Parshas Pinchas

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Parshas Pinchas

Tough break! Pinchas performs one of the most heroic acts ever, and gets nothing but shame and ridicule for it. The Jewish nation was dying fast. The sin of illicit behavior with the gentiles and idol worship caused a devastating plague to the Jewish people, and at the forefront was one of their leaders. Pinchas, in an unbelievable act of heroism and selflessness, takes the initiative and kills this leader (along with his gentile “friend”) and stops the plague from reeking any more havoc on the Jewish people. What an amazing act! So why all the bad exposure for Pinchas? Rashi tells us that Pinchas was ridiculed because the people didn’t believe he was worthy of his actions. They were saying look at this ben puti (his mother was called Putiel) that came from an ancestry of people whom fattened cows for idol worship, and went ahead and killed a leader of the Jewish nation.

Seems a little bit strange! What does Pinchas’ ancestry have to do with killing someone in order to save the Jewish people? Didn’t everyone notice that before Pinchas performed his act the nation was dying, and afterwards everything was calm? Why the harsh negative reaction? To top things off, it was so bad that the Almighty himself had to give Pinchas a covenant of peace to save him from all this torment! Why did the Almighty feel the need to give an extra protection of peace to Pinchas and let the nation go on with their ridicule, as opposed to punishing the hecklers?

There’s something amazing to be learnt from this episode that is extremely eye opening. The law regarding one who sees someone having an illicit relationship with one of the seven Canaanite nations is as such; if he is jealous for the honor of the Almighty 100% without any ulterior motive whatsoever, he is allowed to kill the transgressor. Pinchas was burning inside from the profanity of the Almighty’s name that was occurring, and took matters into his own hands. He was 100% for the Almighty, without any iota of his own self-interest involved. But the Jewish nation didn’t think so. They believed there was an ulterior motive lying deep down inside his conscious.

Pinchas was the son of Elazar the Kohen, and Putiel. They were both tremendously righteous, but with a very different lineage. Elazar was the son of Aharon Hakoen and Putiel was from Yisro the convert (father in law of Moshe). The people felt that since Yisro originally was an idol worshiper, this trait was still deep inside the subconscious of his lineage. Therefore, anyone born to his descent would surely have remnants of this trait inside themselves. The Jewish nation said Pinchas must have this characteristic inside himself, and could never do anything 100% for the sake of the Almighty. In order to assure the nation Pinchas was 100% for the Almighty, it’s written in the Torah Pinchas’ ancestry from the family of Aharon HaKohen. This was to prove to the nation Pinchas’ ability to connect with the traits Aharon passed down and perform his act of heroism, despite coming from an ancestry of idol worshippers.

Who we come from makes a big difference in the way we act. All too often our decisions are tainted, and lack the full authenticity of a mitzvah for sake of the Almighty. Here’s the big news though, it’s not exactly our fault! Sometimes our decisions, or lack thereof, are due to hereditary spiritual traits, deep down in our being. However, it’s not an excuse. We are all the sons of Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov, and have amazing traits inside of ourselves. All that’s needed is hard work to tap into that potential. Pinchas was able to tap into the unbelievable potential inside of himself, and disregard the “idol worship” traits that were dragging along. When one can tap into his unbelievable potential and grow to lofty spiritual heights, that’s truly heroic!

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