This Dvar Torah is written in honor of the marriage of my brother-in-law and new sister-in-law, Alter & Shaina Gross. Mazel tov!
Parshas Pinchas, like many of the summer parshios that I lained at camp, maintains a special place in my heart (It’s a parsha that I helped a younger camper learn how to read, and got to watch him lain in front of both of our units). The parsha is action packed, and contains the readings Rosh Chodesh and a lot of the Yamim Tovim (!כָּאֵלֶּה). Yet, the story of Pinchas actually begins at the end of Parshas Balak. Bnai Yisrael are have gone astray, committing themselves to sexual immorality and worshipping other beings. One man, Pinchas, witnessed what was happening, and in an act of zealotry, slew a Jewish man and a Midianite woman who were together. Only once Parshas Balak ends and Parshas Pinchas begins do we hear Hashem inform Moshe Rabbeinu that Pinchas ben Elazar ben Aharon HaKohen has caused His anger to cease. This act ultimately gave Pinchas and his descendants a covenant of peace and of priesthood. Both at the end of Balak and here at the start of our parsha, Pinchas is introduced with his full family lineage, Pinchas ben Elazar ben Aharon HaKohen. This is unlike many other figures mentioned in the Torah. Rabbi Soloveitchik explains that the way that Pinchas behaved was a manifestation of the very lineage he was a part of. He took to heart the self-sacrifice of his ancestors in summoning up the courage to be among the righteous, seemingly against the current of the masses at that time. This thrust him into the category of a leader, and is why his progeny received the bris Shalom.
Rabbi Soloveitchik also notes that Pinchas’ actions may seem incongruous to those of his grandfather, Aharon HaKohen. Hillel in Pirkei Avos (1:12) teaches us that we are to be like the students of Aharon, both a lover and a pursuer of peace. Pinchas’ zealotry doesn’t seem on the surface to be in line with Aharon’s teachings. Yet, notes the Rav, to erase this notion, Pinchas’ lineage is mentioned to show explicitly that his actions were just. To be a lover and pursuer of peace does not mean to stand idly by while the Divine missive is being trampled in order to “make nice.” Pinchas’ actions do not preclude him from still being an ohev Shalom v’rodeph Shalom. The message here is that while God and his commandments were being flagrantly thrown by the wayside, the courage of Pinchas saved the Jewish people at this juncture, and his actions were precisely in line with those of his grandfather and forebears.