Pinchas: an Interesting Dichotomy

And now, O priests, this command is for you. If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to My Name, says the L-rd of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart… …So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the L-rd of hosts. My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of My Name. True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the L-rd of hosts[1].”

PinchasIf you had to guess of whom this refers, would you guess Levi? Aaron? Moshiach?

Can it be Levi when Jacob’s last message to Simeon and Levi called them instruments of violence, and Jacob asked that his soul and his honor not be brought in into their secret nor into their assembly; For in their anger they slew a man, And in their self-will eradicated a prince. Cursed [is] their anger, for [it is] fierce, and their wrath, for [it is] sharp; I divide them in Jacob, And I scatter them in Israel[2]? If Levi was an instrument of life and peace, this would not have been the dying words of his father.

Can it be Aaron when it says, “True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness[3]?” Aaron participated in the cheit haegel [the sin of the golden calf], and the world contains no greater lie than avodah zarah [idolatry]. Additionally, the traditional stories of Aaron helping make peace between people all indicate Aaron’s proclivity to choose peace over truth.

Can it be Moshiach when he is not of the lineage of Levi? Having a relative named Elisheva who was married to a Cohen does not prove Messiah has the heritage of Levi because Elisheva most likely fell in love with a Cohen and married into the family [lineage follows the patristic line except in two cases].

To whom, then, is Malachi referring? In today’s Parsha we have a man who, unlike his grandfather who chose peace over truth, chose truth over peace. In many ways, Pinchas[4] was Aaron’s progeny [he provided peace to Israel], but in other ways he, was the opposite of grandfather [Pinchas stepped up and did the unthinkable – he killed two people – and this achieved peace for the nation; this peace was afforded because his action ended the plague that killed 24,000 members of the tribe of Shimon]. Knowing the zealous nature of Pinchas, it’s not hard to postulate that watching his grandfather participate in arguably the greatest sin in Israel’s history, molded Pinchas to be resolute in truth.

One of our greatest teachers and the most-renowned of the Zugot taught, “Be one of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace, pursuing peace, loving your fellow, and drawing them near to Torah[5].” Irrespective of creed or race, we are to love our fellow, we are to instill an understanding of the existence of the G-d of Israel, and encourage the practice of His just laws[6].

Of Messiah, the text says that because of the mercies of our G-d, Messiah will shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace[7], and it’s our faith that will make us whole and lead us to peace[8]. By also saying, therefore… make straight paths for your feet so the lame may not be kept out of joint but made whole. Pursue peace with all and holiness – without which no one shall see the L-rd[9]. Herein, we have Messiah who combines these two strange bedfellows: truth and peace.

Tractate Berachot ends with this: R’Eleazar said in the name of R’Chanina: The disciples of the wise [though some say the disciples of the Torah scholars] increase peace in the world, as it says, “And all thy children shall be taught of Hashem, and great shall be the peace of your children[10].” Do not read “your children” [banayik], but read “your builders” [bonayik], thus indicating the wise shall rebuild the world with the knowledge of Torah. The tractate closes with five verses: They who love your Torah will have great peace and there is no stumbling for them[11]. Peace shall be within your walls and prosperity within your palaces[12]. For my brothers’ and companions’ sake I will now say, Peace be within you[13]. For the sake of the house of Hashem our G-d I will seek your good[14]. Hashem will give strength to His people, the L-rd will bless His people with peace[15].[16]

Pesikta de R’Kahana in 18:6 says, The coming of Messiah is four times referred to in Scripture as a time of abundant peace, and it quotes four of the passages from b.Berachot 64a. Rabbi Soloveitchik also said that the one who will be able to combine both truth and peace will be none other than the Messiah. Perhaps this is why R’Shaul says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men[17].” That being said, do not give up too easily, for Messiah said, “The Helper, the Ruach Hashem, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things… that is: the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father[18]. Listen to the Ruach and keep yourself at peace and you will be able to live in peace with your fellow, irrespective of race or creed.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of G-d[19].

[1] Malachi 2:5-7

[2] Genesis 49:5-7

[3] Malachi 2:6

[4] In Parsha Pinchas, the grandson of Aaron is given a covenant of peace and a covenant of perpetual priesthood. Some Rabbis state the covenants are one, while others indicate there are two covenants [Rabbeinu Bechayye, for instance, says Pinchas needed a covenant of peace to protect him from a blood avenger since both victims were leaders of their people, and Rashi formulates a complex train of ideas to show how they are one covenant because Pinchas never was a Cohen].
The broken vav [or the diminutive/small vav] in shalom [see Num 25:12] is purposeful because it provides two simultaneous readings [Shalom and Shalem]. The cohen is to bring peace between Israel and Hashem. When a Cohen spills blood [i.e., raises his hand against another human being], he can no longer raise his hands to perform the Birchat haCohanim [the Aaronic benediction] which blesses the people with peace. Pinchas killed two people; he has blood on his hands, therefore, the Shalom [in our text] is broken. Pinchas should never again be able perform the function of Cohen.
A priest, to be able to perform his function must be shalem [whole or complete]; he cannot have a missing finger, a broken bone, a missing eyebrow, or a clubfoot, for example. The covenant of Shalem [reading Shalem with a word formed from a broken vav creates an interesting dichotomy] from Hashem restores Pinchas [returns him to a state of wholeness or completeness], not only to a position of Cohen, but also promotes him to fill the position of Cohen Gadol once his father, Elazar, dies.
Some traditions state Pinchas not only lived and served as Kehuna for hundreds of years, but that he is actually Eliyahu [Elijah], explaining one of two reasons 1 Kings 18-19 is used as the haftarah portion.

[5] m.Pirkei Avot 1:12, quoting Hillel

[6] Philip Blackman, Mishnayoth Nezikin, ©1963 Judaica Press Inc, New York NY, p. 494

[7] Luke 1:78-79

[8] Luke 8:48

[9] Hebrews 12:12-14

[10] Psalms Isaiah 54:13

[11] Psalms 119:165

[12] Psalms 122:7

[13] Psalms 122:8

[14] Psalms 122:9

[15] Psalms 29:11

[16] b.Berachot 64a

[17] Romans 12:18

[18] John 14:26, 15:26

[19] Matthew 5:9


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