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Beit Midrash Series Parashat Hashavua

The Covenant of Peace - A Jew Does Not Kill a Jew

834
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Pinchas’ actions, to kill Zimri for publicly engaging in relations with a foreign woman, were greatly rewarded. He received a "covenant of peace ... [and] an eternal covenant of priesthood" (Bamidbar 25: 12-13). On the other hand, Chazal tell us that he required special Divine protection in a few realms to avoid being harmed by his zealotry.
"Six miracles happened to Pinchas" (Sanhedrin 82b). Otherwise, Pinchas would have been guilty of a capital crime and executed by Moshe’s court. "The angels wanted to shove him. Hashem said to them: ‘Leave him. He is a zealot the son of a zealot, an anger-soother the son of an anger- soother’" (ibid.). Thus, we see that even the Heavenly Court gave serious thought to intervening against him. "The tribes began mocking him: ‘Did you see the one whose maternal grandmother worshipped idols, and he kills the prince of a tribe in Israel?’ That is why the pasuk relates him to Aharon" (ibid.). Indeed, from a public relations perspective, Pinchas needed great help in the form of Moshe’s support according to Hashem’s instructions. After all, Pinchas assumed the responsibilities of a court of 23, and ruled in lieu of witnesses and warning to the perpetrator. On the other hand, had Pinchas not acted against the "intermarriage" of a Jewish leader on the eve of the entry to the Land, it could have sent a message that assimilation is acceptable, which could have undermined the nation’s future.
One lesson to learn is that one who dares to follow Pinchas’ approach to solving problems, even very severe ones, should take into account that he has no promises of Divine intervention on his behalf. Even with the help, Pinchas’ leadership suffered from the results of his zealotry. Pinchas was the nation’s spiritual leader after the death of Yehoshua and Pinchas’ father, Elazar. Chazal say that his leadership continued throughout most of the period of the Judges. He is mentioned in regard to the civil war that resulted from the rape of a concubine in Giva (Shoftim 20:28). Seder Olam says that he was still a leader hundreds of years later when Yiftach made an oath to sacrifice what turned out to be his daughter. Had either Yiftach or Pinchas approached the other the oath could have been nullified. However, each felt that it was inappropriate to sacrifice his status, and each was punished. In Pinchas’ case it is hinted at by the pasuk, "In the past, Hashem was with him" (Divrei Hayamim I, 9:20 - see Tosafot, Ta’anit 4a).
What stood out in the two times mentioned is that there was horrible fratricide, which took the lives of tens of thousands. Unfortunately, the spiritual leader of the time was not able, based on his own personal history, to carry out a public campaign under the slogan, "A Jew does not kill a Jew." The results were tragic. Let us remember in times of crisis that the idea that a Jew does not kill a Jew is as crucial as ever.
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