web analytics
April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Parashat Pinchas’

Q & A: Pinchas Not Always Zealous? (Conclusion)

Wednesday, October 6th, 2004
QUESTION: Recently, as I was studying the weekly portions of the Torah, I noticed a seeming anomaly. In Parashat Balak, Pinchas does what Moses did not do and zealously killed Zimri, a tribal prince who had sinned. We find in the following portion, Parashat Pinchas, that Pinchas was rewarded for this act. Yet after that, in Parashat Mattot, Pinchas is rebuked for not fulfilling Moses’ command. Can you reconcile this apparent contradiction in the way Pinchas is described?
M. Goldblum
via e-mail
ANSWER: Last week we referred to the actual verses in the Torah teaching about Pinchas’ swift and necessary action (Numbers 25:1-9); Pinchas’ reward of praise by Hashem and everlasting priesthood for himself and his descendants, which he had not been eligible for otherwise (Numbers 25:10-13); and the account of the war against Midian and Moses’ ensuing anger at the commanders for allowing the female Midianite captives to live (Numbers 31:1-16). Even though Pinchas was not a commander, but rather a “meshuach milchama - anointed for war” (Sotah 43a) whose mission it was to inspire the warriors to heed the law, he still had to condemn inappropriate behavior, and that is what Moses’ rebuke was about.* * *

The Gemara (Perek Hanisrafin, Sanhedrin 82a), in its discussion of the Mishna (81b), teaches that one who has relations with a heathen woman may be killed by a zealot, noting that R. Dimi states that the beth din of the Hasmoneans decreed that one who has relations with a heathen woman is in violation of [four forbidden actions, for which the Gemara gives a mnemonic] NaSHGA - nun, shin, gimmel, aleph. Rabin states [with a slight variation] that in such a case one is in violation of NaSHGaZ – nun, shin, gimmel, zayyin. Both agree about the first three violations: Nun – niddah, a menstruant woman; shin – shifcha, a heathen slave woman; gimmel – goyya, a heathen woman. They differ regarding the fourth. R. Dimi is of the opinion that in such a situation one is in violation of having relations with a married woman - aleph, eshet ish. Rabin, on the other hand, does not view this possibility because heathens do not recognize the marriage bond. Thus his understanding of the Hasmonean edict was that the final violation, zayyin, refers to zonah – having relations with a harlot (if the man was a kohen). But R. Dimi assumed that heathen men, too, do not permit their wives to be promiscuous, and their relationship is likened therefore to ishut’ marriage.

R. Chisda stated that if one comes to ask the beth din whether to punish the transgressors by
killing them, the judges do not instruct him to do so, since the Mishna states that “the zealot may kill him.” This is a self-inspired, natural reaction. The Gemara notes a similar view of Rabbah b. Bar Hana, who said in the name of R. Yochanan that one who inquires of the beth din is not advised in this matter. Moreover, had Zimri left the woman and Pinchas had killed him, Pinchas would have been liable for the death penalty on this account. Furthermore, had Zimri in the midst of this act killed Pinchas, he would not have been liable for the death penalty because Pinchas would be considered to be his pursuer, from whom he is entitled to save himself.

The Gemara elaborates further regarding the events that led to the incident of Zimri and Cozbi:
The verse states in Parashat Balak (Numbers 25:5), “Vayomer Moshe el shoftei Yisrael, Hirgu ish anashav hanitzmadim le[B]aal-peor – Moses said to the judges of Israel, Let each man kill his men who were attracted to Baal-peor.”

When the tribe of Shimon saw that members of its tribe were to be punished with execution for their sin of idolatry, they went to their prince, Zimri ben Salu, and said: “They are judging cases of capital punishment [against our tribe] and you sit by silently!” Zimri then arose and gathered 24,000 people from among Israel and went to Cozbi, the daughter of the Midianite king. He asked Cozbi to submit to him, to which Cozbi replied, “I am the king’s daughter, and my father has commanded me not to submit except to the greatest of them [namely, Moses].” Zimri replied that he was a tribal prince, and his tribe was greater than Moses’ tribe, for Zimri’s tribe was descended from the second of Jacob’s sons, while Moses’ tribe was descended from the third-born son (Levi).

Zimri then grabbed her by her hair and brought her before Moses, explaining: “Son of Amram, is this one forbidden or permitted [to me]” And if you say she is forbidden, who permitted the daughter of Jethro [also a Midianite woman] to you?”

At that point Moses momentarily forgot the halacha that a zealot may kill one who has relations with a heathen woman.

The people began to weep loudly, as it is written, “And they were weeping at the entrance of
the Tent of Meeting.”

The Gemara continues: “Pinchas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw. . .” The
Gemara asks, “What did he see?” He saw this incident and remembered the halacha, saying to
Moses, “Did you not teach us that one who has relations with a heathen woman may be killed?” Moses responded, “The one who reads the letter is the agent designated to carry out its instructions.”

Shmuel adds that Pinchas saw that “Ein chochma ve’ein tevuna ve’ein etzah lenegged Hashem
- There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against [the honor of] Hashem.” [See
Proverbs 21:30, Rashi (ad loc. s.v. Shmuel amar...) and Tosafot (Gittin 68a s.v. U'chetiv zenut
ve'yayyin...), who explain the concept of attributing a verse that was not yet written.]

Whenever there is a situation of chillul Hashem, the desecration of Hashem’s holy name, we
do not worry about showing respect to a teacher. Therefore, though Pinchas issued a ruling in the presence of his master, Moses, he was not guilty of any wrongdoing in this case.

Thus it was Zimri’s bold act of violation that required Pinchas to punish him immediately,
whereas later on Pinchas would not be allowed such an impulsive act on his own. The sin of the army commanders was that they had let the Midianite women live and Pinchas was powerless to act on his own. Rather, the order to kill the Midianite women was part of the general war instructions, and that is why Moses correctly rebuked the army commanders. [Or HaChayyim and Kli Yakar give slightly different explanations about the reason the commanders did not follow the instructions.]

The Gaon R. Moshe Feinstein (quoted by R. Avraham Fishelis in Kol Ram, Parashat Mattot)
notes Rashi’s statement (Numbers 31:12) that the army commanders were righteous men and they were not suspected of taking spoils without permission. Instead, they brought them to Moses. R. Feinstein asks: What is the theft committed in the midst of war, when such matters are usually permitted to soldiers? He explains that in the course of war one may become lax in the matter of murder and theft, and as such they wished it would not affect their souls. Thus they brought the spoils to Moses along with the females who had remained alive. We understand that Moses explained to them that such is not the case. The ruling is that the females must be killed along with the males. When it comes to G-d’s war, we must wage the battle exactly as specified. (See also Noam Elimelech on Parashat Pinchas. He explains in detail the need for war against Midian and for that people’s destruction.)

Q & A: Pinchas Not Always Zealous? (Part I)

Friday, October 1st, 2004
QUESTION: Recently, as I was studying the weekly portions of the Torah, I noticed a seeming anomaly. In Parashat Balak, Pinchas does what Moses did not do and zealously killed Zimri, a tribal prince who had sinned. We find in the following portion, Parashat Pinchas, that Pinchas was rewarded for this act. Yet after that, in Parashat Mattot, Pinchas is rebuked for not fulfilling Moses’ command. Can you reconcile this apparent contradiction in the way Pinchas is described?
M. Goldblum
via e-mail
ANSWER: You are very perceptive; it seems at first glance that Pinchas’ behavior in these two events was not consistent. There is also a further problem regarding the events in Parashat Balak; Pinchas issued a ruling in the presence of his teacher, Moses, according to what the Sages explain.For clarification, let us first review the pertinent text in Balak and in Mattot.

In Parashat Balak (Numbers 25:1-9) the Torah relates the following tragic episode: “Israel settled in the Shittim and the people began to commit harlotry with the daughters of Moab, who invited the people to the feasts of their gods; the people ate and prostrated themselves to those gods. Israel became attached to Baal-peor, and the wrath of Hashem flared up against Israel. Hashem said to Moses, ‘Take all the leaders of the people. Hang them up before Hashem against the sun, so that the flaring wrath of Hashem will withdraw from Israel.’ Moses said to the judges of Israel, ‘Let each man kill his men who were attached to Baal-peor.’ And behold, a man of the Children of Israel came and brought to his brethren a Midianite woman in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the entire assembly of the Children of Israel, and they were weeping at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. When Pinchas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he stood up from amid the assembly and took a spear in his hand. He followed the Israelite man into the tent and pierced them both, the Israelite man and the woman into her stomach, and the plague was halted from the Children of Israel. Those who died in the plague were 24,000.”

We see that Pinchas, through his swift action, prevented the spread of a plague that might have
completely devastated the young Jewish nation. For this he is praised by Hashem and awarded an everlasting priesthood, for him and his progeny, as the Torah states immediately afterward in Parashat Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-13): “Hashem spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Pinchas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, turned back My wrath from the Children of Israel when he zealously avenged Me among them, so I did not consume the Children of Israel in My vengeance. 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.’”

Pinchas, through a quirk of fate, had not been destined to become a kohen even though his father, Eleazar, and his grandfather, Aaron, were kohanim, as Rashi explains (25:13 s.v. “brit kehunat olam”): even though the priesthood was already assigned to the descendants of Aaron, it was only given to Aaron and his four adult sons – Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Itamar. It would then pass on automatically, at birth, to the succeeding generations. Pinchas, who was a minor at that time, was not included because he was too young to be anointed.

Thus, through his quick action, he earned the right of the priesthood for him and his own progeny.

Finally, there is the text in Parashat Mattot (Numbers 31:1-16): “Hashem spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take vengeance for the Children of Israel against the Midianites; afterward you will be gathered unto your people.’ Moses spoke to the people, saying, ‘Arm men from among yourselves for the army that they may go against Midian and inflict Hashem’s vengeance on Midian. Of every tribe a thousand, throughout all the tribes of Israel shall you send to the war.’ So there were delivered out of the thousands of the Children of Israel a thousand from each tribe, twelve thousand armed [men] for the war. Moses sent them, a thousand from each tribe, with Pinchas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war, with the sacred vessels and the trumpets to blow in his hand. They warred against Midian, as Hashem had commanded Moses, and they killed every male. They killed the kings of Midian beside the rest of them that were slain: Evi, Rekem, Tzur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian; and they slew Balaam son of Beor with the sword. The Children of Israel took captive all the women of Midian, and their young children; and all their cattle and flocks and all their wealth they took as spoils. And they burned all the cities in which they dwelled and all their palaces in fire. They took all the spoils and all the captives of people and animals. They brought the captives, the animals, and the spoils to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the assembly of the Children of Israel to the camp at the plains of Moab, which was by the Jordan near Jericho. Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the assembly went out to meet them outside the camp. Moses was angry with the commanders of the army, the officers of the thousands and the officers of the hundreds, who had come from the battle. Moses said to them, ‘Did you let every female live? Behold, they caused the Children of Israel, by the word of Balaam, to commit a betrayal against Hashem in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague in the assembly of Hashem.’”

Though the verse above states that Moses was angry with the commanders of the army – and we might think that this eliminates any wrongdoing on Pinchas’ part, as he was not one of the commanders – this is moot because the Talmud (Perek Meshuach milchama, Sotah 43a) states that Pinchas was sent with the army as a “meshuach milchama – anointed for war,” meaning a priest who is specially anointed to lead the army in war. The Gemara (Sotah 42a-b), based on Parashat Shoftim (Deuteronomy Ch. 20), defines the mission of this specially anointed priest to be to inspire the army with words of support and to warn them as to what they may not do in the course of war. Thus, if they heeded his words and their war was justified, they were assured victory, as Hashem would surely not desert them.

Additionally, Rashi s.v. “Vayiktzof Moshe al pekudei hechayyil – Moses was angry with the
commanders of the army” (Numbers 31:14), states that this teaches us that the mischief of the
generation depends on the leaders who have the power to protest but do not do so.

We must assume that there was no one greater than Pinchas among the leaders who had the power to protest and reproach the people for any unseemly behavior.

(To be continued)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-pinchas-not-always-zealous-part-i/2004/10/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: