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Positively Speaking

By: Rav Jason Knapel

At the opening of the Parsha we see that Pinchas reaps the rewards of his zealotry against Zimri by receiving Hashem’s “Brit Shalom”. It is interesting that the reward for killing Zimri is Shalom – it would seem to be slightly out of place. There are many explanations for this. Some explain that he needed this “shalom” to protect him from the rest of Shevet Shimon who’s Nasi he had just killed. Others would claim that because he did an act of zealotry he needed this “shalom” so that the zealotry would not overcome him in a negative way. A third way of looking at it is that it falls into the classic category of “middah kinegged middah” – Pinchas helped restore Shalom between Bnei Yisrael and Avihem Shebashamayim so he in turn gets the “Brit Shalom”

A colleague of mine raised the following question: How do we know when zealotry is a positive act and when it is a negative? As an example there is a certain group in Yerushalayim that has participated in violent protests against a parking lot that was open on Shabbat. They picked the Shabbat of  Parshat Pinchas to start the protests again in honor of the zealotry of Pinchas. Is this a good act or not? Does this fit the Torah’s definition of zealotry or not?

If we look at the language of the text we might find some insight into knowing when zealotry copies Pinchas and when it is negative. The Torah tells us that Zimri was doing a public act of immorality with Kuzbi and Bnei Yisrael did not do anything about it – they were stunned into immobility. Pinchas, the Torah tells us, stood up from amongst the “Edah” and took a “romach” – a spear in his hand…… These two things tells us something about Pinchas and his zealotry - #1 the romach, the spear was not in his hand originally – he was not prepared to be a zealot - he was not looking for the opportunity. When it came up, he did what he had to do, but he was not out there looking to hurt someone. #2 he was beToch haEda – Pinchas was not on the outside of the congregation looking in. He did not hold himself higher than everyone – someone who had to make sure that everybody followed his way – he was just another member of the group who felt like he belonged to the group – that he cared for the group. Therefore when he saw HIS people doing something wrong he had this strong urge to help them, sadly in this case he needed to kill Zimri – but that was not his goal.

May we all be zocheh to care about Klal Yisrael – from within, not looking down on our fellow Jew but helping to bring up our fellow Jew.

Shabbat Shalom

Rav Jason






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