Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 12   No. 43

This issue is sponsored by
Family Litvin n.y.
in honour of their children
Rifkah and Ya'akov Bonan n.y.
on the birth of their daughter
Ana'el Avigayil n.y.
May she be a source of much nachas
to her parents and grandparents
for many years to come.

Parshas Pinchas

Pinchas v. Zimri
(Adapted from the Chochmas Chayim)

The Pasuk describes how Zimri ben Salu brought Kozbi bas Tzur before Moshe and the whole of K'lal Yisrael, and how he went on to openly defy Moshe (as Rashi explains).

The question arises that if Zimri was overcome by an urge to commit adultery with the Moabite princess, then surely the natural thing would have been to do so discreetly, so that the fewer people who knew about it the better. What made him decide to herald his intentions to the entire camp in the manner that he did?


It appears, says R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld, that Zimri's actions were not merely governed by desire, but by an ideology, which he felt was important to publicize to the people.

Zimri saw that the people in pursuit of fulfilling their desires, were being forced to worship idols simultaneously. When they reached the point where they were helpless against the onslaught of the Yeitzer ha'Ra, the Moabite women would produce the idol Ba'al Pe'or, which they had concealed in their clothes, and insist that they first worship it (as Rashi explains). If it was impossible to prevail upon the young men to control their inclinations to commit adultery, Zimri figured, perhaps there was a way of preventing them from committing the sin of idolatry (which they were currently being forced to transgress against their will). And he came up with the idea of bringing the Mo'abite women into the Jewish camp to comply with their wishes, but on their own terms. It was a fine compromise, thought Zimri, which would enable them to choose the better of two evils, to sin in the area that they had chosen, but to avoid sinning in the area that they had not. Better be hanged for a lamb, he figured, than for a sheep.

No sooner said than done! He lost no time in bringing the Moabite princess into the camp of Yisrael, accompanied by great fanfare, to encourage everybody to emulate his example, in a bid to acquire the best of both worlds, as it were, by giving vent to their desires on the one hand, and eliminating the sin of Avodah-Zarah, on the other.


Pinchas on the other hand, saw that Zimri's compromise, if anything, made the situation worse than it already was. As things stood at present, he reckoned, many men were leaving the camp to give vent to their desires, but at least the Camp of Yisrael remained untainted. Bringing the daughters of Mo'av into their camp would mean contaminating the entire camp. And that was a thousand times worse. Let the individuals do as they see fit, was Pinchas' policy. If they are forced to worship Ba'al Pe'or, so be it. But let the Kedushah of Machaneh Yisrael remain untainted.


The Gemara in Sanhedrin (82b) relates how the tribes mocked Pinchas, and accused him of being the son of Yisro's daughter, whose father had fattened calves for Avodah-Zarah. And he had the nerve to kill a prince in Yisrael! Therefore, says the Gemara, the Pasuk refers to him as the son of Elazar the son of Aharon ha'Kohen.

Based on the above interpretation, R. Yosef Chayim explains the Gemara like this. The people's real accusation against Pinchas, he maintains, was that with a grandfather like Yisro, he was bound to disagree with Zimri. Zimri after all, wanted nothing more than to prevent the spread of idolatry in the camp of Yisrael, a goal which Pinchas would have vehemently protested (since Avodah-Zarah, a legacy that he inherited from his maternal grandmother was ingrained in his blood). That is why the Torah refers to him as the grandson of Aharon, whose every deed was performed with the view of bringing the people close to G-d (even when he was ostensibly making peace between one man and his fellow-Jew, as Chazal have taught), and the last thing he would have had in mind was idolatry of any kind or for any reason. No, it was not the abolition of idolatry to which Pinchas objected; it was the defilement of the Camp of Yisrael!

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the P'ninei Torah)

Pinchas' Two-sided Mesiras Nefesh

"Pinchas ben Elazar ben Aharon ha'Kohen ... " (25:11).

When Pinchas killed Zimri and Kozbi his Mesiras Nefesh was two-sided; 1. He prevented G-d's Name from being desecrated by killing a Jewish man (Mesiras Nefesh to sanctify G-d's Name); and 2. He sacrificed his own portion in Olam ha'Ba in order to save many Jews from being killed (Mesiras Nefesh for the sake of the community).

The first of these he inherited from his father Elazar, says the Meshech Chochmah, for so we find, that when Aharon died and the Clouds of Glory departed, Yisrael moved back eight encampments (see Rashi Devarim 10:6), and the tribe of Levi, under the leadership of Elazar (whom the Torah describes as the "N'si Nesi'ei ha'Levi"), chased after them and fought with them, until they succeeded in forcing them to return to their official location at Hor ha'Har. Whereas the second, he inherited from his grandfather, Aharon, who, when confronted by the people during the episode of the Eigel, managed to put off Yisrael for a whole day, risking his own life in an attempt to save Yisrael from destruction, before complying with Yisrael's request to make for them a golden calf.

This explains, says the Meshech Chochmah, why the Torah mentions both Elazar and Aharon when presenting Pinchas' Yichus - "Pinchas ben Elazar ben Aharon ha'Kohen".

(See also main article, vol. 7, where we gave a similar explanation to explain why Pinchas received a dual reward).


Better than Moshe

"Therefore say, I am giving him My covenant of peace" (25:12).

On what basis did Pinchas receive a reward that even Moshe did not merit, asks R. Pinchas Koritzer?

And he answers with a parable of a man who was heavily in debt. Whenever the creditors would claim their debts, a group of friends would stand in for him, and convince them, using various arguments, to postpone payment for a while. This would work for a short while, and the story would repeat itself. Until along came a good friend who issued the creditors with a compromise, paying each creditor ten percent, on the understanding that they would cancel the remainder of the debt once and for all.

Following the sin of the golden Calf, Moshe interceded on behalf of Yisrael, and he managed to save Yisrael from immediate abolition, but only on condition that "u've'yom pokdi u'fakadti" (that the punishment would be meted out in instalments in the course of history). Likewise, when they sinned by the Spies, G-d accepted his prayers. He agreed not to wipe out Yisrael immediately, but would do so in the space of forty years.

Not so Pinchas. His act of zealousness stopped the plague in its tracks. Twenty-four thousand had already died, but not another man lost his life. Pinchas succeeded in achieving what Moshe failed to do. He cancelled the debt in its entirety. Not only regarding an unknown number who were still destined to succumb to the plague, but even to the hundred and fifty-six thousand sinners who were destined to be killed by the judges (see Rashi, Balak 25:5).


Alternatively, we could explain Pinchas' unique reward in light of the Meshech Chochmah's explanation, that we quoted above. The combination that we cited there was something unique to Pinchas, as we explained.

On second thoughts however, this is not an alternative explanation. It explains why Pinchas managed to achieve what Moshe did not (not because he was in any way deficient, but for the reason we will explain later in 'Too Zealous to Rule')..


A Covenant of Peace

"Therefore say, I am giving him a covenant of peace" (25:12).

The Chasam Sofer citing Tosfos in Yevamos, explains that Pinchas was not appointed to the Kehunah immediately after he killed Zimri, because at that stage, he was unpopular with the people for having just killed a Prince. So Hashem waited until he made peace with them before making the appointment.

In the meantime, He gave him a covenant of peace, to enable him to achieve that end. The moment he did, he entered the Kehunah.


Another reason for the covenant of peace, explains R. Yonasan Eibeschitz, is to counter the antagonism of the tribes. G-d knew that they would misinterpret Pinchas' motives, accusing him of murdering the adulterer and the adulteress for personal reasons rather than for the sake of Heaven, as indeed they did. And they would follow that with threats to avenge their murdered colleague (as Rashi explains). So Hashem promised him a covenant of peace, that nobody would be able to harm him, because all their threats would dissipate.

This is similar to the Chofetz Chayim's interpretation of the Pasuk in Re'ei (13:18, in connection with the inhabitants of the Ir ha'Nidachas, most of whom had to be killed). It is well-known that something that one practices often enough becomes second nature, he explains. Consequently, one may have expected the Sanhedrin who had executed virtually an entire town, to become immune to the suffering of others. That is why the Torah blesses them there with the words " ... and He will have mercy upon you and He will give you mercy and He will have mercy on you" (meaning that besides having mercy on you, He will neutralise the natural tendency to be affected by their prolonged act of cruelty, by blessing you with the Midah of mercy, so that the three Midos of K'lal Yisrael [kindness, bashfulness and sympathy] will remain intact).


Hand in Hand

"la'Rav tarbeh nachloso, ve'la'me'at tam'it nachloso" (26:54).

Simply translated, this means 'The larger the tribe, the larger the inheritance' (see Rashi).

The Shach however, taking the Pasuk out of context, translates it as 'The more Torah and Mitzvos one performs in this world, the larger one's portion in the World to Come'.


Justifying Their Claim

"And he (Tz'lofchad) was not in ... the congregation of Korach ... " (27:3).

Why did Tz'lofchad's daughters see fit to mention this, asks the Meshech Chochmah?

And he answers by citing the Halachah - When the king sentences someone to death for treason, all his property goes to the king; whereas if he is sentenced to death by Beis-Din, then his heirs inherit it.

Consequently, had Tz'lofchad been part of Korach's congregation (who rebelled against Moshe), his property would have gone to Moshe, and his daughters would have had no claim. It was therefore essential to their cause to point out to Moshe that this was not the case.


Perhaps one may add that just as all Korach's movable property went down with him, and did not go to his next of kin, so too did he and his men lose all immovable property that they might have received, as is perhaps implied by the words "And they perished from the midst of the congregation" (16:33). In any event, since the earth swallowed them alive, their heirs would not be able to inherit their property. It was therefore important to clarify to Moshe that Tz'lofchad did not belong to that group, so there was nothing to prevent heirs from claiming his inheritance.


Passing the Buck

"And Moshe brought their judgement before G-d" (27:5).

See Rashi.

The Chidushei ha'Rim suggests that when the daughters of Tz'lofchad mentioned that they were not part of Korach's rebellion, Moshe was afraid that this constituted verbal bribery, disqualifying him from judging their case, so he declined to issue a ruling and passed it on to Hashem.


Too Zealous to Rule

"Let Hashem, the G-d of spirits of all flesh, appoint a man to lead the congregation" (27:16).

Why did Moshe put in this request at this particular juncture? What is the connection between the two Parshiyos?

It seems, says the Kotzker Rebbe, that prior to the episode with Pinchas, Moshe assumed that Pinchas was slated to succeed him when the time arrived. But when he saw Pinchas' Kano'us (zealousness), he realized that he was not the right man for the job, as zealousness is not a good quality for a leader, who has to be exceptionally tolerant like Moshe himself (see next 'Pearl').


Gently Does It


Moshe Rabeinu asked Hashem that, in the same way as He is "the G-d of spirits of all flesh", of the Resha'im as well as of the Tzadikim, so should he appoint a leader who likewise loves all Jews equally, Tzadik and Rasha alike (R. Levi Yitzchak from Berditchev).

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 406:
The Annulment of Vows

The Mitzvah of annulling vows entails judging someone who has made a Neder, as the Torah writes in Matos (30:3) "A man who makes a Neder to Hashem ... ". The Rambam writes that notwithstanding the Torah's detailed description of the 'Haforas ha'neder' of a husband (of his wife's Nedarim) and a father (of his daughter's), when it comes to a Chacham annulling a Neder of anyone who made it, it makes do with the brief reference of "Lo yacheil devoro", (he may not profane his words [nullify them]), from which the Gemara in Chagigah (10a) extrapolates that others may annul it. Indeed the Mishnah there specifically states that the Heter (concession) of annulling vows 'flies in the air', and has no concrete source, other than tradition. The Rambam seems to hold, says the author, that when one expert judge or three ordinary 'judges' annul a Neder or a Shevu'ah, conforming with all the Torah's requirements, he has fulfilled a Mitzvas Asei; whereas if they do so without fulfilling all the Torah's requirements, (if for example, only two ordinary 'judges' or one inexpert judge annuls a Neder), he/they have negated a Mitzvas Asei (even though the annulment is invalid anyway). This can be compared to what the author wrote above in the Mitzvah of inheritance (Mitzvah 400), that if a dying man leaves in his will a command that his son should not inherit him, then, despite the fact that his command is invalid, he has contravened the Mitzvah, since he did what the Torah forbade him to do.

The Ramban however, maintains that this Halachah should not be counted among the Mitzvos, since it is basically negative, seeing as initially, the Torah commands us 'to do whatever comes out of our mouths, and not to profane it', with the exception of a father and husband (as we explained above) 'And the words of a Chacham (with reference to the Ramban) are charming'.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... The first two Mishnos in Nedarim explain that all Kinuyei (nicknames) of Nedarim, Charamim, Shevu'os and Nezirus have the Din of a Neder, a Cherem, a Shevu'ah and a Nezirus, respectively. Consequently, if someone uses the word 'Konom, Konoch or Konos' instead of Korban (which itself, is the basic Neder ['Harei Zeh Asur Alai ke'Korban']), 'Cherek, Cherech or Cheref' instead of Cherem ('Harei Zeh ... ke'Cherem'), 'Nazik, Nazi'ach or Pazi'ach' ... instead of Nazir, or 'Shevusah, Shekukah or Nadar be'Moho' ... instead of Shevu'ah, his words are effective, and it is considered as if he had used the word 'Korban, Cherem, Nazir or Shevu'ah'. Neither does this contradict with the need for 'one's mouth and heart to be of the same accord' ('Piv ve'libo shavin'), since whoever hears any of the above words, knows exactly what the noder is referring to, in which case, it is indeed a case of 'Piv ve'libo shavin'. Otherwise, the Neder of someone with a speech defect would never be valid (something which is simply inconceivable) ... The Gemara in Nedarim (20b) lists four Nedarim that are automatically annulled, without the need to consult a Chacham - Nidrei Zeruzin (encouragement), Nidrei Havai (exaggeration), Nidrei Shegagos (made in error) and Nidrei Onsin (forced). The Heter of Nidrei Zeruzin will not apply, says the Gemara, there where the Noder indicates that he really intends the Neder to take effect over and above the encouragement, in which case it will require a Chacham to annul it, and the same will apply to the other three cases. Should the Noder stipulate that he wishes the Neder to take effect in spite of the circumstances, then it does ... In any event, wherever a Chacham finds a 'Pesach' (an opening) to annul the Neder, meaning that the Noder can say with certainty that had he known about that at the time he made the Neder, he would not have made it, then he may annul it. And this even applies to 'Nolad' (unforeseen circumstances), provided it is something that is common. He cannot however, annul a Neder on the basis of unusual circumstances that could not have been foreseeable at the time that the Noder declared the Neder (ibid 64a) ... The Chacham also has the option however, of annulling the Neder on the basis of Charatah (retroactive remorse, irrespective of circumstances), as Rava citing Rav Nachman rules there, and that, even if the Noder swore by the G-d of Yisrael (which is considered a stringent Shevu'ah). Charatah however, only helps if it is retroactive; for example if the Noder swore in his anger, and now that it has dissipated, he declares that he is sorry for what he declared when he was angry. But if he wants to annul it because something that cropped up has caused him to change his mind (though he is not sorry for having kept the Neder until now), his Neder will not be annulled. Otherwise, why need we ever look for a Pesach, seeing that whoever comes to annul his vow must be sorry for having declared it (otherwise why would he have come in the first place?


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