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 Kohen, turned My wrath away from the Children of Yisrael …. Therefore say: ‘Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace ….’”
The Midrash remarks (Bamidbar Rabbah 21:1): “Said the Holy Only Blessed Be He, ‘It is fitting that he should collect his reward.’” Last year, we presented an explanation by the Maggid of the above Torah passage and this Midrash taken from Kochav MiYaakov, haftaras Pinchas. We now present another explanation that the Maggid offers, taken from Ohel Yaakov, parashas Pinchas.
The Maggid takes as his starting point another Midrash on our parashah (Bamidbar Rabbah 21:3):
“Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace” – that he is still alive. As it is written (Malachi 2:5, in a passage dealing with Kohanim): “My covenant was with him of life and peace.”
The Sages understand Hashem’s statement to Pinchas as a promise to grant him eternal life that would be accompanied by peace – freedom from the hazards that abound in the world.
In Iyov 3:19 (according to Rashi’s interpretation), Iyov declares that only after death does it become evident whether a person was great or small. The Maggid brings out the idea with a parable. A number of merchants were traveling together as a group with their merchandise. It was a difficult trip, involving travel across rivers, some sea travel, and travel across roads beset with marauders. During the trip, one of the wealthier merchants criticized one of the lesser merchants, and the second merchant started arguing back. The wealthy merchant remarked: “I would never have imagined that you would be so brazen, and refuse to accept direction from someone more eminent than you.” The other merchant replied: “As long as we are traveling, your assets are not really your own, for at any moment you might lose them because of some mishap; for instance, robbers might come and take everything. It is only when we arrive safely home with our merchandise and other possessions can we start talking about which of us is more eminent.”
Now, this world is a place of great spiritual danger. In general, as long as a person is alive, he faces a constant stream of spiritual threats, just as a ship at sea is under constant threat of being overtaken by raging waters. Thus, Hillel teaches (Avos 2:5): “Do not be assured of yourself until the day of your death.” The great saints among the Jewish People spent their entire lives in a state of fear and trembling, worried that they might falter. Even such giants as Yaakov Avinu and David HaMelech were constantly gripped by the fear of sin, as the Gemara in Berachos 4a relates. As long as a person is in this world, he is never free of the risk that he will be ensnared by the evil inclination, which wages constant war with him, growing stronger every day (Sukkah 52b), always inventing new schemes to lure him into sin. Thus, in Bereishis Rabbah 9:5, the Sages teach: “Why is there a decree of death on saintly men? As long as they are alive, they battle their evil inclination, and when they die, they rest. As it is written (Iyov 3:17): ‘There [in the grave] the weary rest.”
Thus, in granting Pinchas eternal life, it was essential for Hashem to grant him also the blessing of peace – freedom from hazards, particularly spiritual hazards. Had Hashem granted Pinchas only eternal life, but not peace, it would not have been a true gift, for he would have been in a state of eternal spiritual danger and fear. Hashem therefore granted him peace as well, and gave notice that He was doing so: “Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace.” Hashem freed Pinchas of spiritual hazards, so that his eternal life would be serene and pleasant. Through the covenant of peace, Hashem made it fitting for him to receive the reward of eternal life. Indeed, the grant of peace automatically entailed that he would live forever, for once he was freed from spiritual hazards, there was no reason that he should ever die.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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