Parashas Pinchas

Parashas Pinchas begins as follows (Bamidbar 25:10-13):
And Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: “Pinchas, the son of Elazar, the son of Aharon the priest, turned My wrath away from the Children of Yisrael, since he was zealous for My sake among them, and I did not consume the Children of Yisrael in My jealousy. Therefore say: ‘Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace, and there shall be unto him, and unto his descendants after him, a covenant of eternal priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and atoned for the Children of Israel.’”
The Midrash remarks (Bamidbar Rabbah 21:1): “Said the Holy Only Blessed Be He, ‘It is just that he should collect his reward.’”
In Kochav MiYaakov, haftaras Pinchas, the Maggid analyzes these texts. He raises several questions. First, why did Hashem have to tell Moshe that Pinchas turned His wrath away from the Jewish People? The Torah tells us previously that Moshe and the entire Jewish People witnessed what Pinchas did. And everyone saw that afterward the plague that Hashem had cast upon the Jewish People for their misconduct came to an end. Second, and even more puzzling, why did Hashem, after telling Moshe how He was going to reward Pinchas, describe yet another time what Pinchas had done? Third, what exactly is the Midrash trying to teach when it reports that Hashem declared it just that Pinchas collect his reward?
The Maggid explains that Hashem’s message to Moshe was intended not only to state what Pinchas’s reward was going to be, but also to explain how the reward was perfectly matched to Pinchas’s act, as the Midrash indicates. Pinchas’s act had two beneficial consequences. The first was to stop the plague that Hashem cast upon the Jews of Pinchas’s generation. The second was to create a merit for the Jewish People that would bring them eternal benefit. Whenever the Jewish People suffer misfortune, the merit of Pinchas’s act serves to bring them salvation. This is in line with the principle, taught by our Sages, that the acts of our forefathers paved a path for us as a nation for all time (מעשה אבות סימן לבנים). In the same way, the salvation brought about in a given generation by a great act of righteousness creates a precedent for similar salvations in future generations. In general, Hashem tends to avoid introducing new phenomena into the world. Thus, it takes great merit to lead Hashem to bring about a salvation of a type He has not brought about before. But once Hashem has brought about a given type of salvation, He is prepared to do so again for a later generation, even if the people of that generation, on the basis of their own merits, do not deserve such a salvation. Our existence as a nation depends on this system, since our spiritual stature as a nation tends to decline over time, so that later generations need to rely on the merits of earlier ones.
In parallel with the two beneficial results that Pinchas brought about, as we just described, Hashem granted him, measure for measure, two types of reward. Hashem’s statement to Moshe that we quoted at the outset lays out each accomplishment and the corresponding reward. Hashem states first that Pinchas turned His wrath away from the Jewish People, so that He did not consume them in His anger. Here, Hashem is describing the beneficial result that Pinchas brought about for the Jews of his own generation. In reward for this accomplishment, Hashem granted Pinchas a “covenant of peace” that would benefit him in his own lifetime. Afterward, Hashem states: “There shall be unto him, and unto his descendants after him, a covenant of eternal priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and atoned for the Children of Israel.” The atonement Hashem is referring to here is the atonement that Pinchas’s act set in place for the Jews of all future generations. In reward for this accomplishment, Hashem granted Pinchas an eternal reward, a covenant of eternal priesthood with him and all his descendants in all future generations. Reflecting the dual nature of Pinchas’s act and reward, David HaMelech declares (Tehillim 106:30-31): “And Pinchas arose and executed judgment, and the plague was halted. It was accounted to him as a righteous deed, for all generations, forever.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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