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The Crown of Halacha

Pinchas 5777 – A Man of Action

This entry is part 8 of 9 in the series Bamidbar 5777

A Man of Action

“Behold! I give him My covenant of peace!” (25:12)

“The judgment is that he should receive his reward.” (MidrahRabba)

Was it an Act or an Action?

Our Parsha opens with praise and blessings to Pinchas for acting swiftly and with great mesirus nefesh against Zimri who was leading the nation into rampant immorality. The Midrash tells us that by acting as a “zealot” Pinchas received his reward according to the din. However, Zimri thought that he should receive the exact same reward despite the sin he committed. There is a saying about those who mistake their sin for a mitzvah: “He acts like Zimri and expects the reward of Pinchas!” How could Zimri possibly expect to be rewarded with the same blessing of Pinchas? And what does the Midrash mean that the judgment is that Pinchas“should receive his reward?”

Action is Based on No Compromise

Pinchas and Zimri argued in hashkafa. In last week’s parasha Balak advised Bilam on how to defeat the Jews. He was told to first seduce them into immorality and through this, they could easily be lead into idol worship (see Rashi 25:2). Zimri felt that the sin of idol worship was so great that it would be better to permit immorality in order to dull the desire for idol worship.He chose the lesser of two evils. Pinchas thought otherwise.Any spiritual compromise was unacceptable. However, instead of applauding Pinchas, the people ridiculed him. They called him “ben Putiel” –the son of someone who fattens calves for idol worship. They claimed that since Pinchas was Yitro’s grandson, he took a lenient view on idol worship and appeared to be doing nothing to stop it from happening.Zimri felt his mesirus nefesh was greater due to the fact that he was willing to act immorally b’rabbim in order to prevent the sin of idol worship.

Self-Righteousness is an Act

Zimri was self-righteous. He was an actor, he pretended to serve Hashem. He declared that the end justified the means.Every day we see people acting like Zimri and requesting the reward of Pinchas. We need not look far for these examples.

Is the Reward for a Mitzvah a Gift or Something Earned?

Pinchas earned his reward; it was given as a judgment as opposed to a gift. Most often the reward we receive for doing a mitzvah is an added gift because most mitzvahs themselves are pleasurable. Can a child say to his father, “I’ll eat this ice cream if you’ll give me a chocolate bar.”? Or, “I’ll ride the roller coaster if I can also ride on the merry-go-round?” Of course not! It’s the same with mitzvahs – we gain so much for each mitzvah how can we claim a reward!

For Pinchas, His Reward was Earned

Pinchas was a true zealot. He got nothing out of killing Zimri, and yet acted with complete devotion – even in the face of humiliation and risk of life.Chazal tells us that he cried with compassion when he had to kill Zimri. Therefore, he rightfully earned his reward.

Filtering the Action from the Act

In conclusion, before a stone is thrown in protest, before a voice is raised in righteous indignation, before demanding the reward of Pinchas, serious introspection is called for. If there is any honor or personal satisfaction involved be very cautious. Perhaps it would be better to work behind the scenes and make your point gently with kind words. However, if you determine that this is the time to act forcefully then do so “among them” (25:11) with love rather than anger and hatred.

Series Navigation<< Balak 5777 – The Power of No-ingMatos 5777 – A Valueless Vow >>
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