Pinchas - Too Much Righteousness
By Rabbi Aron Tendler
Do we trust G-d? Do we trust His stated consequences? If G-d says not to do
something, or to do something, do we trust Him and listen, or do we wonder
what the cost will be to us? Are we prepared to do or not do as instructed
even when there is no stated consequence?
The mindset of the Eved Hashem (servant of G-d) is to listen and do whatever
G-d commands, regardless of rational or consequence. This has been the theme
of the Book of Bamidbar.
1. The Spies challenged G-d's stated promise of the conquest and victory
of Isrrael and its inhabitants because the physical evidence appeared to
contradict the possibility of success.
2. Korach challenged G-d's stated instructions regarding the Mitzvos of
Tzitzis and Mezuzah because his intellect could not accept the imposed
limitations of Moshe's explanation of G-d's intention.
3. The new generation born in the desert and destined to inhabit the
land challenged the limitations imposed by G-d on their moral behavior,
because basic animal desires appeared to contradict G-d's lofty expectations
for His children.
In each of the above situations G-d's consequences were swift and severe.
Those who challenged G-d's stated commands, for whatever reason intellectual
or behavioral, did not survive. On the other hand, those who did listen to
G-d, regardless of reason or circumstance, were magnificently rewarded.
Kalev and Yehoshua ignored the evidence of their mission. They put the
evidence of their mission into perspective. Regardless of what we see or
think, G-d's promises will come true because His ability is unlimited.
Therefore, whatever we think should be enhances the miracle of what will be.
The more impossible success appears to be the greater the sanctification of
G-d's name will be when success occurs. Confronted by the nation's
disillusionment and loss of faith, Yehoshua and Kalev stated their
unqualified trust in G-d's promises. Yehoshua was rewarded by becoming
Moshe's successor and Kalev was rewarded by inheriting the city of Hebron and
the princeship of Shevet Yehudah.
With Korach's rebellion, the heroes were the majority of Jews who did not
join the rebellion. The heroes were Moshe and Aharon whose leadership was
divinely confirmed in the public arena. Make no mistake; the challenge to
Moshe's leadership was serious. If unanswered, the divine origin of both the
Oral and the Written law would have been compromised. If unanswered, Korach's
intellectual and emotional challenge would have given substance and
credibility to the similar unspoken doubts in the minds of the general
population. Therefore, G-d listened to Moshe's request for a swift
spectacular and public response. The earth swallowed Korach, Nadav and Avihu.
The 250 men were consumed by fire. Moshe remained the sole arbitrator of
To be divinely confirmed is the greatest reward possible. To have your own
belief substantiated and your doubts resolved is among the greatest rewards
possible. Moshe and Aharon were rewarded and the nation was rewarded.
At the end of last week's Parsha, Pinchas emerged as the hero. Confronted by
a nation gone mad, Pinchas reacted with utter confidence in the law of G-d,
as taught to him by Moshe. Personal fear, danger, and considerations were of
no consequence. Going against public opinion was of no consequence. Complete
faith in, "If G-d said so then it is the right thing to do and everything
will work out" directed his response. It doesn't mean that Pinchas wasn't
afraid. It meant that Pinchas trusted G-d and Moshe more than he was afraid.
Pinchas's reward was immediate. He was made into a Kohain and granted G-d's
Covenant of Peace. Pinchas was assured that "his doing the right thing" was
the only proper response. Any other response or compromise would have been a
disaster. It would have not increased the "Shalom," it would have detracted
The true Eved Hashem - servant of G-d is defined bY Antignois from Socho in
Chap. 1, Mishnah 3 of Avos (Ethics Of Our Fathers). "Be as servants who serve
their master without concern for consequence." Later in the next chapter
Mishnah 4, Raban Gamliel stated, "Make G-d's will as your own, so that your
will becomes G-d's will." At first glance it seems that the two Mishsnayos
are contradictory. The first Mishnah says that our service to G-d should be
without consideration of reward.The second Mishnah says that having G-d do
your will can motivate you to do G-d's; meaning, do what G-d wants and G-d
will do what you want. That certainly constitutes reward!
The commentaries point out that the two Mishnayot are not in conflict with
each other. (Meiri) If you make G-d's will your own then your will becomes
His will! That which you desire will only be that which G-d would give you
anyway. The basic format for asking G-d is, "If it is your will that what I
ask for is in my best interest, please grant me my wish. However, if what I
ask for, regardless of emotion, intellect, or desire is not in my best
interest, I fully accept your judgment and accept no as an answer as well."
In such an instance, the motivation is solely to do G-d's will, regardless of
Another approach to resolving the seeming contradiction between the two
Mishnayos is stages. Antignos from Socho is defining the ultimate in service
to G-d, whereas Raban Gamliel is defining the process for attaining that
goal. First, rewards ands prizes motivate us; and eventually, the service
itself will become our goal and motivation.
Following the record of Pinchas's reward, G-d commanded Moshe to wage war
against the Midyanim (Moabites and Ammonites) (25:17). The Medresh (21:5) on
this week's Parsha references the Pasuk in Divarim (23:7) that prohibited all
social contact with the Ammonites and Moabites. "Never are you to seek
their" peace. "The verses that preceded that prohibition explain why G-d did
not want the Bnai Yisroel to have any social interaction with the Moabites
and Ammonites. "Because they did not greet you with bread and water" and
because they hired Bilam to curse you"
The Medresh continues and recalls the incident with King David when he sent
greetings of condolences to Chanun the son of Nachash, Crown Prince of Ammon,
on the ocassion of King Nachash's death.
In brief, the incident with King David is as follows. When Dovid was fleeing
from King Saul, he asked the King of Moab to give safe haven to his parents
and brothers. The king of Moab agreed, and when Dovid left, he killed Dovid's
parents and all but one of his brothers. (Rashi - Samuel 1: 22:4) That sole
survivor fled to Nachash of Ammon who granted him safe haven.
When Nachash died, Dovid felt that it was only right for him to send official
emissaries with greetings of condolences to Chanun, the new king of Ammon.
The Navi records that Chanun took the emissaries and disgraced them by
shaving off half their beards and sending them back to Dovid.This was
perceived as a declaration of war against the Bnai Yisroel. Under the
direction of Dovid's general, Yoav, the Jews went to battle against the
nations of Ammon, Aram, Tzovah and Maacha. As recorded in both Samuel and
Chronicles, although the Jews were victorious, the war proved to be long and
difficult with many Jewish casualties. The Medresh concludes, "Why did this
tragedy occur to Dovid? Because he transgressed the prohibition of "Never are
you to seek their.. peace."
The Medresh references this particular incident as further proof of what it
means to trust or not trust G-d's word. Dovid seemed
to have good reason to send greetings to Chanun. As a nation we emulate the
character traits of appreciation and gratitude. Nachash had done a great
kindness to Dovid. He had saved the life of his brother. Yet, the Torah did
not make any exceptions when it prohibited contact with the Ammonites. "Never
are you to seek their.. peace!" Dovid assumed the exception and challenged
the simplicity and directness of G-d's commandment.
As the Medresh references from Koheles (7:16), "Do not be too righteous." Do
not be more righteous than the Torah. If G-d said not to have contact,
without exception, do not think that you can be kinder and more sensitive
than G-d! Trust Him! Believe in Him! Do not try to out think G-d! G-d has his
reasons whether you agree with them or not, whether you understand them or
not! Because of Dovid's "righteousness" Israel went to war and lives were
The message of these Parshios is clear. G-d knows what He is doing. Trust G-d
and listen to the Torah as taught by Moshe and it will always turn out right.
Try to be smarter than G-d, more sensitive than Moshe's teachings and the end
will be destruction and disaster.
Copyright © 2001 by Rabbi Aron Tendler
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation,
Valley Village, CA.