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The Zealotry of Pinchas

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Jun 28, 1996
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Editor's Note: The following is based upon a private conversation between HaRav Drillman, zt"l and the editor that took place in Tammuz of 5756 (June 1996). BGK

"And God spoke to Moses saying, `Pinchas son of Elazar son of Aharon HaKohein has removed My fury from being sent upon the children of Israel did not destroy ...." (Bamidbar, 25:10)
HaRav Drillman commented that it is written in Maseches Sanhedrin (82b) that the Malochei HaShoreis asked the Ribbono Shel Olam for permission to punish Pinchas for killing Kozbi and Zimri. HKB"H said to them "let him go, he is a "Kanoi"(zealot), the son of my Kanoi, an appeaser of my wrath, the son of one who appeased My wrath."

Why did the Malochei HaShoreis wish to punish Pinchas? HaRav Drillman explained, in the name of the Mei Shiloach, that the Malochim wanted to punish Pinchas, because there is a din that a mortal may not exact the punishment of HKB"H on another person unless he, too, has not committed the sin in question. For this reason HKB"H responded to the Malochim's request that Pinchas was "a Kanoi, the son of my Kanoi," in order to demonstrate that Pinchas was pure.

And yet why is Pinchas called the "son of my kanoi"? HaRav Drillman explained that it is because he was descended from Levi who together with his brother Shimon exacted revenge upon Shechem and the entire city for what was done to their sister Dina. Furthermore, said HaRav Drillman, Pinchas is called "the son of one who appeased My wrath" because he was the grandson of Aharon HaKohein who appeased HKB"H's fury during the Korach Controversy.

"And Pinchas son of Elazar son of Aharon HaKohein saw . . . and took a spear . . . ." (Bamidbar, 25:7)
HaRav Drillman, again citing the Mei Shiloach explained that Zimri was not engaged in simple Niuf (random or lewd sexual behavior) because had this been the case, the Ribbono Shel Olam, would not have made a special Parsha in the Torah. Therefore there must be something deeper to the story.

HaRav Drillman explained that there is indeed a "Sod", a secret, in this story. HaRav Drillman explained that there are ten different levels of zenus (perversity or general licentiousness). The first, and worst, level is the case of one who intentionally goes to commit a sexual transgression, someone who deliberately invites the Yeitzer HaRah upon himself. The next nine levels correspond to situation in which a man's freedom choice is increasingly taken from him and with each level it becomes more and more difficult to resist. The tenth level corresponds to a situation where one does his best to distance himself from the evil inclination and guards himself from sin to the best of his ability but the Yeitzer HaRah overwhelms him and he commits the sin. In such a situation, the Ishbitzer says, it must truly be the Ribbono Shel Olam's will that the two people be together. An example of this tenth level is the case of Yehudah and Tamar, because she was his soul-mate.

HaRav Drillman said that this is also the case here, in our parsha. Zimri tried as best as he could to resist his desires but once it was not within his power to resist any longer he concluded that she was, in actuality, his soul-mate. Yet how did he arrive at this idea? In Maseches Sanhedrin (83a) Chazal tell us that in truth Kosbi was Zimri's soul-mate but the time was not yet right and she was still not ready for him.

Pinchas, however, felt that it was still in Zimri's power to resist. The Mei Shiloach suggests that this is hinted at in Maseches Sanhedrin (82b) which states that "six miracles were performed for Pinchas." The Gemara explains that if Zimri had killed Pinchas, then he would have been found innocent of murder because he was acting in self-defense. The miracle, Chazal tell us, is that he did not do this.

HaRav Drillman pointed out though that Pinchas' actions were not without room for improvement. Pinchas considered Zimri to be a noef b'alma (sexually corrupt) and according to Halacha (as brought down in Maseches Sanhedrin (81b) worthy of Kanoim Pogim Bo, death at the hands of a zealot. However, the secret, as referred to earlier, is that according to the AR"I HaKadosh as brought down by Rav Chaim Vital, Kosbi was, in fact, Zimri's soul-mate as declared during Ma'aseh Bereishis, the six days of creation. It was for this reason that Moshe Rabbeinu himself did not become involved and sentence Zimri to death. Therefore, HaRav Drillman explained, Pinchas' response is compared to that of a child which means that he did not fully comprehend the the situation.

So why did HKB"H give Pinchas a beracha? Because in Pinchas's mind he had done a great and selfless act.

"Therefore say, I give him My covenant ..."
HaRav Drillman explained that unfortunately Tzlofchad did not keep the second Shabbos that was commanded since the Mattan Torah. This is especially disheartening because had he only kept this second Shabbos, we would have all been able to learn the secrets of Shabbos because the deepest level of Shabbos, that of Moshe Rabbeinu, would have been revealed immediately to all of Klal Yisroel. It was because of Tzlofchad sin that this deep level of understanding of the light of Shabbos was hidden from us. It was for this reason that Moshe Rabbeinu was uncertain what to do in the case of Tzlofchad's daughters, whether or not he could be lenient. As Chazal tell us in Maseches Yoma (23a) when dealing with physical damage it is forbidden for a Dayan to be lenient, however, with regards to monetary damage he is required to be lenient. We are also told in this gemara that "all who restrain their anger and act toward others with lenience" will have their sins forgiven. In other words, monetary damage, since it is of this world, can be corrected through restitution, while a physical injury is something that leaves a scar forever, and therefore complete restitution cannot be made. Since full and complete restitution cannot be made in the case of a physical injury it one cannot be completely forgiven.

Moshe's uncertainty arose because he was unsure how to classify Tzlofchad's sin. Was this a case of monetary damage which would mean that since in the future HKB"H would return this light to Klal Yisroel the loss was only temporary. Or, perhaps, this should be considered a case of physical damage, because if the Klal Yisroel knew the secret depths of Shabbos they would have been able to serve the Ribbono Shel Olam with great strength and awesome devotion.

Furthermore, because Moshe Rabbeinu himself was uncertain as to the proper application of the Halacha in this case the rest of the dayanim were afraid to rule on the case for fear that they would insult Moshe Rabbeinu's honor. HKB"H, through his giving of a brochah to Pinchas was telling Moshe that since the light of Shabbos was only hidden from Klal Yisroel temporarily, this could be considered a case of monetary damage, and thus Moshe could be forgiving.

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