Thursday, July 1, 2010

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Pinchas

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand in his shiur this evening. I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

Rabbi Frand began his parsha vort this evening by making the observation that the beginning of Parshas Pinchas and specifically the part of the parsha from which it draws its name is actually the continuation of Parshas Balak. We see that the first nine of the pesukim in Parshas Pinchas (Bamidbar 25:10-18) complete the story which began in the end of Parshas Balak when Pinchas took a spear and killed Zimri and Kuzbi. In this week's parsha, Hashem announces that Pinchas has taken away His anger when Pinchas acted as a kanaee (loosely translated as a zealot) and that therefore Hashem will make with Pinchas a covenant of peace.

The obvious question is - what is this doing here? The segment of the parsha should have been included in the end of Parshas Balak so as to complete that story!

Rabbi Frand answered by citing to the Tolner Rav who explains that a person who acts as a kanaee is in a unique situation and must be examined to see if his actions were proper. There are some people who act because they truly are doing so to glorify Hashem's name. However, there are often times others who will act because they like to fight, or perhaps they have another agenda. If one wants to examine whether a person who acted as a kanaee really did so l'shem shamayim, one must step back and then look at the totality of the circumstances before drawing a conclusion.

This is of course not to say that Hashem requires any time to step back and examine and evaluate Pinchas' actions as Hashem knows what is in the hearts of men. However, when a person wants to evaluate whether someone who acted truly did so out of a desire to glorify Hashem, the evaluator must step back and consider all facts before drawing a conclusion.

The above concept can seen at the end of Parshas Balak. The Torah recites at Bamidbar 7:25 that Pinchas took a spear in his hand. Why did the Torah need to recite that Pinchas took the spear and then in the next pasuk describe what he did to Zimri and Kuzbi? The answer is that Pinchas was not walking around with a spear looking to use it to keep other people in line. Indeed, Pinchas was a grandson of Aharon who was a lover of peace and one who chased after peace. Therefore he needed to pick up the spear first before he could use it.

Rabbi Frand then told a story about a shmuz given by R' Chaim Shmulevitz in 1972. There had been a store in Tel Aviv which had sold "inappropriate items." Someone who disagreed with the store's activities burned the store down. R' Chaim indicated that the perpetrator was not a kanaee as a true kanaee must love peace and search for it. The man who burned down the store was certainly not a peace seeker.

This is the reason that Hashem gave Pinchas the covenant of peace as a reward. In general, peace prizes are not given out to murderers (Y Arafat exempted of course). Pinchas went against his very nature and killed Zimri and Kuzbi because someone needed to act to protect Hashem's interests. Hashem rewarded Pinchas with the covenant of peace - a promise that Pinchas would never need to kill again.

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