Parshat Pinchas

Truth or Consequences
by Rabbi Avi Rosenfeld

Parshat Pinchas is named for one of the most fascinating personalities of the Torah. Pinchas, at the end of the previous Parsha, sees Zimri, the leader of the tribe of Shimon, engaging in a public act of immorality and idolatry. Pinchas is unable to stand by and quite literally takes the law into his own hands, killing Zimri in a public spectacle.

When the Torah describes the aftermath of Pinchas's actions in the beginning of this week's Parsha, it seems to unconditionally applaud him. The Torah states that Pinchas was singularly responsible for preventing the spread of a deadly plague that was precipitated by Zimri's actions. Pinchas is blessed with a Brit Shalom - a covenant of peace. He is promised that he and his children will eternally serve as priests. (Rashi, quoting the Gemara in Zevachim, explains that until this point only Aharon and his immediate children were ordained to serve as Kohanim. Pinchas's reward is that he and his children will also serve as Kohanim.)

Chazal point out that Pinchas's action constitutes one of Kinut, zealotry. As such, Pinchas put his own life in danger as Kanin Pikin Bo - Zimri, or any member of his family, had the right to kill Pinchas in self-defense. The Torah may be alluding to this fact when it says Pinchas acted Betocham, in the view of many people. The Torah is stressing that Pinchas acted bravely in a place where he put his own life in jeopardy. Furthermore, the Ibn Ezra explains the Brit Shalom as referring to a Divine promise to Pinchas that no member of Zimri's family would exact revenge, as the law allowed them! The picture of Pinchas that emerges from Chazal is one of a brave person who took upon himself great risk to elevate the name of Hashem.

Pinchas acted on impulse, doing what he felt was correct. No one else - Moshe, Aharon or otherwise - responded with the force that Pinchas displayed. The very Halacha of zealotry requires some form of explanation. Is zealotry something that is required? It does not seem so. This would explain why only Pinchas decided to act.

The message of Pinchas is two-fold. On the one hand, we must appreciate that extremism, as in this form of zealotry, must be viewed cautiously. It is dangerous on both a physical and spiritual level to act in this fashion unless one is truly justified. However, the extremism of Pinchas saved the Jews from further destruction. We must always understand the consequences of our actions. If we act without Hashem's Brit Shalom, our consequences could be disastrous. Pinchas teaches us to stand up for our beliefs, but always to act as Aharon, as an Ohev Shalom Verodef Shalom, one who ultimately furthers peace.

Who Knows Two?
by Daniel Wenger

The second half of Parshat Pinchas details the Korbanot Mussaf that are to be brought in the Mishkan, and later the Bait Hamikdash, on every Shabbat, Yom Tov, and Rosh Chodesh. These Korbanot are called Mussaf (literally "additional") because they were public Korbanot that were brought on these special days in addition to the regular, daily public sacrifices, the Tamidim.

The Korban Mussaf that was brought every Shabbat consisted of two lambs. Upon comparing this Korban to the other Mussafim, one may notice that Shabbat's Mussaf is the smallest of all the Mussafim. The reason for this small number is there are a multitude of connections between Shabbat and the number two:

We are told to both "remember" (Shemot 20:8) and "guard" (Devarim 5:12) Shabbat.
Shabbat's song is entitled as both a "Mizmor" and a "Shir" (Tehillim 92:1).
Shabbat is described as "a delight, a holy day" (Yeshaya 58:13).
The punishment for violating the prohibitions of Shabbat is told to us as Mot Yumat, "You will surely die" (Shemot 31:14).
On Shabbat, we make the Beracha of Hamotzi on two loaves of bread.
In Bereishit 2:3, the Torah records that on Shabbat, Hashem Shavat Vayinafash, "rested and was refreshed."

All these references to the number two hint at a double meaning of Shabbat: the aspects of physicality and spirituality. Although Shabbat is a day of physical rest, it should not be viewed as a day of spiritual rest as well. Our spiritual side should be very active on this day. We must make sure to couple these two aspects into one so we can keep the appropriate theme of two in mind.

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