This week, our Parshat HaShevua Pinchas is sponsored by Rabbi Barak and Rebbetzin Saffer of Ramat Beit Shemesh to celebrate Barak’s Father: Reuven Tzadok ben Yisrael Tzvi Chaim on his 90th birthday. To the Saffer family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.
You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.
Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
There are those friends who speak kiddingly about this author’s Kehunah. After all, the family name “Burt” seems an uncommon surname for a Kohen, more in common with “Ernie.” Kohen? The name “Burt” may not even sound Jewish. Why, Kohanim have names like Cohen, Katz, Kahn, etc.
But this author goes on to testify as to the validity of his Kehunah — “My father was a Kohen, my grandfather was a Kohen, his father was a Kohen,” as this author’s grandfather spoke to a cousin which was recorded on an old-time cassette tape before his passing. This author’s grandfather even spoke that there was the tradition that if a Kohen married but no children resulted from the marriage after a number of years, that a Kohen could divorce his wife and later marry someone who could bare him children. Such was the case of this author’s great-grandfather who remarried and was borne five children, three daughters and two sons, the youngest being this author’s grandfather. The known family genealogy dates back to the 1880s in Kovno (Kaunas) Lithuania before they moved to Chmelnik in the Ukraine in the 1890s and before leaving Eastern Europe for North America at the turn of the century.
This all serves as a segue into our vort on Parshat Pinchas and reflecting on Pinchas and His Kehunah.
Our vort on Parshat Pinchas opens with excerpts from Rabbi Shmuel Goldin’s Parsha summaries for Parshat Balak and Parshat Pinchas in his sefer “Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Bamidbar (pages 218 and 253):
The Jews dwelt in Shittim, where they began to consort with women of Moav and are drawn towards the idolatrous worship of the Ba’al Pe’or. (The Midrash and the Talmud attribute these events to a scheme contrived by Bila’am.) As a result, Hashem’s anger was kindled against the nation.
When… [Zimri, the nasi of Shevet Shimon] brazenly sins with a Midianite woman [Kozbi] in full view of Moshe and the nation, near the entrance to the Mishkan, Pinchas, the son of Elazar and grandson of Aaron, rises to slay the perpetrators. This act of zealotry causes the Divinely-sent plague afflicting the people to cease, but not before twenty-four thousand of their number tragically perish.
As the curtain rises on Parshat Pinchas, Hashem delineates the Divine reward to be bestowed upon Pinchas for his act of zealotry during the episode of Ba’al Pe’or. This reward is to include a “covenant of peace” and a “covenant of eternal priesthood.”
R’ Goldin expresses, that “our fate is determined by our own merit or guilt” (ibid, page 251) and there appear numerous instances throughout Tanach where B’nei Yisrael suffered due to the sins of successive generations, i.e. “what was displeasing in Hashem’s eyes.” (Repeated citations throughout Tanach)
In contemplating our Parshat Pinchas and condemnations from among the B’nei Yisrael regarding Pinchas and his action in response to the Zimri and Kozbi cohabitation, this author deems it crucial to understand the lead-in — the conclusion of Parshat Balak, as expressed in Torah (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 24, posuk 25 and Perek 25, posukim 1-3, 6, as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash):
“Israel settled in Shittim and the people began to commit harlotry with the daughters of Moav. They [the Moavim] invited the people to the feasts of their deities [MB — my term]; the people ate and prostrated themselves to their [the Moavi] deities [MB — my term]. Israel became attached to the Ba’al-peor, and the wrath of Hashem flared against Israel.” (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 25, posukim 1-3)
“Behold, a man of the B’nei Yisrael [Zimri, a Nasi (Prince) of Shevet Shimon] came and brought a Midianite woman near to his brothers in the sight of Moshe and in the sight of the entire assembly of the B’nei Yisrael; and they were weeping at the entrance of the Ohel Mo’ed [the Tent of Meeting].” (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 25, posuk 6)
As an aside, it seems strange that Zimri, the leader of Shevet (tribe of) Shimon, the Shimon who, with Levi, centuries before acted against Shechem and the Shechemites after Shechem violated their sister Dina, would now act and condone co-habitation with other than B’not Yisrael.
R’Rafael Katzenellenbogen is cited in Studies in the Weekly Parsha on Parshat, by Yehuda Nachshoni, referring to R’ Sonnenfeld who noted that Zimri’s distorted sense of “acting for the sake of Shemayim” evolved from;
“…a novel, misleading ideology, that evil must be tolerated by incorporating it into the Camp of Israel, to dissuade the lustful man from finding himself in the camp of idolaters.” (Studies in the Weekly Parsha, by Yehuda Nachshoni, Parsha Balak, page 1115.)
Zimri’s alleged “L’Shem Shemayim” model; bringing co-habitation with Moabite women into the camp of B’nei Yisrael lest men go looking for it outside, i.e., at the Midianite/Moabite Bazaar where the co-habitation was an enticement and seduction to the avodah zora Ba’al Pe’or, seemed a cover for his (Zimri’s) true motivations and intentions. Zimri’s “In your face, Moshe” demeanor appeared as motivated by lust for power, just as Korach’s true motivations were covered by rationale of accusation of nepotism against Moshe Rabbeinu and Aaron.
Torah relates in the opening posukim of our Parsha:
“Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: ‘Pinchas son of Elazar son of Aaron HaKohen turned back My wrath from upon the B’nei Yisrael when he zealously avenged My vengeance upon them, so that I did not consume the B’nei Yisrael in My vengeance. Therefore, say: Behold! I give him My covenant of peace. And it shall be for him and his offspring after him a covenant of eternal priesthood, because he took vengeance for his G’d, and he atoned for the B’nei Yisrael.'” (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 25, posukim 10-13 rendered to English in “The Sapirstein Edition, The Torah with Rashi Commentary,” pages 320-321).
Pinchas’ possible previous status as a Kohen has been covered in previous vorts on Parshat Pinchas and will not be repeated here.
Rabbi Goldin notes (“Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Bamidbar (page 262):
…The Ibn Ezra and the Ramban…, interpret the “covenant of priesthood” as referring specifically to the High Priesthood [the Kohen Gadol]. Although Pinchas is a Kohen from the outset, his heroism catapults him to a new, higher status, Hashem now commands Moshe to publicly proclaim that the chain of High Priesthood will, in the future, emerge directly from Pinchas. (Rabbi Goldin citing Ibn Ezra, Ramban on Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 25, posuk 13)
Rabbi Goldin concludes and cites Ktav Sofer:
The passion for Hashem’s law, meant to be a part of every Kohen’s psyche, must be balanced by a warmth that discourages strife and brings others close. This is the warmth of Aaron, “lover of peace and pursuer of peace.” Hashem, therefore, blesses Pinchas with both a “covenant of peace” and a “covenant of eternal priesthood.”
There will be times when, as a Kohen, Pinchas will have to be an Aaron, and times when he will have to be a zealot. Together, the two covenants will provide Pinchas with the balance essential to his success. (Rabbi Goldin citing Ktav Sofer on Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 25, posukim 12-13)
Thus, in whatever way we understand, Hashem conveyed the Kehunah, and eternal life upon Pinchas in vindication regarding the vicious, false accusations against him and in recognition of the justness and Kiddush Hashem of his action. We can only hope that Hashem rewards those few and brave voices who speak out for Hashem, our Laws and about Our Divine Right to Har Habayit and to all of Our Land — Eretz Yisrael in light of Israel’s current political manipulations and machinations. May those few and brave voices become our governmental leaders!
May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha are finally home in Eretz Yisrael. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five and a half years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network.
He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.