Divrei Torah

The Divrei Torah in this section have been translated by Rav Reuven Ungar, Director of Alumni Affairs

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The Covenant of Kehuna; The Covenant of Peace

By: Rav Michael Yammer
Rav Mechanech in Yeshivat Sha'alvim and Rav Mossad of Sha'alvim For Women

"Pinchas, son of Elazar, son of Aharon the High Priest has removed my wrath from the Jewish People..Therefore tell him that I will give him my covenant of peace. He and his sons that follow him will have an eternal covenant of Kehuna (priesthood)." In reward of his act of zealotry (slaying Zimri and Kazbi) Pinchas received a double reward: the covenants of peace and Kehuna.

What distinguishes peace and Kehuna from other rewards? Why did Pinchas merit a double reward?

The Torah describes the background of the zealous action of Pinchas as follows: "The nation began to have illicit relations with the daughters of Moav ..the Jewish People attached itself to Ba'al Pa'or". What message does this introduction convey to us?

The gemara in Masechet Sanhederin (64a) depicts the idolatrous nature of Ba'al Pa'or and how the Jewish People were led to worship it. A gentile woman who was severely ill proclaimed that if she would be healed she would worship all the various idolatries in the world. She proceeded to do this. Upon approaching Pa'or she inquired the priests of the nature of worship for Pa'or. They informed her that one eats, drinks beer and defecates in front of the idol. The woman responded that she would prefer to return to her illness than to worship idolatry in such a manner.

At first glance, the above description is strange, even revolting. It is difficult to comprehend what motivated the Jewish People to abandon the worship of Hashem and to worship this particular idolatry.

The gemara proceeds to relay the following episode. Savta the son of Eles and worshiped the Pa'or. Upon committing a further utterly disgusting act the servants praised him, remarking that no one had ever served the idol in such a fashion. This begs the question: What generated the praise of Savta?

The essence of the worship of Pa'or was the total disregard of all norms and accepted behavior of society. All values are trampled in the face of the desire of the individual. One owes nothing to any source. Pa'or represents the negation of all authority and rules; thus Savta son of Eles was praised for performing despicable acts towards the idol.

This concept appealed to the Jewish People. An individual who has attained freedom after years of slavery yearns to do whatever pleases him; to rebel against all authority. Subsequent to the exodus from Egypt , the Jewish People received an elaborate framework of laws that govern all facets of existence. They were inclined to worship Pa'or, as this exemplifies the " everything (yes, EVERYTHING) goes" philosophy.

The zealous response of Pinchas proclaimed that he is a servant of Hashem who will worship Him. Pinchas conveyed to the community that the greatest heights an individual can attain are realized when one subjugates himself to Hashem. Acceptance of the Yoke of Heaven, Service to Hashem, signify the aspiration of man; hedonism and self-worship demean the dignity of man.

Thus we understand the double reward of peace and Kehuna. Peace maintains the framework of society. When peace is lacking, social stability crumbles. Likewise, the Kohanim are charged with maintaining the spiritual framework of the Jewish People; to disseminate Torah and to guard the sanctity of the Mikdash. As is recorded in Birchat Kohanim, they are the agents of Hashem to bless, to enlighten and to endow peace.

This insight enables us to comprehend the background to the worship of Ba'al Pa'or. Originally members of the Jewish People had illicit relationships with Moabite women. The road to idol-worship did not materialize instantaneously. It commenced with a partial diversion from accepted norms, a "slip" due to human frailty. As the Sforno points out in Sefer Devarim, the original intent of those individuals was exclusively of a sensual nature. However, it led directly to the path of idolatry; of removing all inhibitions and standards of behavior. The Torah (Sefer Devarim 4:2/3) prohibits us from adding or subtracting (bal tosif, bal tigra) from the commandments. "For your eyes have witnessed what Hashem did in Ba'al Pa'or." The slippery slope of divergence from standards constitutes the root of the prohibitions of bal tosif and bal tigra.

Prior to leaving this world, Moshe Rabeinu beseeched Hashem to appoint an appropriate successor to guide the Jewish People. The nation should not be compared to a flock with out a shepherd (Bamidbar 27:16). The nation requires a leader to safeguard the existing framework; it is not capable of accomplishing this on its own.


Categorized under: 1: Parshat Shavua > Pinchas
Uploaded: 8/31/2005 6:15:36 PM