Intermountain Jewish News

Banner
Tuesday,
Oct 21st
Home Columns View from Denver Did Pinchas the Zealot win or lose?

Did Pinchas the Zealot win or lose?

E-mail Print PDF

IN this country we have learned that it is not enough to win the war.

Did we win the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam or South Korea? For my purposes here, that’s moot. “Wars” are too big to comprehend.

Individual soldiers are not.

Even if they were heroes, even if we did win the wars in which they fought, individual soldiers may have lost.

Today we speak of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD.

We regard it as scandalous if the government does not afford appropriate and timely treatment for PTSD. We sometimes witness terrible crimes committed by people whom we sent off to war but neglected upon their return.

Earlier, we didn’t have a psychological definition for the disorientation, divorce, aimlessness, suicide, joblessness or crime that befell many who returned from war. Whatever the overall outcome of the war, and however brave a given soldier may have been, he may have lost the war personally.

WHAT happened to Pinchas, the zealot who struck down the immoral leaders of the Israelite idolaters in the Sinai Desert site of Shittim? However one understands Pinchas’ spontaneous act of zealotry, G-d praised him for it.

Pinchas seems to have won the war. The Divine wrath, the plague against the sinning, idol worshipping Israelites, stopped. The rush to idolatry — worship of the idol, Ba’al Pe’or — was quashed.

But what about Pinchas the person? Pinchas the returning soldier? However praiseworthy his act of bravery, how did it affect his stability, his inner peace?

The third verse of this week’s Torah portion provides the clue:

“Therefore say: Behold I [G-d] give him My covenant of peace.”

What kind of peace was that?

Rashi (1040-1105) says that the covenant of peace was a commensurate reward: the priesthood.

Pinchas, though a son of Elazar the High Priest, was born before the priesthood became hereditary. Pinchas’ younger siblings became priests, but not he. Now, however, in reward for Pinchas’ act of zealotry, he and his descendants were also given the priesthood.

It was a commensurate reward. By killing the leaders of the immorality and idolatry in ancient Israel, Pinchas brought Israel atonement. For this he was rewarded with the priesthood, which permanently brings Israel atonement.

Alternatively, ibn Ezra (1089-1164) comments that the Pinchas’ “covenant of peace” was protection against revenge by the family and friends of Zimri, the immoral Israelite whom Pinchas killed. As my friend Carl Tessler puts it, Pinchas would hereafter not need to engage in any more acts violence. He was vouchsafed peace.

But what about Pinchas the returning soldier?

Pinchas the human being?

He killed two people up close.

How did he survive this, internally, mentally, behaviorally?

Netziv (1816-1892) comments:

“Because of the nature of Pinchas’ act — to kill another human being with his own hand — it was natural for Pinchas to remain emotionally on the knife edge.”

It was natural for Pinchas to suffer PTSD.

Netziv continues:

“However, since Pinchas’ motives were for the sake of Heaven — were untainted by human bias or animosity — the blessing he received [the covenant of peace] was that he would be at peace with himself forever after.”

Pinchas’ was rescued from PTSD.

Copyright © 2014 by the Intermountain Jewish News

 

IJN e-Edition

This is only a taste! Get full access to the IJN via our e-Edition, only $14.04 for IJN Print subscribers.

E-Edition subscribers get access to a complete digital replica of the IJN, which includes all special sections.

Get the IJN's free newsletter!

Shabbat Times

JTA News

Netanyahu reportedly withdraws support for conversion bill

Marcy Oster Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly has withdrawn his support for a bill that would allow local rabbis to oversee conversions. ... [Link]

Jerusalem elects two chief rabbis

Marcy Oster The Jerusalem City Council elected two new chief rabbis, including Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the former chief rabbi of Israel. ... [Link]

Converts say Freundel’s abuse of power extended beyond mikvah peeping

Uriel Heilman Rabbi Barry Freundel didn’t just make conversion candidates take practice dunks in the mikvah where he allegedly spied on them in the shower — he also compelled them to do clerical tasks a... [Link]

Assertion by Austrian official voids conviction on restitution fraud, Jewish author says

Cnaan Liphshiz Austria has no claims against a Jewish author who was convicted of defrauding the republic out of Holocaust restitution funds, a government official said. ... [Link]

‘Klinghoffer’ ticket holders talk back

Raffi Wineburg Many of those who braved the heckling of protesters to see “The Death of Klinghoffer” said they felt unfairly judged. ... [Link]

White House: Nazi war criminals should not be receiving Social Security

Marcy Oster Nazi war criminals should not be receiving Social Security benefits, a White House spokesman said. ... [Link]

‘The Death of Klinghoffer’ fails to live up to the controversy

Ami Eden JTA’s Ami Eden sees the controversial opera that inspired weeks of protests. And shrugs. ... [Link]

Op-Ed: What the Freundel scandal says about Orthodoxy

mbrodsky If the allegations against the prominent Washington rabbi are true, they confirm the worst suspicions about the status of women in Orthodox Judaism, Elana Sztokman writes. ... [Link]

Intermountain Jewish News • 1177 Grant Street • Denver, CO 80203 • 303 861 2234 • FAX 303 832 6942
email@ijn.com • larry@ijn.com • lori@ijn.com