Parashat Pinchas – “Honoring Heaven” – 2009
Has drama taken an upscale since Hollywood came on the scene, or were people always attracted to the stage? The emotionalism one feels after a good “hot” story measures its success. Sometimes fans get confused between the agents of the plot, the actors, in their performance and in their everyday lives as regular people. They believe that maybe they are super heroes. Sometimes the celebrities themselves loose their identities. We have seen this many times, and even in the recent past. They become the image of great distinction and fame, feed on attention based on the illusion of their image. It all becomes “me”, “how do I look now?”, and “if it feels good, do it”. But it is not always a happy end for them.
Our sages tell us that when Pinchas, the son of Elazar, the son of Aaron the High Priest, from the tribe of LEVI, came to spear Zimri, from the tribe of SHIMON, the souls of Nadav and Avihu and Eliyahu the prophet entered him- all whose zealousness worked solely for the honor of heaven. This was no heat of the moment act of insane passion, but stepping out of himself, Pinchas was rectifying a wrong done to the sanctity of the name of G-d. We may see him as a “hot” hit-man, but his sole concern was indeed honoring heaven.
Let’s go back in time to another incident that involved SHIMON and LEVI by the same token of zealousness. They could not bear the disgrace made to their sister, Dina when she was raped by the king of Shechem, Shechem ben Chamor. Before taking action, they realized and understood the atrocity of the act, the abomination that this dreadful blow had brought to Bnei Yisrael. In order to rectify not only what was done to Dina, but to the honor of Yisrael, they took a whack at Shechem based on the fundamental principle of honoring heaven.
Going through time, we see the tribe of Levi was the torah leaders in Egypt. They did not partake in the sin of the golden calf. We see Moshe Rabbeinu striking the Egyptian that hurt a fellow Jew. This is a clear example of knowing and realizing a low, low reality for Am Yisrael and rectifying it. The tribe of Levi was given the work in the Tabernacle and the preisthood. Later in history we are witness to the Chashmonaim from the tribe of Levi, with Mattityahu as their leader. There were plenty of Hellenists living at that time and parts of Am Yisrael had given in to the strange and paganistic culture. This did not faze the Chasmonaim a bit. They knew what was right and re-established the holy vocation in the Temple. This was all in the name of honoring heaven at a time when it was hard to perceive what was right and what was wrong. Hashem gave them miracles and we celebrate this victory every year on Chanukah.
What about Shimon though? Zimri is a prince of his tribe. He is a well known aristocrat. Our sages bring down that Kozbi was none other than the daughter of Balak himself. There’s no way we can judge Shimon favorably on this issue. To enter the holy site and copulate was a fanatical statement – “You can all go fly a kite, if it feels good-do it.” He wanted people to look. Zimri challenged Hashem by making himself G-d. This was not a happy end for him.
When a person feels on fire to make an impression in the world, let him ask first if he is giving free play to his emotions about himself or if what he is doing is simply and exactly honoring heaven.
Dear Readers, Please read Pinchas 2008as well- it explains geographically just actually how close we are to the protagonists of this parsha.
Shabbat Shalom, Leah Goldsmith