The pasuk at the beginning of Parshas Pinchas says: “And it shall be for him and his offspring after him a covenant of eternal priesthood, because he took vengeance for his G-d, and he atoned for the Children of Israel” (Bamidbar 25:13). As we learned in last week’s parsha, Pinchas did not tolerate the travesty of a nasi (prince) of a shevet (tribe) in Yisroel brazenly committing a public act of immorality with a Midyanite Princess. He took a spear and killed them both, based on the Halacha of “A person who commits public immorality with a female from Aram, may be smitten down by a kanai (religiously zealous individual).” As a result of that act of zealotry, he was rewarded with an eternal covenant of Kehunah (Priesthood).
Rashi raises the obvious question: As a grandson of Aharon, was Pinchas not already a Kohen? Rashi answers that even though the Kehuna was already granted to Aharon’s children, Pinchas was not a Kohen prior to this incident. The reason for that, Rashi says, is that Kehuna was only granted to Aharon and his sons and those descendants of these original Kohanim who would be born later. This did not include the grandchildren of Aharon who were already alive but were not anointed with Aharon and his sons, such as Pinchas son of Elazar. (Zevachim 101b)
This is an example of the exquisiteness of hashgocha (Divine providence). Consider the following: Up until this point in time, Pinchas was just a regular Levi, not a Kohen. Every single day, Pinchas saw his father serve as a Kohen. He saw his grandfather serve as a Kohen. He saw his uncle serve as a Kohen. He even saw his cousins (who were born afterward) serve as Kohanim. Pinchas, however, because of an accident of birth and this quirk in the Halacha of who is a Kohen, was not a Kohen. He could have been asking himself: What did I do wrong? Where is the justice in all this?
Remember, this went on for forty years. Aharon and his four sons became Kohanim at the beginning of the forty years in the Midbar. The incident with Zimri and Kozbi occurred at the end of their time in the Midbar, forty years later. For forty years, day in, day out, Pinchas saw this going on. Perhaps he was stewing in his juices. What is the meaning of this?
The holy Zohar says, “No. This is all part of the Ribono shel Olam’s grand plan.” If the Ribono shel Olam had let it happen that Pinchas had already been a Kohen—either because he had been born to Elazar after Elazar had received the Kehuna, or because he had been included in the original anointing—he would have lost his Kehuna at this juncture. When the incident with Zimri and Kozbi occurred and Pinchas picked up his spear and killed them, Pinchas—if he had already been a Kohen—would have invalidated himself from the Kehuna. The Halacha is that a Kohen who has killed someone (even unintentionally) is not allowed to ‘raise his hands’ (to offer the Priestly Blessing). (There is a dispute among the Rishonim as to whether this excludes him from all of the Avodah done by a Kohen, but he is certainly not allowed to ‘Duchen‘).
Thus, the Zohar says, the reason the Ribono shel Olam did not make Pinchas a Kohen up until this point is because He wanted Pinchas to be a Kohen for the rest of his life. Not only that, but Tosfos (Zevachim 101) says that there were 80 Kohanim Gedolim in the first Beis HaMikdash and 300 Kohanim Gedolim in the second Beis HaMikdash who were all descendants of Pinchas. All of that was possible because Pinchas did not originally become a Kohen.
Any observer might have asked, “Where is there justice in the world?” and “Why was Pinchas dealt this raw deal and this bad hand?” Now we can understand that it was because the Ribono shel Olam knew what was going to happen. It was all part of His grand plan to specifically make Pinchas and his future descendants Kohanim and Kohanim Gedolim.
The Zohar continues – isn’t it ironic that Moshe Rabbeinu, who knew almost every Halacha without exception, suddenly forgot the Halacha by Zimri and Kozbi, and did not know what to do. Why didn’t Moshe Rabbeinu know what to do? It is for the same reason. If Moshe Rabbeinu knew what to do, Pinchas would not have done what he did. This was all part of the grand plan.
The take-away lesson of this is that it is common in life to be perplexed and not understand why events occur. Things don’t seem to make sense, and they don’t seem fair. Many times, they seem a lot worse than not fair. This incident is a paradigm to demonstrate that the Ribono shel Olam has a plan.
I would like to share three different stories. I have first-hand knowledge regarding two of these stories. I heard the third story from a reliable source. I know the people involved in the first two stories, and I received permission from one of the people to mention his name. I have not been able to verify that the person in the other story would not object to my mentioning his name, so I will relate the story anonymously.
I know a boy who went skiing, had a skiing accident, and received a severe blow to the head. He underwent an X-ray and it was discovered from the X-ray that he had a tumor, which was at the stage where it could be removed by surgery. Had they not discovered this right then, it would have been inoperable.
Someone may think: Why did this happen? That is why it happened!
The second story is even more incredible. The fellow lives at the Yeshiva (Ner Yisroel, Baltimore, MD) and works there as the assistant alumni director. His name is Eli Greengart. Two or three weeks ago, they had a Shabbos Sheva Brochos in the mountains. His family went. On Friday afternoon, they realized they didn’t know where his three-year-old was. Everyone was frantically looking for the toddler. Suddenly, they realized that the toddler fell into an area of the swimming pool that was ten feet deep. The child, who had apparently been in the water for four or five minutes, had already turned blue. They fished him out of the pool and helicoptered him to Westchester Medical Center. Baruch Hashem, they were able to resuscitate the child and he is now perfectly fine. This is amazing, if not a miracle.
Someone told me that both Eli Greengart and his wife are from Silver Spring, MD. Seventeen years ago there was a similar story in Silver Spring involving a two-year-old child who fell into a swimming pool. The outcome was not as fortunate. The child was in a coma for seventeen years. At the time, Eli Greengart was single and still in high school. For the four years that he was in high school, he went over to that family and gave showers to that child who was in a coma. Now, many years later, he had a similar incident and the Ribono shel Olam performed a nes for him!
It is always tricky business to go ahead and assume “cause and effect.” But we can wonder… There seems to be a connection between the act of chessed he did throughout high school with a child who fell into a swimming pool and the miracle that the Ribono shel Olam performed for him.
I heard the last story, which I verified this morning, last year when I was in Europe. I called the person who told me the story to verify the details. This is not a happy ending story, but it is an incredible hashgocha story.
There was a family in Lakewood that was sitting shiva for a little child who ran out into the street and was hit by a car and was killed, lo aleinu. Another family came to be menachem avel and told the parents of this little child the following story:
They were a couple involved in kiruv. They went to some off-the-beaten-path city to do ‘kiruv work.’ The city had no mikveh. They took it upon themselves that they would raise the money and see to it that a mikveh was built there. They did this with great self-sacrifice, to the extent that there were months that they did not eat meat during the week to scrape together the money to finally build the mikveh. One night, when they were doing some work in the mikveh, they had a little child with them. They turned around. They didn’t know where the child was, and to their horror, they discovered that the child fell into the mikveh and drowned.
The wife was inconsolable. No matter what anyone told her, she was inconsolable. They worked so hard, with such personal sacrifice, to build the mikveh. “This is Torah and this is its reward?” “No matter how many times anyone says that no one understands the ways of Hashem – how could it be?”
The husband had a dream. In the dream, the drowned child came to him and told him that he is the neshama (soul) of a Jew who went through the Spanish Inquisition and was a martyr, who rather than be converted to Christianity was killed and was buried without the benefit of a tahara (ritual bathing performed on a dead Jewish body). He was in a high place in Gan Eden but he needed a tahara in a mikveh that was built al taharas hakodesh (in pristine purity) – the purest mikveh that could be built. His parents built that mikveh. That child with that neshama had that tahara in that mikveh. That is why it had to happen. That was their consolation, and that is what this kiruv couple told the couple in Lakewood.
Does it always work out like that? Do we always find out in our lifetimes why things like that happen? No.
Do we always connect the dots? Is it a smart idea to try to connect the dots? Not necessarily.
But the story of Pinchas—especially in light of what the Zohar and the Rishonim say—demonstrates that the wheels of hashgocha grind extremely slowly but they also grind extremely finely. The Ribono shel Olam has His calculations. “The Rock, perfect is His work, for all His ways are justice; a G-d, faithful without iniquity…” (Devorim 32:4).
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Pinchas is provided below:
- # 064 – The Yarmulka: At Home and In the Office
- # 154 – Writing a Halachically Sanctioned Will
- # 201 – Fasting on Tisha B’Av: Is It For Everyone?
- # 246 – Hilchos Brachos: Ikar Ve Tofel
- # 291 – The Do’s and Don’t of Kashering Keilim
- # 336 – Tisha B’Av on Motzoei Shabbos
- # 381 – Making A Zecher Le’churban
- # 425 – Minhagim of the Three Weeks
- # 469 – Tu B’Av
- # 513 – Leining on Fast Days and Other Ta’aneisim Issues
- # 557 – Disinheriting
- # 645 – Women and Bentching
- # 688 – A Manicure on Shabbos?
- # 732 – Does A Mezuza Need a Door?
- # 776 – Yayin Mevushal – Does It Exist?
- # 821 – Cholent on Sunday of the Nine Days
- # 865 – Neckties,Shoelaces and Tichels: A Knotty Problem
- # 909 – Shabbos Shacharis – Hashkama Vs Later
- # 953 – Tevilas Keilim: My Hosts Haven’t Toiveled Their Dishes
- # 995 – The Mitzva of Shiluach Ha’Kain – Do We Make A Bracha?
- #1040 – Learning on Tisha B’av? Saying Tehilim on Tisha B’Av?
- #1084 – The Kohain Who Killed Someone by Accident: Can He Still “Duchan”?
- #1127 – Tei’ku – What Will Eliyahu Answer?
- #1169 – 17 Tamuz–When Does It Start? Wearing Laundered Shirts In Nine Days?
- #1212 – Goral: Can You Have A Raffle For A Sefer Torah?
- #1257 – Learning on Tisha B’Av, Should You? Can You? Eating Tisha B’Av Night So You Can Fast on Tisha B’Av Day?
- #1301 – A Tisha B’av Message: The Golden Rule – Don’t Do Unto Others What You Don’t Want Done Unto You
- #1345 – Bathing During the Nine Days
- #1389 – The Case of the Rabbi Who Said I Want My Son To Assume My Position When I Retire – Can He Demand That?
- #1433 – The Use of a Goral in Halacha
- #1521 – Bris During Nine Days: Fleishigs or Milchig? Shabbos Leftovers for Sunday Night Dinner?
A complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.yadyechiel.org/ for further information.