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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Pinchas

An informative drash also has to be examined

Numbers 25:11

Pinchas the son of Elazar the son of Aaron the Priest has turned My anger away from the Children of Israel by his vengeance for Me among them, so that I did not destroy the Children of Israel in My vengeance.


Pinchas, the son of Elazar, the son of Aaron the Priest: Because the tribes insulted him [saying] 'Have you seen that son of 'Puti' whose mother's father fattened calves for idol worship and he went and killed a Prince of a tribe of Israel?!' Therefore the Scripture made a point of showing his relationship to Aaron.

What Is Rashi Saying?

Pinchas' father, Elazar, took a wife from the daughters of a man named Putiel (see Exodus 6:25). The man was not a Jew and his name, Putiel, hints at his occupation, a fattener ( in Hebrew 'pitem') of calves, readying them for sacrifice to pagan gods. The scoffers protested that for Pinchas, a man with such an inglorious family background, to take the self-righteous initiative to kill a bona fide Prince of Israel, bespeaks unimaginable chutzpah. So, Rashi tells us that this is the reason that the Torah makes a point of spelling out Pinchas' glorious ancestry to counteract the rabble's slander.

What question would you ask on this comment?

Your Question:

Questioning Rashi

A Question: : Mentioning people's ancestry is nothing unusual in the Torah. Among the many instances of this, see for example Bezalel's ancestry (Exodus 31:2) and that of his partner Ohaliav (Exodus 31:6), and that of all of the Spies (Numbers 13:5ff) and that of Korah (Numbers 16:1) to mention a few. Why, then, make an issue of Pinchas' pedigree? Why not take the verse at face value (p'shat) as we do all the other similar instances? Why do you think Rashi saw the need to comment here?

Hint: Look at the previous section.

Your Answer:

What Is Bothering Rashi?

An Answer: Mentioning Pinchas' ancestry is not the point. The point is that this is the second time within a few verses that it is mentioned. See verse 24:7 above where it says:

"And Pinchas, the son Elazar, the son of Aaron the Priest, saw and rose up from the midst of the community and he took a javelin in his hand."

Now, since his complete ancestral pedigree has just now been mentioned, our verse is clearly redundant. We already know who Pinchas is.

This is what's bothering Rashi.

How does Rashi's comment explain matters?

Your Answer:

Understanding Rashi

An Answer: The verse is necessary to counteract the slander levied against him. The Torah repeated Pinchas' ancestry in order to impress upon the people his especially prestigious background.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

We have good news to announce. The new Bamidbar volume of "What's Bothering Rashi?"is ready and should be in the bookstore soon. Look and ask for it.

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is a product of the "Institute for the Study of Rashi and the Early Torah Commentaries." 2 Wisconsin Circle, Chevy Chase MD 20815

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