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Parasha Insights

By Rabbi Moshe Garson

At the end of last week’s sedra, we came across one the most unsavoury incidents in the history of Am Yisrael.  Without mentioning names, the Torah tells us that a leader came and brought near to his brothers a Midianite woman, and in front of Moshe and Adat Yisrael,   proceeded to engage in forbidden sexual activity.

Moshe temporarily forgot the halacha of how to deal with such an affront but Pinchas did recall what his teacher had taught and was quick to act accordingly. He pierced the couple with a spear and thereby was able to stop the plague that had started to kill off 24,000 members of his people.

Rabbi Yistchak Magriso  zt”l  authored the Bamidmar volume of Meam Loez in Constantinople in 1764. He took on the task of continuing the work  of his predecessor, Rabbi Yaakov Culi zt”l who died having only finished sefer Bereshit and 2/3 of Shemot.

In the amazing work, he lists 12 miracles that occured when Pinchas stepped in to protect the honour of the Almighty.

  1. The couple remained intwined when he pierced them
  2. Zimri and Kozbi lost there voices and were unable to call for help from the tribe of Shimon
  3. They did not fall off the spear
  4. The spear did not separate from its handle
  5. When he brought them out, the tent became higher to accommodate the vertical spear
  6. Hashem gave him the stregth to lift them
  7. He went around the people showing the transgressors and no-one harmed him
  8. The iron did not snap under the weight
  9. The spear lengthened so that both would rest on it
  10. An angel came and turned the couple over
  11. They were alive while he went around the camp
  12. Their blood coagulated and did not drip down on Pinchas.

Seeing all these miracles, one would have thought that all of Bne Yisrael would have recognised the holiness of Pinchas. However, there  were discusssions as to whose genes he had inherited – those of his grandfather Aharon or those of his grandfather Yitro. The latter was once an idolatrer and a priest who probably performed all sort of black magic ceremonies, including human sacrifices. Aharon on the other hand was know as an OHEV SHALOM veRODEF SHALOM – a man of peace.

Hashem lays all doubts to rest in the first passuk of this week’s sedra. The genetic inheritance of Pinchas stemmed directly from Aharon HaKohen. The Chatam Sofer( Hungary d.1835) clarifies that on occasion a lover of peace has to be a RODEF shalom, to chase away the peace away in order to reach the level of true shalom. Often one has to create great machloket in order to achieve perfect peace.

In Pinchas’s case, he saw a rift between Hashem and Yisrael and the peaceful co-existence of the two threatened Yisrael’s very existence. In order to restore peace, he acted violently. We learn a valuable lesson from Pinchas’s  actions. The Pirke Avot tells us that BEMAKOM SHE’EN ANASHIM HISHTADEL LIHYOT  ISH. When there are no men coming forward to tackle an issue, be a man!  One person alone can save a multitude.

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