow transplanted into a cancerous environment. If we could barely pass a test of giving a begger a dollars with a smile, we are certainly in no position to cast aspersion on our ancestors tests in the ‘midbar’.
We will be talking about what Zimri did wrong but it has to be heard in context of who he was and where and when. With that in mind…
25:11 “Pinchas, the son of Elazar, the son of Aharon the priest…”
Rashi says this lineage was brought down because the people were taunting him saying, “The grandson of one who fattened pigs for worship had the gall to kill a prince of Israel?!?” Pinchas’ mother was a daughter of Yisro and Yisro was an idolater priest who had another name, Pituel, which means “fattens for god.” After Yisro heard about the Splitting of the Sea and the fight against Amaleik he converted to Judaism. His daughter (or granddaughter, according to some) gave birth to Pinchas!
Rav Shternbach explains that when it comes to newcomers to Judaism the general consensus is that they are religious fanatics. They always want to do those…mitzvah things. Not just what get’s learned through 8th grade. They take on extraneous stringencies. They pray like they’re talking to Someone. Just being plain Jewish isn’t good enough for them. Members of Israel were accusing Pinchas of hot headed zealousness he got from Yisro’s side of the family. Therefore the Torah comes to tells us that Pinchas is the son of Elazar, the son of Aharon! It was dad’s FFB (Frum From Birth) side that took action! A grandson of an ohaiv shalom v’rodaif shalom– a lover and chaser of peace, that was the trait of Pinchas which caused him to act! And we see, measure for measure Hashem rewarded him saying (25:10-12), “Pinchas…turned back My wrath…so I did not consume the Children of Israel in My vengeance…say [to Israel] I give him My covenant of peace.'”
The Chanukas HaTorah brings down an incredible medrish that says Hashem is giving Pinchas his eternal reward starting now! How could that be? Our Sages say there is no reward for mitsvos in this world because there CAN’T be. It’s a different currency. Our physical existence limits the soul. Our souls must experience the death of the body, part of the reparation process, before being able to receive true rewards. Granted, the more spirituality a person attains the less he is limited by the physical. Still, to start receiving actual mitsva reward, how is it possible?
There are an elite few who achieve such a state of spiritual perfection that even their physical bodies become spiritual! These people can go straight up to heaven and bypass the death process. The Gemorah lists nine such people (plus one honorable mention.) It would follow that this “by-passing” of death phase means these individuals are already connected to the eternity beyond death, even while alive in this world! Such a person is fit for the eternal rewards even in this world. The medrish Yalkut Shimoni tells us that Pinchas was Eliyahu HaNavi! Eliyahu HaNavi who did not die but road a fiery chariot up to heaven. If that’s who Pinchas was then he would be able to start collecting his rewards right now!
Rav Wolfson asks, how is his reward of peace measure for measure for the deed? We said above that Pinchas was a peace chaser and was rewarded with peace but what he DID was to kill Zimri and Cosby. How does the reward fit wit that action?
Psalm 106 says that it wasn’t the killing of Zimri and Cozbi that stopped the plague but that Pinchas prayed and the plague stopped. What plague? Moshe just told the judges to sentance anyone involved in idolatry. Next thing we know is an Israelite took an Midianitess and Pinchas stopped the plague!? Where did the plague come from?
Psalm 106:30 says, “Vaya’amod Pinchas vayifalel, vatayatsar hamagaifa.” ‘Vayifalel‘ is from tfila. Usually we see it ‘hispalel‘ which is the hispa’el verb form. It indicates an action for ones self. Shaving and showering are words in the hispa’el form. That’s why tfila is too. We are praying for ourselves. So does T’hilim use a simple verb form? Weren’t Pinchas’ prayers for himself as well for Klal Yisrael? Believe it or not, NO!
They ones dying in the plague were members of the tribe of Shimon who wanted to kill Pinchas for killing their Prince! That’s what and who the plague was about. It had nothing with Moshe and the sentencing of the idolators. And now we understand why Pinchas is ‘falel‘ing and not hispalel‘ing. Because he’s praying for people who want to kill him! The most selfless prayer in history. It’s for Pinchas’ selfless praying for the welfare of his fellow Jews at the expense of his own life that Hashem rewarded him, measure for measure, with eternal life.
Hashem gives Pinchas “brisi shalom“- My covenant of peace. Hashem indoctrinated Pinchas into the priesthood. If you look in the Torah, the letter vav in shalom is written broken. The break is a signal to say the vav shouldn’t be there. Shalom minus a vav is ‘shaleim‘- whole or complete. The Sha’arei Aharon brings the Gemorah Keddushin which uses this to learn out the law that a priest can not serve unless he is whole or complete (ie: not cripple nor any broken bones).
So why not leave the vav out all together? Many words are written chaser– missing the vav. The Sha’arei Aharon adds that although we know this letter should be a vav, what we HAVE is a yud with a dash of ink under it. The numeric equivalent for shin, lamed, YUD, mem is 380. Pinchas had 380 descendants serve in the Temples. Oh, they didn’t serve all together. There was a ‘break’ in the middle. 80 in the first Temple and 300 in the second.
25:14,15 “The name of the slain Israelite man who was slain with the Midianitess was Zimri son of Salu, Prince of Shimon. And the name of the slain Midianite woman was Cozbi, daughter of Tsur…” As we said above, we heard this at the end of last weeks Parsha. Not exactly, though. The first time, all we know is that its a Jewish man, a shiksa and a sin. Now we get names. But it reiterates the event, that he was slain WITH her. Clarification or repetition? Here is how the Arvei Nachal pieces together his explanation:
Anybody ever learn the Gemorah about the beating in the grave? The Gemorah says that an angel comes to us in the grave and asks, “Excuse me ol’ chap, could you tell me your name?” If the deceased was a wicked man then he won’t remember his name and the angel will start beating him. If he is a rasha– wicked then why doesn’t the angel just come down swinging? Why ask for a name? Why doesn’t the rasha know his own name? Are all angels British? All good questions.
Lets start with answering another question. What is in a name? Everything is. Our name is our DNA. Everyone on earth has a specific purpose to help perfect the world. Each has his/her job to do. So our name is our G-dly purpose. Our name is why we are alive! Going a step further, our name is also our umbilical cord to Heaven. Since we our here for His purpose, and since our name is that purpose, our name is also our pipeline for sustenance. The more mitsvos a person does, the more he fulfills his purpose, the bigger, wider, greater his cord to heaven. This makes one capable of receiving more Divine providence. But as one sins, the name/cord shrinks, shrivels, dries up. Pretty soon a letter drops off. Then another. Eventually, a rasha kills himself when he erases his own name. He has disconnected his own cord.
There is another Gemorah that says a rasha, even while approaching the gates of Gehenom, doesn’t do tshuva! Those who’ve spent a lifetime rationalizing and justifying their wickedness still can’t see the falsehood. It’s been ingrained even into their very souls. “What’d I do? It’s dog eat dog! Everyone does it! I got him before he got me! It’s just business!!!” The only way to impress upon these poor souls that they are wicked is to let them know they did themselves in. “Excuse me mate, could you tell me your name?” When they can’t, it makes the point. Also, now see that
some angels are from down under.
Another piece of the Arvei Nachal’s answer is to know that atonement from death has two parts. Judgment and mercy. How much judgment was enacted by the death and how much more will Hashem meifully let it atone for. A death sentence by the Beis Din– Jewish court (any sentence for that matter) is an atonement for the sin. Death at the hand of a zealot is equal to death at the hands of Beis Din. Jewish laws of zealousy are very specific. The relevant one is that the zealot has to strike at the very moment of the crime. A second early or late and the zealot is nothing but a murderer who could be sentenced to death himself. Now we have all the pieces of the Arvei Nachal’s answer.
In last weeks parsha, the enormity of the sin of Zimri, even though he lead a righteous life, made it his final sin. It left him and Cosbi nameless in Heaven and, likewise, nameless in the parsha. They were cut off. Their time was up! But they didn’t die ‘naturally’, accidentally or as victims of murder. Along came the zealot Pinchas and, as this weeks parsha points out, “…the slain Israelite man who was slain with the Midianitess…” Pinchas struck at the right moment. His act was zealousy and not murder. He was the hand of the Beis Din. “The name… was Zimri son of Salu, Prince of Shimon. And the name of the slain Midianite woman was Cozbi…” Along with their execution was a complete atonement for their sins! Their names are reinstated!
GRRRRRRRREAT dvar Torah!!! (The delivery wasn’t too bad either.)
27:17 (Moshe is praying to Hashem for a successor to lead Israel) “…who will go out before them and come in before them, who shall take them out and bring them in.” If the leader is already ‘out before them‘ then why the repetition of ‘taking out and bringing in‘?
The Gemorah Sanhedrin says that in the end of days the leaders of the generation will have the face of a dog. Rabbi Yisroel Salant explains: What happens when you walk a dog? He runs out in front of you to the length of the leash and periodically he will look back to make sure that HE is heading the right way. If he feels the rope tug and looks back and sees you turning he will quickly change direction and again run out in front. So who is doing the leading?
I once called my Jewish State Senator’s office to lodge a complaint. He was written up in an article as trying to do something not Torah sanctioned. The staff member I was speaking to told me that this isn’t the Senator’s official position. He is still waiting to see where public opinion is. I tried to explain that when a society drags itselfdown, I would want a leader who will stand on his own morals. The response was “that may be your opinion but the 10 other voters on your block may think differently.” How wise our Sages are. It wasn’t enough for Moshe to pray that his successor is out in front but that he is, in fact, doing the leading.
Which leads us right into a the end. Shabbat Shalom.
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