Therefore say, “Behold, I give him my covenant of peace.
Notice the present tense: “I give,” rather than I will give. The present implies continuing action, i.e. what I give to Pinchas continues to give at all times. You’ll find a similar construction at the end of Malachi: “Behold, I send you,” rather than I will send. This is not surprising, since the object of the verb is Eliyahu, who is otherwise known as Pinchas!
We know that Eliyahu is the harbinger of Mashiach, but let’s unpack that further. The arrival of Mashiach means completion, or the coming together of all the materials needed to build the perfected world. Even when the pieces are available, they usually grate on each other to some extent. There is always tension, resistance to the pieces joining each other perfectly. Overcoming the tension means that the pieces are in peace with each other.
What overcomes the resistance is powerful longing and desire. Eliyahu’s heralding of the soon-to-come redeemer is another way of depicting the great teshukah that we must have for redemption before it comes.
Similarly, the power of tefillah is unleashed when the elements of thought and speech come together in perfect fit. This unification is a smaller version of the one that takes place in the time of Mashiach, when all the 600,000 neshamos of Klal Yisrael come together, as they were in Adam before his sin. (The Besht in fact taught that it is the responsibility of every Jew to prepare the contribution of his neshamah to the complete stature of Man at the time of Mashiach.) Thus, Eliyahu is involved wherever there is an important unification – where different elements fit together, including tefillah and learning. Thus, the berachah that Hashem gave Pinchas is indeed operative in all generations. It is a berachah of both peace and completion.
Just why did this task become identified with Eliyahu? Because as is known, Pinchas assimilated the neshamos of Nadav and Avihu. Those had died because of their enormous teshukah and passion for avodah of Hashem. So strong was their longing, that their neshamos departed from them while they served Him. The “fire” that went out and killed them was their own fiery passion for the pure light that they saw in drawing close to Him in their service. (While the gemara offers other explanations for their deaths, pointing to different aveiros, the real reason is what I’ve written. All the other reasons only explain why Hashem did not save them from becoming totally consumed by their extreme longing for union with Him.)
Pinchas/Eliyahu became the possessor of this passion and teshukah when the neshamos of Nadav and Avihu passed on to him. Through them, Pinchas received the berachah of shalom, or the shleimus/completion that comes whenever there is a yichud of elements that come together. (This is why the last berachah of the Shemonah Esreh is for shalom, coming after the successful integration of machshavah and dibbur.) And so it will be at the time of our redemption, may it happen soon, in our days! Pinchas/Eliyahu will play a crucial role in spurring the teshukah necessary for it to happen.
- Based on Meor Einayim by Rav Menachem Nochum zt”l of Chernobyl ↑
- Bamidbar 25:12 ↑
- Malachi 3:23 ↑
- Yalkut Shimoni #771, beginning of Pinchas ↑
- Zohar3 57b ↑