Pinchas 5773 – Gilayon #805

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Parshat Pinchas

And the daughters of zelophehad

[…] Came forward

And they stood before moshe

and before eleazar the priest […]

"our father died in the

wilderness, and he was not part of the community that banded together agaist the lord with the community of korah,

For through his own offense he died, and he had no


Why should our father's name be withdrawn from the

midst of his clan

Because he had no son?"

(Numbers 27:1-4)



us a holding in the midst of our father's brothers" – Said R. Natan: The

power of women is superior to the power of men. The men said (Numbers 14) 'Let us put up a head and return

to Egypt',

but women said 'Give us a holding in the midst of our father's brothers'.

(Sifri, Pinechas Section 1)



the daughters of Tselophehad came forward" – When the daughters of

Tselophehad heard that the land was being apportioned to males and not to

females, they all gathered together for deliberation. They said: Not like

the mercies of flesh and blood are the mercies of the Omnipresent; flesh

and blood are more merciful to the males than to the females, but He who spoke

and the world came into being is not so, but both upon males and females,

His mercies are upon all, as is written" God is good to all, and His

mercies upon all his creations" (Psalm


(Sifri Balak, Section 133)


"Rightly do the daughters of Tselophahad speak" – As

per Onkylos's translation 'correctly'.

thus is it written before me up above, this is to

teach that they saw what Moshe's eye did not see. "Rightly do the

daughters of Tselophahad speak", their plea was just; happy is the

person whose words are accepted by the Holy One.

(Rashi, Numbers 27:7)



Jermiah was as great a man

And castigator of israel

as moshe

Nahem Ilan

Parashat "Pinechas"

is usually read after the 17th of Tammuz and its haphtarah is taken from

the first chapter of Jeremiah with its trenchant prediction of Jerusalem's destruction. It is possible to

discern an inner connection between the parasha, in which Moshe ordains Joshua

and passes on to him, in orderly fashion, the leadership (Numbers 27:15-23), and the beginning of the

Book of Jeremiah which describes Jeremiah's appointment as prophet.

Rabbi Avraham Saba (Spain 1440 – Italy

1508) was a major exegete in the generation of the expulsion from Spain. He

himself was forced to flee in 1492, resettling in Portugal. In 1497, his two sons

were forced to convert before his eyes. He succeeded in escaping to Fez, Morocco.

After some months of physical and psychological malady, he recuperated and

reconstructed from memory his compositions left behind in Portugal. The

greatest of his works was "Tsror HaMor" [Bundle of Myrrh], an encompassing

commentary on the Bible, which was later published many times. Bezalel

Vechalder produced his improved edition over twenty years ago (Bnei Berak,


When dealing with Pinechas, R. Saba quotes the midrash

"Four were descended from scorned families: Pinehas and Jeremiah and

Ezekiel and Uriah" and he adds "And here we can speak about Shabbat "The

Words" [of Jeremiah] and about the destruction of the Temple, and the admonitions of Jeremiah and

about his greatness." R. Sava surveys briefly Jeremiah's prophecies of

destruction, weaving into the prophet's forewarnings material from midrashic

literature. But he does not make do only with the direct connection to the parasha's haphtarah; he also presents a detailed and

interesting comparison of Jeremiah with Moshe. R. Sava first cites shared aspects

and then points out dissimilarities. Inasmuch as "Tsror

Hamor" is not easily accessible, I present

here R. Saba's words in full, deciphering abbreviations and adding – between

square parentheses – words of clarification:

And since Jeremiah was as great a person and castigator as Moshe o"h [olov hashalompeace upon him], who said "These are

the words" (Deuteronomy 1:1), they

said that Scripture alluded to him when saying "From the midst of your brothers,

like you" (Ibid 18:18). And so he

said "a prophet like me for your midst" (ibid,

ibid., 15, and therefore He said "Before I

created you in the womb" (Jeremiah 1:5), and

said "He touched my mouth and said to me: Herewith, I put my words into

your mouth' (ibid ibid., 9). This is that

which is written "A prophet I shall raise up for them and I shall put My words in his mouth" (Deuteronomy

18:18) – and this is "like you". And should you say: But is it

not written "But no prophet again rose in Israel like Moshe" (Ibid 34:10)? But just as Moshe said "These

are the words" (Deut.1:1), so did

Jeremiah say "The words of Jeremiah" (Jeremiah

1:1). And just as Moshe prophesied to Israel forty years, so did

Jeremiah admonish Israel for forty years, until his words were to Israel as

thorns, and concerning him it is written "If you do not dispossess the

inhabitants of the land from before you, it will come about that those of them

you leave will become stings in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they

will be foes to you" (Numbers 43:35). This

refers to the prophet Jeremiah, who was descended from Rahav, whom Joshua spared.

And he reprimanded Israel in his book, and he composed the Book of Lamentations

[Eicha] in four books, which are four alphabets (the first four chapters,

alphabetically arranged], and a short book [Chapter 5, shorter than the first four),

which is "Remember, O Lord" (Eicha 5:1),

paralleling the book of "These are the words" which presents the

story of the revealer, just as "These are the words" which is the story

of the first books. He began with "Alas! Lonely sits the city" (ibid 1:1), and I have already explained this

at length [the explication was lost]. But the alphabetically ordered "I am

the man" (ibid. 3:1) is intended to

say that even though he resembled Moshe, the similarity was limited to

misfortune. And this is "I am the man who has known affliction under the

rod of His wrath" (ibid.) and but

not by the rod of the Lord; "Me He drove on" (ibid.,

ibid, 2), whereas concerning Moshe it is written "And the Lord was

going before them by day" (Exodus 13:21). And

throughout this alphabetically arranged are allusions to Jeremiah's

tribulations, and to Israel's

scorn of him because he castigated them, and because he came from a scorned

family, as they were wont to say about Pinehas. And therefore Scripture relates

his lineage Pinehas, son of Elazar, etc.

What does this comparison offer? There is similarity of principle genre

– reproof; there is similarity in prophetic ability – "as myself"/as

yourselves"; there is identical duration of function – 40 years; both left

behind a written legacy containing five units divided into two: the first four

more sophisticated and substantial than the fifth, which is a personal

narrative framework for the four preceding chapters. Alongside the similarities

can be seen the differences. Jeremiah's prowess equaled that of Moshe only in

his admonishment, i.e., in the power of his prophecies of doom. Moshe had

something more, which R. Saba does not specify. I conjecture that he is

referring to the positive vision which Moshe set forth and also to his being

the quintessential national leader. Jeremiah was an oppositional figure,

critical of the leadership. This is reason, according to R. Saba, why Moshe

merited the Lord walking before him, whereas Jeremiah merited only divine 'tailwind',

but not God's leading him.

This comparison offers a variegated range of variables which can be of

use in evaluating prophets and comparing them one to the other. It is clear

that there exists considerable similarity between external and internal

measures for gauging the functioning of Moshe and Jeremiah. At the same time,

the dissimilarities are palpable. Which is the dominant? What is the

determining factor? R. Saba did not relate to these questions and, needless to

say, did not express his attitude towards them. If the subject interests the

reader, he is invited to express his views and to crystallize his position


In any case it is clear that the comparison between Moshe and Jeremiah

is not the result of any constraints – be they linguistic, literary,

historic, exegetical or ideological – it is a conscious choice by R. Saba. Through

it we detect both apparent and hidden links between the two figures, clarifying

the parameters of comparison between them, and, most important, it assists in

underlining the main moral underlying the basis of every comparison: one must

not be blinded by great similarity, just as one should not be led astray by blatant

differences; similarity and differences are an essential component of every

comparison. Evaluation and fine-tuning are the responsibility of the observer,

the reader, the thinker.

R. Saba presented his readers with an interesting and fruitful database

for consideration of Jeremiah's uniqueness and the tie between the parasha of "Pinehas" and its haphtarah, and the connection

between Moshe and Jeremiah. The quoted selection is only one jewel among the

many hidden in the "Tsror HaMor" commentary of R. Avraham Sava – "he

who was twice-exiled."

Prof. Nahem Ilan teaches in the M.A. program in Jewish studies and in    the B.A. program for Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem studies in Lander




Pinehas, son of elazar, son of aaron the priest, has turned back

my wrath from the israelites by displaying among them

his passion for me, so that i did not wipe out the israelite people in my passion. Say, therefore, i will grant him my pact of peace.

 (Bamidbar 25:



My Pact

of Peace – Reward or Safeguard Against Psychological


As reward for

pacifying God's wrath and anger, He blessed him with the quality of

peacefulness, i.e., that he not be strict or upset. This was necessary because

the act committed by Pinehas, of killing

someone, naturally leaves a strong emotional impression, but since it was

performed for the sake of Heaven, he received the blessing that he always be

calm and peaceful, and that this matter [of having killed] should not affect

his heart.

(Haamek Davar 25:12)


The act of

killing a human being in the name of religious zeal can make a person

indifferent to killing. That is why Pinehas required

a special blessing from God, so that his zealous deed performed for the sake of

Heaven would not change him into a wicked person. The boundary between shedding

blood for the sake of Heaven and blood-shed for the satisfaction of human

drives can become blurred… Both Pinehas and

Eliyahu were motivated by devotion to God, and

not by of the hatred of sinners. A person who is zealous for God because he

hates sinners does not genuinely serve God; rather he is motivated by his

drives and urges and a quest for self-satisfaction. There is no service of God

in that – rather it is a case of self-deception.

(Y. Leibowitz: Sheva Shanim Shel Sihot al Parashat Ha-Shavua, pg. 730)



the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up with Korah –

when that band died, when the fire consumed the two hundred and fifty men – and

they became an example.

(Bemidbar 26:10)



voice of your brother's blood: Soil which has soaked up innocent blood does

vengeance against its sons

And Rav Yehudah the son of

Rabbi Hiyya said: From the day the earth

opened its mouth to receive Abel's blood, it had not opened again, for it is

said: From the end of the earth we hear singing: Glory

to the righteous! (Yeshayahu 24:16), and not from the

mouth of the earth.


brother Hezkiah questioned him: [What about

the verse] whereupon the earth opened its mouth?

He told him:

It opened for evil, but it did not open for good.

(Sanhedrin 37b)


Let the Lord, God of the spirits

for all flesh, appoint a man over the community, who will go out before them

and come in before them.

(Numbers 27:15:16)


Among the personality traits

deemed proper for Israel's

leaders, Moshe includes: "appoint a man over the community, who will go

out before them and come in before them". The Midrash

elaborates: "who will go out before them" – who will not do as

others do, that he not take out tens of thousands and bring back a thousand,

take out thousands and bring back hundreds".

The Midrash

is referring to those national leaders who guard their own lives far from the

field of battle, but do not hesitate to send their legions to war despite the

heavy losses – "talking out thousands and bringing back hundreds."

It is the duty of the leader to

be "a man …who will go out before them" accounting for all his

troops, doing everything necessary to avoid as much as possible loss and


The Midrash

adds a beautiful parable: "What did Moshe resemble? A faithful shepherd

ordered by his master "Leave my sheep". He replied: I will not leave

until you tell me whom you are appointing in my place!"


Leibowitz: Seven Years of Discussions on the Weekly Parasha, p,. 734)


When a king of

flesh and blood goes to war against his enemies, he sends his soldiers to kill

and to be killed.

He may love his

soldiers or he may not love them.

He may have

regard for them or he may not have regard for them. Even if he has regard for

them, however, he regards them as dead, for the angel of death is close upon

the heels of a man who goes to war, and accompanies him to kill him. When he is

cut down and slain by an arrow or a sword or any of the other instruments of

destruction, another man is put in his place and the king does not sense his

lack, for the nations are many and their troops are many. If one of them is

killed, the king has many replacements.

But our King,

the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed Be He, wants life and loves peace And pursues peace and loves His people Israel. He chose us, and not

because we are a large nation, for we are one of the smallest of nations.

Owing to the

love with which He loves us – and we are few – each one of us is, for Him, an

entire legion. For he does not have many replacements for us.

If one of us is missing, heaven forefend, the King's forces are diminished, and

His kingdom is weakened, as it were. For His kingdom lacks one of His legions, and His greatness is lessened.

(S.Y. Agnon, Preface to Kaddish

– to be recited by the bier of Israel's


Adopted From Leon Wieseltier's translation in "Kaddish")


Pleasing Odor, Nahat Ruah, the Will

of the Lord

A pleasing odor – Nahat ruah [Nahat Ruah can

be translated as "satisfaction," "gratification,"

"tranquility," "serene spirit," "pleasure"] – pleasure

– for me, for I spoke and my will was executed.

(Rashi, Bemidbar 28:8)


Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and,

taking of every clean animal and of every clean bird, he offered burnt

offerings on the altar. The Lord smelled the reyah nikhoah [pleasing

odor] , and the Lord said to Himself: Never again will I doom the earth

because of man, since the devisings of

man's mind are evil from his youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living

being, as I have done.

(Bereishit 8:20-21)


Reyah nikhoah does

not mean "pleasant odor" but rather: the satisfaction of the request

and aspirations of the other.

(Rabbi S. R. Hirsch, Bereishit 8:21)


What need have I of all your sacrificessays the Lord. I am sated with burnt offerings of rams

and suet of fatlings, and blood of bulls; I have no delight in lambs and

he-goats. That you come to appear before Me –

who asked that of you? Trample My courts no

more; Bringing oblations is futile, incense is offensive to Me. New moon and

Sabbath, proclaiming of solemnities, assemblies with iniquity, I cannot abide.

(Isaiah 1:11-13)


What need have I of all your

sacrifices – Rabbi Elazar said:

Prayer is superior to all offerings, for it is written What need

have I of all your sacrifices and it is written, And when you

lift up your hands… Though you pray at length, I will not listen. Rabbi Yohanan said: Any priest who has killed

someone shall not lift his arms [to bless], as is

written, Your hands are stained

with blood.

(Yalkut Shimoni, Isaiah 247:387)



the offerings [minhat] of Judah

and Jerusalem

shall be pleasing to the Lord – In the future, an abundance of

knowledge will spread and will penetrate even animals. They will not do

evil nor will they destroy on the mount of My holiness, because the earth will

be full with knowledge of the Lord and that offering which will then

be the minha offering – from the

vegetable – shall be pleasant to the Lord as in the days of yore.

(Rabbi Avraham

Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, Olat

R'IYaH p. 282)


But it

is obvious that in these days of enlightenment there will be no such concept of

pleasing the Lord with tens of thousands of streams of oil.

(Rabbi Hayyim Hirschenson: Malki Bakodesh, Part 1, p. 32)




It's been fifteen years since Yoel

has died and it still feels like yesterday….

Please join us for an evening of learning (in English)

in his memory

on Wednesday July 3 at 8 PM

at Kehillat Yedidya, Nahum

Lipshitz St.,


Mincha at 7:30 PM.

Dr. Beverly Gribetz

will speak on the topic:

From Destruction to Redemption: A Love Story":

A lesson from Masechet

Taanit for the 3 Weeks.

Maariv after the shiur

Miriam, Jonathan, Devorah,

Naomi, Ephraim



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