1. In the beginning of this week's Torah portion Hashem tells Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses our teacher) that Pinchas deserves a great reward for “zealously avenging My vengeance” and therefore Pinchas should now become part of the Kohanim (a holy sect within the Jewish people who served Hashem in the Beis Hamikdash). (See chapter 25, Verses 10 through 13).
The Rebbe says:
1. In the beginning of this week’s Torah portion Hashem tells Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses our teacher) that Pinchas deserves a great reward for “zealously avenging My vengeance” and therefore Pinchas should now become part of the Kohanim (a holy sect within the Jewish people who served Hashem in the Beis Hamikdash). (See chapter 25, Verses 10 through 13).
The story of Pinchas is told at the end of last week’s Torah portion (Balak), to summarize it: The children of Israel were sinning against Hashem by being promiscuous with the daughters of Moab and Midian and bowing down to their idols. The wrath of Hashem flared up and Hashem said that all the sinners should be hung and Hashem sent a plague that took the lives of the sinners. The tribe of Shimon then ran to their leader named Zimri the son of Salu and complained. Zimri, the prince of the tribe of Shimon, then went in front of the entire assembly of the Jewish people, including Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon Hakohen (Aaron the High Priest), and while holding a Midianite woman said to Moshe Rabbeinu “Is this woman permitted to me or not? And if you will say that she is not, then who allowed you (Moshe) to take your wife Ziporah who is also from Midian!?”. Zimri then went into his tent with this Midianite woman. The law concerning what to do with Zimri was concealed from Moshe Rabbeinu however Pinchas (the grandson of Aharon Hakohen) remembered that Moshe Rabbeinu had taught him that if a man has relations with a non-Jewish woman a zealot may kill him. Pinchas then went (with the permission of Moshe Rabbeinu) and simultaneously thrust a spear through Zimri the prince of the tribe of Shimon and through this Midianite woman (who was actually the daughter of the Midianite king). This act of zealousness for Hashem pleased Hashem greatly and He stopped the plague which He had sent on the Jewish people. (See Chapter 25, Verses 1 through 9).
[Moshe Rabbeinu was allowed to marry a Midianite woman because he married her before the Torah was given and it was allowed then. For more on this subject see Likutei Sichos Volume ?????????].
2. The Rebbe now talks about Pinchas’s family and explains why he was not a Kohen yet:
Aharon Hakohen had a son named Elazar and Elazar had a son named Pinchas, thus Pinchas was the grandson of Aharon Hakohen. Now we know that the rule is that the family of Kohanim are exactly that- a family. If your father was a Kohen then you are a Kohen and there’s no two ways about it.
Question: If so, why was Pinchas not born a Kohen if his father Elazar was a Kohen?!
Answer: Rashi (an acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki) explains that when Hashem anointed Aharon to become the father of the Kohen family, Hashem said that all the children which will be born of your seed from now and onwards will be Kohanim. Therefore since Pinchas was already born at this stage he himself was not a Kohen even though his grandfather was Aharon. (See Rashi to Verse 13, Chapter 25).
3. The Rebbe now asks a question:
Question: How could Hashem reward Pinchas by making him a Kohen? It doesn’t matter how great the service was that Pinchas did for Hashem, a person cannot become a Kohen! A Kohen is an intrinsic thing that he/she is born with and that’s it (as we mentioned earlier), like Rashi says “Just like you cannot change day into night or night into day, you cannot change from a non-Kohen into a Kohen”!? (See Rashi on Verse 5, Chapter 16).
4. The Rebbe now discusses the order of events in this week’s Torah portion and how they are connected to Pinchas, and this will ultimately get us to our answer:
This week’s Torah portion is called “Pinchas” and therefore every thing that is spoken about in the portion must have a connection to Pinchas.
What else does this week Torah portion speak about? It tells us about the division of the Land of Israel between the Jewish people, it tells us about the appointment of Joshua to take the Jewish people into the Land of Israel, and then at the end it tells us about the sacrifices which can only be brought in the Land of Israel.
Question: Obviously the general theme here is about entering the Land of Israel. How is this connected to Pinchas?
Answer: The Talmud tells us that if the Jewish people would not have sinned (repeatedly) while they were in the desert they would have entered the Land of Israel with Moshiach (Messiah) to their ultimate and final redemption. (See Tractate Nedarim, Page 22, Side 2). Now even though this was not their final redemption (because they did sin), there still must be a connection between their entering the Land of Israel at that time and the final redemption which will come speedily in our days.
Now that we have established a connection between their entering the Land of Israel and the final redemption we can connect this to Pinchas: Our Sages tell us that Pinchas is Eliyahu Hanavi (Elijah the Prophet) (meaning that Elijah the Prophet is a reincarnation of Pinchas) and Eliyahu Hanavi is the one who will announce the arrival of our complete and ultimate redemption.
We have now established a connection between Pinchas who is Elijah the Prophet and the Jewish people’s entering the Land of Israel which is strongly connected to the complete and ultimate redemption. However we still have to fully understand why Pinchas is the one who is Elijah and therefore connected to the complete and ultimate redemption.
5. The Rebbe now explains how Pinchas’s actions are connected to the complete and ultimate redemption:
When Moshiach comes we will seem G-dliness with our very eyes. We will be able to see the G-dliness creating every living being, every single second of the day. Today, before Moshiach comes, Hashem’s “light” is concealed in numerous coverings, and the light itself is light which is able to be contracted and fit into this extremely limited world. However when Moshiach comes Hashem will take His light out of all the concealments that it is presently in and let his brilliant light (which is higher then all limits) shine brightly for all to see.
Chassidus tells us that when we are trying to affect Hashem in a certain way we must serve Hashem in that same way. For example, when we Daven (pray) and wish to arouse in Hashem a desire to give us things that we want we must first praise Hashem specifically about how He gives everything to the world.
Therefore if we want Hashem to send Moshiach and shine His brilliant light which is higher then all limits and boundaries, we must serve Hashem in a way that is higher then our limits and boundaries, higher then our understanding and feelings.
And this is exactly what Pinchas did when he zealously thrust the spear into Zimri and the Midianite woman: The Talmud tells us that if Pinchas would have asked what the law was regarding someone who is having relations with a non-Jewish woman the Beis Din (Court of Jewish Law) would not have told him to go kill them. The law is specifically that “a zealot may kill them” and a zealot does not ask what should be done, a zealot serves the honor of Hashem no matter what the consequences are. (See Tractate Sanhedrin Page 81, Side 2 and Page 82, Side 1).
6. The Rebbe now answers his original question and explains the specific connection between Pinchas and Eliyahu Hanavi:
The Talmud tells us that there was a dispute between two angels (Micha’el and Gavriel) whether the ultimate redemption will come as a gift from Hashem or as a result of our work in cleansing and elevating this world, and Hashem told them that both of the angels were right. (See Tractate Bava Basra, Page 75, Side 1). Meaning: Normally you can have one or the other; either you can have a light which is a gift from Hashem and therefore it is not limited to anything however this light does not necessarily get internalized and stay in the person, or you can have a light which comes to the world because of your work and gets internalized fully however this light is not a great as the light which was a gift from Hashem. However when Moshiach comes we will have both; we will have worked for the light and therefore we will internalize it fully and it will stay here forever, and at the same time the light be a gift from Hashem and therefore will be an unlimited light!
And this is what was happening with Pinchas: We must say that Pinchas was born with the special characteristics of a Kohen (as we explained earlier regarding a Kohen) however he was not made an actual Kohen until he went beyond his limits and zealously served Hashem. Why did Hashem do this? Because Hashem wanted Pinchas to have both advantages, He wanted Pinchas to be a Kohen which is a gift from Hashem which holds in it great power and at the same time He wanted Pinchas to have the advantage of working for his Kehuna (priesthood).
And this is why “Pinchas (specifically) is Eliyahu”: As we said before, Eliyahu Hanavi is the one who will announce the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days, and we explained that the final redemption will come as a result of both our work and Hashem’s gift, and we just explained that Pinchas had both of these great qualities, and therefore Eliyahu Hanavi is a reincarnation specifically of Pinchas.
7. The lesson for us is double-fold: We must serve Hashem like a servant who is totally given over to his master and does not think about his masters command- he just does it (just like Pinchas) and we must do this throughout the entire day (which means we have internalized it, the 2 nd part of Pinchas’s work).
Translated by Rabbi Shalom Goldberg. Taken from Likutei Sichos volume 4.