As a result of Pinchas’ standing up for G-d’s honor, the Torah testifies to his reward: “And it shall be for him and his offspring after him a covenant of eternal priesthood…” (Bamidbar/Numbers 25:13)
Rashi explains that even though the priesthood had already been given to the offspring of Aaron, it had only been given to Aaron, his sons, and the progeny they would bear after their anointing. Pinchas, a grandson of Aaron already born at the time of the anointing (thus expressly excluded from those to be anointed at that time), did not become a Kohen (priest) until more than 38 years later, after he sanctified the Divine name by killing Zimri. If G-d wanted Pinchas to be a Kohen, why did he not anoint him with Aaron and his sons? Why did this righteous person have to be put into the circumstance that his entire family – including his younger brothers – were Kohanim who could perform the Divine Service while he could not, even though he was truly deserving of this honor?
The Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) states that a person should accustom himself to saying, “Everything G-d does is for the best.” Even though there are many situations and events in life that we do not understand, G-d has precise calculations and reasoning for each event in everyone’s life. In fact, the Talmud (Shabbos 105b) compares one who acts out of anger to an idol worshipper because a person only becomes angry as a result of the frustration that the course of life is not as he would like it to be. If he had completely embraced the belief that G-d designed the world in a way that everything is for his best – especially the times of challenge – he would realize that these things should not upset him. His anger is, in a sense, disputing G-d, a quasi-idolatrous practice.
Rabbi Gedaliah Schorr (1) notes that if a Kohen kills someone, he is not allowed to perform the Divine Service (2). Only because Pinchas was not yet a Kohen when he killed Zimri did he not invalidate himself from the Divine Service. When Pinchas killed Zimri, it was on behalf of and for the good of the Jewish people; nevertheless, it was not a role a Kohen could fulfill. Yet, because Pinchas did this with the purest of intentions – to atone for the sins of the nation – he demonstrated that he possessed the attributes of an ideal Kohen and was rewarded by being given that charge. And only G-d, Who in His timelessness possesses a breadth of perspective no human can fathom, put Pinchas at each stage of his life in the circumstance that was then the best for him. Pinchas, instead of lamenting his lot, appreciated and took advantage of each of the unique opportunities with which he was presented.
In our own experience, there will be times we will have a glimpse of an answer to one of the “Why?” questions that bother us, sometimes it will take a couple of months, sometimes a couple of years, sometimes – like Pinchas – a half a lifetime…and many times it will not come at all. But our not knowing why does not change the fact that G-d loves us and custom tailors our life’s circumstances for our betterment.
Have a Good Shabbos.
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