Pinchas 5777


והיתה לו…ברית כהנת עולם תחת אשר קנא לאלקיו ויכפר על בני ישראל (במדבר כה:יג)

Pinchas was awarded the gift of Kehuna for avenging the honor of Hashem
and for atoning the sin of Bnei Yisrael (Bamidar 25:13)

What exactly was it about Pinchas’s act that warranted the reward of Kehuna?
The Alshich Hakadosh writes that when one does a mitzvah, the kedusha of that mitzvah envelops him with such power that the limb used in performing the mitzvah becomes a new exalted entity. When Pinchas stepped forward, he put his life on the line. He knew that all of Zimri’s family and friends would kill him for what he was about to do. In fact, the Zohar says that when Pinchas saw the shevet of Shimon converging upon him to kill him, he was literally frightened to death! His neshama left him and was replaced with the neshamos of Nadav and Avihu. Yet he gave up his life to sanctify the name of Hashem and to save Bnei Yisrael. This mitzvah changed his entire being. He became an entity of kedusha and was now fit to be a Kohen.
This explains how Pinchas elevated himself to the level of Kehuna. However, Pinchas showed much more than this in his act. He displayed the character of loyalty to Hashem and love for Bnei Yisrael that are the hallmarks of Kehuna. It is these two traits that define the very nature of Kohanim.
When Bnei Yisrael sinned with the egel, it was shevet Levi, all of them, who answered the cry of “מי לד’ אלי”. They disregarded their personal lives and set out to avenge the Chillul Hashem that had been done. Their loyalty to Hashem was pure.
The Mishna (Avos 1:12) says, ”Be from the talmidim of Aharon, love Shalom and seek Shalom; love people and bring them close to Torah.” The Kohanim have a special responsibility for creating harmony within Klal Yisrael. This bespeaks the love that Kohanim have for Yisrael.
Pinchas displayed both of these traits. By killing Zimri, he put his life on the line to sanctify the Name of Hashem. At the same time, he acted on behalf of Klal Yisrael, davening for them and stopping the plague that was threatening to engulf and destroy the entire nation.
The Meshech Chochma writes, based on the Gemara (Sanhedrin 44a), that Pinchas davened in such a way that he endangered his entire Olam Haba. He brings this to light from the relevant pesukim (Bamidbar 25:1-13). The pesukim trace Pinchas’s lineage back to his grandfather, Aharon. The reason for this is that the Torah is revealing the source of the traits that Pinchas possessed.
When Aharon HaKohen was niftar, Bnei Yisrael revolted and ran away. The Bnei Levi chased them, fought a bloody battle with them, and brought them back. They acted through dedication to Hashem and to Klal Yisrael. Elazar, Pinchas’ father, was the Nasi in charge.
When the Bnei Yisrael sinned at Har Sinai with the egel, Aharon chose to build the mizbeach himself. He did this so that the blame for the sin would be placed on his shoulders, thereby sparing Klal Yisrael from a terrible fate. He gave away everything for the sake of Klal Yisrael. This is why the pasuk describes Pinchas as “בן אלעזר בן אהרן”.
In truth, these traits are inherent in every Jew, imbued in us from the Avos. Every one of us has this potential. When the time arises, each one must answer the call of “מי לד’ אלי”.

Two weeks ago, in Parshas Korach, the Torah depicted Moshe Rabbeinu decreeing that the earth should open up its mouth and swallow Korach, his followers and their possessions. Yet only in Parshas Pinchas does HASHEM choose to reveal the fact that the sons of Korach did not perish. This intriguing fact is mentioned incidentally. Hashem orders that a census of Yisrael be taken after the plague, which accounted for the deaths of 24,000 people who worshipped the avoda zara of Ba’al Peor. While tallying shevet Reuven, the shevet of Dasan and Aviram, the Torah briefly recounts what befell them and the rest of Korach’s following (Bamidbar 26:10): “and swallowed them and Korach with the death of the assembly, when the fire consumed two hundred and fifty men; and they became a sign. But the sons of Korach did not die.”
Rashi comments, “They were originally involved in the plan, but at the time of the dispute, they contemplated teshuva in their hearts. Therefore, a high place was set aside for them in Gehinnom, and they resided there.” Rashi’s source is the following Gemara (Sanhedrin 110a): “Thus, we can only wonder why Hashem did not mention this vital piece of information back in Parshas Korach; instead He mentions it incidentally in Parshas Pinchas, when the Torah summarizes the census of shevet Reuven, the shevet of Dasan and Aviram.”
The Gemara (Bava Basra 14b) says, “David HaMelech wrote sefer Tehillim in collaboration with ten elders: with Adam HaRishon, with Malki Tzedek, with Avraham, with Moshe, with Heiman, with Yeduthun, with Assaf and with the three sons of Korach.”
In his commentary on the first “mizmor” presented by David HaMelech in sefer Tehillim, “From the sons of Korach” (Tehillim 42:1): ”to Him Who grants victory, an instruction from the sons of Korach…,” Rashi explains that Korach’s sons – Assir, Elkanah and Aviassaf – were originally part of their father’s plan. At the moment of the dispute, they left. When the entire area surrounding them was swallowed, and the earth opened its mouth, they remained in the mouth of the earth, as the above pasuk says, “But the sons of Korach did not die.” There they chanted songs; there they composed these “mizmorim.” They rose from there and they were imbued with “ruach hakodesh.” They prophesied about the exiles, the destruction of the Temple and the dynasty of the house of David.
Their survival and future greatness is a great part of the mistake that Korach made when he first challenged Moshe. The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 18:8) comments, “So, what prompted Korach, who was a wise man, to commit this folly? Rather, his vision misled him. He foresaw an impressive lineage descending from him. Shmuel, who is compared to Moshe and Aharon, as the pasuk (Tehillim 99:6) says, ‘Moshe and Aharon were among His priests, and Shmuel was among those who invoke His name.’ Twenty-four watches manned by his offspring. All of them prophesying with ‘ruach hakodesh.’ Korach thought to himself, ‘Is it possible that this greatness is destined to come from me, and I am to remain silent?’ However, he did not see correctly; because his sons performed teshuva, and they came from them.”
Midrash Shochar Tov (Tehillim 42) describes the relationship between the words of Tehillim and the actual teshuva that Bnei Korach performed: “Just as the frightened, worried deer in a state of crisis seeks Hashem’s help and is answered, so, too, the sons of Korach, in their moment of crisis, cried out to Hashem, and He answered them. Thus, we see that in their moment of crisis, when they were swallowed up by the earth, they prayed to Hashem. In the merit of the song they chanted there, HASHEM took them out of Gehinnom.”
The Ksav Sofer (Pinchas) delivers an amazing insight regarding Rashi’s comment. He questions the significance of the fact that an elevated niche was set aside for the sons of Korach in Gehinnom. He also questions why Rashi says that they merely had thoughts of teshuva, rather than saying that they actually performed teshuva. He resolves these issues by referring to the Mishnah (Avos 5:18): “One who causes the masses to sin will not be afforded the opportunity to perform teshuva.” It is not fitting that he should be in Gan Eden, while those whom he influenced are mired in Gehinnom. Even if he himself repents for his past wrongdoings, his teshuva is not accepted until those he influenced also perform teshuva. In other words, his teshuva is pending. Following this line of thought, Korach and his assembly had opposed Moshe and influenced others to follow them. So even though Korach’s sons had performed teshuva, their teshuva was ineffective, since they had caused others to sin. The status of their teshuva remained uncertain until those whom they influenced also performed teshuva. Hence, they did not belong in Gehinnom along with the reshaim, since they had performed teshuva, and the people they influenced might also perform teshuva. On the other hand, they did not belong in Gan Eden, because their teshuva had not yet been accepted. Therefore, a special, elevated spot was set aside for them in Gehinnom. They would remain there pending the teshuva of those who had sinned because of them. Therefore, the Torah juxtaposes their end to that of the others to show that whereas those who did not heed Moshe and do teshuva have no hope of surviving, they would.

(Based on the words of Rav Pinchus Friedman, Shvilei Pinchas)