Torah Fax

Friday, July 9, 2004 - 20 Tammuz, 5764

Torah Reading:Pinchas (Numbers 25:10 - 30:1)
Candle Lighting Time:  8:10 PM
Shabbat Ends: 9:18 PM

Divided We Stand 

At the end of last week's Torah portion, the Torah recounted how Pinchas, a grandson of Aaron the High Priest, committed the ultimate act of zealotry: he killed a Jewish leader, Zimri, and the Midianite princess with whom he was consorting. Pinchas' act was not a reaction against one blatant sin, it occurred in the midst of a national tragedy. On Bilaam's advice, Moabite women were sent into the Jewish camp to seduce them into immorality. As a consequence of this degeneration, a plague ensued, killing thousands. It was against this backdrop that Pinchas took action against the most visible perpetrators. Our Parshah opens by saying that, as a reward for his zealotry, he was blessed with a "covenant of peace."

Commentators question the unusual division of the Pinchas story. The actual narrative regarding Pinchas' zealotry is recorded in last week's Parshah of Balak. However, the culmination of the story, in which G‑d promises Pinchas a great reward for what he did, is discussed in this week's Parshah. What is the significance of dividing Pinchas' story in two?

It is also noteworthy that our Parshah does not begin by merely saying that Pinchas received a great reward. It opens by offering his lineage: Pinchas the son of Elazar the son of Aaron the Kohen - implying that we haven't heard of this person before and that he needs a proper introduction. It is almost as if the Torah wants to discuss two separate "Pinchases," or two aspects of Pinchas' personality. The Pinchas of this week's Parshah is not the same Pinchas as last week's, and therefore he needs a new introduction, genealogy and all.

One explanation for this division of the story - and of Pinchas himself - is the need to separate the trait of zealousness from the blessing of peace, that - in this case - Pinchas' zealotry brought about. If the Torah had concluded the Parshah of Balak with the reward Pinchas received for his act of necessary cruelty, we would have mainly remembered Pinchas for his vengeance, and his reward would have been viewed with less importance.

True, zealousness can be a positive trait, but we don’t raise our children with the notion that they have to eradicate every trace of evil in the world. Fighting evil is a necessary measure to ensure the security and preservation of good in our midst, but it has no intrinsic value.

Indeed, even when we discuss fighting evil, it is rarely to be taken in the literal sense. When the Rebbe introduced Tzivos Hashem, G‑d's Army, a dynamic youth group geared towards teaching children Jewish values, he emphasized that though we are soldiers - and we may actually need to battle our Evil Inclination from time to time - we only do so with spiritual weapons, Torah and Mitzvos. The Rebbe said that in this army, the Army of G‑d, there would be no mention of, or connection to, actual weapons.

Pinchas' reward of a covenant of peace is discussed in a separate Parshah in order to give it its own spotlight. We need to emphasize to our children the positive and constructive values of Judaism. A covenant is usually defined as something that is permanent. Similarly, the positive values of Judaism will endure forever, whereas the need to battle negativity will cease with the advent of Moshiach when our "swords will be beaten into plowshares."

By dividing Pinchas' tale in two, the Torah wishes to teach a crucial lesson. Notwithstanding the need for zealousness, it was not that act that characterized Pinchas, and it was not in that state of being that Pinchas had a Parshah named after him. The Torah separates that act and shows Pinchas this week as a lover of peace, a descendant of Aaron who is famous for his love of peace and brotherhood. That is his true legacy.

It should also be noted that the by accentuating Pinchas' connection with peace, the Torah wishes to show that his killing of Zimri was not motivated by hatred - and certainly not by a latent affinity to violence, G‑d forbid - but rather was a necessary act that was an expression of his deep love for his fellow Jew. That passion, that intense love for the Jewish people, is what the Torah wants us to learn from Pinchas. If, on a very rare occasion, that love must be preserved through necessary violence, so be it - but the violence in and of itself is not of primary importance; it is the welfare of our fellow that must concern us.

The lesson for us is clear. Even thousands of years ago, the Torah wished to separate Pinchas from the violent act he committed, teaching us the need to minimize violence as much as possible - as necessary as it may be in certain instances. The Torah wanted to teach us the need to emphasize the preeminence of goodness and peace. This holds true even more so in our day, when we stand on the threshold of the Redemption. As we prepare for the arrival of Moshiach - a time of true peace and harmony - we must accentuate the need to pursue peace and goodness with the greatest effort, helping to minimize the last vestiges of evil from our society.

Moshiach Matters

The Prophet Hoshea said, "And the children of Judah and Israel will gather together and appoint over themselves one leader and they will go up from the land." On this verse the Metzudat David comments, "One leader—this is the king Moshiach. And they will go up—from the countries of their exile they will go up to their land." Further, the Targum (the Aramaic translation of the Torah) explains, "And they will appoint one leader from the House of David and then they will leave the place of their exile." (L'Chaim)
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