Parshas Pinchas - Pinchas's reward


The medrash says in this week’s sedrah (כ"ד, א')

פִּינְחָס בֶּן אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן, אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא בדין הוא שיטול שכרו

[The passuk says] פִּינְחָס בֶּן אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן, Hashem said, “He rightfully deserves to take his reward.”

  • How do the words פִּינְחָס בֶּן אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן indicate that פינחס deserved his reward?

The אבן עזרא says (שמות פרק כ"ח, פסוק א')

וכבר רמזתי לך למה נבחר אהרון להקדישו לשם בעבור כבוד משפחת נחשון, שיהיו הכהנים מכפרים על בני ישראל. ואין לדבר על משה אדוננו כי בורח היה ומי יתן לו עברית.

Aharon was chosen to be a כהן because his children were related to the family of נחשון בן עמינדב, Moshe however was not chosen to be a כהן because his children were descended from Yisro.

  • Pinchos was also descended from Yisro, so why was he chosen to be a כהן?

The gemara says in Kiddushin (דף ס"ו ע"ב)

ובן גרושה ובן חלוצה דעבודתו כשירה מנלן אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל דאמר קרא (במדבר כ"ה, י"ג) והיתה לו ולזרעו אחריו בין זרע כשר ובין זרע פסול

If a בן גרושה or a בן חלוצה did the עבודה (without us knowing that they were פסול to do the עבודה) then their עבודה is כשר (בדיעבד). We learn this from the passuk that says והיתה לו ולזרעו אחריו – the word זרע implies all descendants of פינחס, whether they are כשר or פסול, can be כהנים.
Tosafos (ד"ה ולזרעו אחריו בין זרע כשר בין זרע פסול) asks

ובריש מכילתין (דף ד.) אמר וזרע אין לה אין לי אלא זרע כשר זרע פסול מנין ת"ל וכו' משמע דלשון זרע לא משתמע אלא כשר

(Tosafos’s question is as follows.) The passuk says (ויקרא כ"ב י"ג)

וּבַת כֹּהֵן כִּי תִהְיֶה אַלְמָנָה וּגְרוּשָׁה וְזֶרַע אֵין לָהּ וְשָׁבָה אֶל בֵּית אָבִיהָ כִּנְעוּרֶיהָ מִלֶּחֶם אָבִיהָ תֹּאכֵל

If a בת כהן marries a ישראל (which stops her eating תרומה), but then she becomes a widow or is divorced, then as long as she has no children, she can go back to eating תרומה.

The gemara in Kiddushin (דף ד' ע"א) says

דתניא (ויקרא כ"ב, י"ג) וזרע אין לה, אין לי אלא זרעה. זרע זרעה מנין? ת"ל זרע אין לה, עיין לה. ואין לי אלא זרע כשר, זרע פסול מנין? ת"ל זרע אין לה, עיין לה.

If a בת כהן who is married to a ישראל is divorced or becomes a widow, then as long as she has no children, she can eat תרומה. However, even if the children she has from a ישראל are פסול (such as the child is a ממזר), she cannot go back to eating תרומה, because the passuk uses the negative form and says -  וְזֶרַע אֵין לָהּ – she has no children, which implies she has no children of any kind.

  • You see from this gemara, that the word זרע (descendants) really only means descendants who are כשר (unless you have a דרשה to prove otherwise). If so, asks Tosafos, when the passuk says concerning פינחס, והיתה לו ולזרעו ברית כהונת עולם, this should only refer to כשר descendants of פינחס and not to someone who is a בן גרושה or a בן חלוצה?

The משך חכמה explains as follows:

The gemara says in Sanhedrin (דף פ"ב ע"ב)

בא וחבטן לפני המקום אמר לפניו רבש"ע על אלו יפלו כ"ד אלף מישראל שנאמר (במדבר כ"ה, ט') ויהיו המתים במגפה ארבעה ועשרים אלף והיינו דכתיב (תהלים ק"ו, ל') ויעמד פנחס ויפלל אמר רבי אלעזר ויתפלל לא נאמר אלא ויפלל מלמד כביכול שעשה פלילות עם קונו. בקשו מלאכי השרת לדחפו, אמר להן הניחו לו קנאי בן קנאי הוא משיב חימה בן משיב חימה הוא

פינחס came and threw כזבי and זימרי down before the entrance to the אהל מועד, he said, ‘Hashem! Because of these should 24,000 people die?’

Rabbi Elazar said, ‘As if it were, פינחס criticised Hashem.’

The מלאכים sought to push פינחס away, Hashem said to them, ‘Leave him, he is a zealot the son of a zealot (a descendant of Levi who killed Shechem), one who turns away wrath the son of one who turns away wrath (a descendant of Aharon who stopped the מלאך המות with the קטורת after the מחלוקת of קרח).’”

The Akeidah (במדבר כ"ה א', שער פ"ג) explains the words of the gemara – בקשו מלאכי השרת לדחפו – as follows.

ובמדרש, בקשו מלאכי השרת לדחפו, רוצה לומר המחשבות הנכונות שהם המלאכים המלוים אותו וממונים על מעשיו, עכבו על ידו בטענות מספיקות, אך נתקרב אל הדבר בהערה אלקית, שעל זה אמר שם, אמר הקב"ה הניחו לו, קנאי בן קנאי וכו', שאביו מסר עצמו על דינה, ולפיכך נעשו לו הנסים שמנו במדרש, כי הקל ית' גמר על ידו המעשים, והוא עשה רק ההתמסרות, וזה שאמר אשר קנא לאלקיו.

“What do the words בקשו מלאכי השרת לדחפו mean? This means that פינחס’s own sensible thoughts sought to dissuade him from his course of action, because what he was doing was self-destructive (both from a physical viewpoint, as the other שבטים wanted to kill him, and also from a רוחניות viewpoint, as he should have properly lost his חלק in עוה"ב for criticising Hashem). [Therefore, it was virtually impossible for him to proceed with the course of action that he had set for himself, because his own common sense told him not to proceed,] rather he only steadied himself to kill זימרי and כזבי and then to save the בני ישראל by arguing with Hashem, and Hashem Himself led him through the actions to which he had set his mind.

This is what the passuk means אשר קנא לאלקיו – meaning that he was not jealous for himself, but rather he was jealous for his G-d.”

According to the Akeidah, פינחס was enabled to proceed on his course of action because הקל ית' גמר על ידו המעשים, however the gemara says that פינחס was able to proceed on his course of action because Hashem said to the מלאכים, leave him because he is the descendant of Levi and Aharon. It would therefore appear that that which הקל יתברך גמר על ידו המעשים, and that which Hashem told the מלאכים to leave פינחס because he was a descendant of Levi and Aharon, must be synonymous.  In other words, the way in which Hashem enabled פינחס to proceed was by forming a supernaturally strong connection between פינחס and his forebears Levi and Aharon. This means so say that פינחס was able to proceed not on his own behalf, but rather as a descendant of and as a representative of Levi and Aharon.

Since he placed himself in a situation where naturally he would have lost both his life and also his עוה"ב had he been acting on behalf of himself, i.e. as פינחס, and he was only able to survive (as the rescuer of the בני ישראל) because he was identified as the descendant of Levi and Aharon, therefore rightfully he could now be identified not just as פינחס, but rather as פינחס בו אלעזר בן אהרון הכהן (who has previously saved the בני ישראל with the עבודת הקטורת of the כהן גדול), and thus as a כהן himself.  

This is what the medrash means when it says

פִּינְחָס בֶּן אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן, אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא בדין הוא שיטול שכרו

פינחס rightfully took his reward to become a כהן because he placed himself in a situation where he only survived by being identified as אהרון’s descendant and representative.

Additionally, the reason why פינחס was granted that even his descendants who were פסול can still do the עבודה (בדיעבד) is because the very nature of his reward was that there should remain a connection the father and his descendants even in a case where there could be seen to be a reason to weaken that connection due to an adverse influence from the mother’s side.

Just as פינחס overcame the fact that he was descended from יתרו and was מיחס himself after Aharon, to become a כהן, so too if his descendants would have reason to lose the כהונה because their mother is a גרושה or a חלוצה, nevertheless their עבודה would still be כשר.

This is why specifically with regards to פינחס’s reward, the words והיתה לו ולזרעו אחריו even refer to a descendant who is פסול, because the reward itself was that פינחס would be considered as a true descendant of אהרון, and therefore מדה כנגד מדה his descendants would be considered to be true descendants of himself, even if there were other mitigating factors involved.

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