SALT - Wednesday, 16 Tammuz 5780 - July 8, 2020

  • Rav David Silverberg
            The opening verses of Parashat Pinchas tell of God’s announcement of Pinchas’ reward for ending a plague which God had sent upon Benei Yisrael because of their illicit relationships with the women of Moav and their worship of Moav’s idol.  Pinchas zealously killed a leading figure in Am Yisrael who committed a public sinful act, thereby bringing an abrupt end to the plague which had already taken the lives of 24,000 members of the nation.  God informed Moshe that Pinchas would be duly rewarded “tachat asher kinei l-Eilokav” – “on account of his having acting zealously for his God” (25:13).
            Rav Yechezkel Shraga Halberstam of Shinova, in Divrei Yechezkel, finds it significant that God speaks of Pinchas acting zealously “l-Eilokav” – for “His God,” as opposed to simply saying that he acted zealously for God.  To explain this nuance, the Divrei Yechezkel notes that Pinchas was the only one among Benei Yisrael to decide to avenge God’s honor during this unfortunate incident.  Nobody else – not even Moshe – reacted with such a drastic measure.  Apparently, the Divrei Yechezkel writes, only Pinchas was suited for such an action.  Much of what is expected of us as members of Am Yisrael is expected of us all; our basic halakhic responsibilities are shared among us all, and are common to all members of Am Yisrael.  However, beyond our shared religious obligations, we are each entitled and expected to chart our specialized course, to find our unique path in the service of God and our unique contribution to our nation and to the world.  It is with this awareness, of the need to actualize one’s unique, individual potential, that Pinchas courageously acted.  He was not deterred by the fact that nobody else thought to resort to such a measure, because he felt that he was uniquely suited for this role – to avenge God’s honor in this drastic manner.
            On this basis, the Divrei Yechezkel suggests an explanation for why Pinchas is said to have acted zealously “for his God.”  Pinchas acted out of a sense of his personal duty, with an awareness of his unique mission assigned to him by God.  We all have a shared, collective relationship with the Almighty, together as members of Am Yisrael, but we also have a unique relationship with God, which is molded by our distinct qualities, characters and experiences.  We need to have the discipline to act for “our God,” to serve God together with the rest of Am Yisrael, but we must also have the courage to act “l-Eilokav,” to forge our unique, personal relationship with the Almighty, and serve Him according to our individual talents and potential.