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Friday, July 14

The Weekly Shtikle - Pinechas

This week's parsha begins by recounting the details of Pinechas's heroic act at the end of last week's which brought an abrupt end to the devastating plague. The gemara in Sanhedrin (82b), the masechta on which the Daf Yomi cycle is about to embark, tells of an exchange between the Heavenly angels and HaShem in which HaShem defends Pinechas as a "kanai ben kanai," a zealot, the son of a zealot. Rashi explains that Pinechas's actions are being linked to those of his ancestor, Levi, in attacking wiping out the city of Shechem to defend the honour of his sister and his father's family. Ironically, the original act was carried out by a tandem of Shimon and Levi whereas here, Levi was pitted against Shimon.

The similarities between the two episodes run much deeper than just the initial act. Shimon and Levi attacked Shechem without the consent of their father, Yaakov. For this they drew much parental criticism. The focal point of that rebuke (Bereishis 34:30) appears to be the grave public relations ramifications of their act. Yaakov was concerned that news of this shocking incident would invite an invasion from the surrounding nations. Miraculously, however, we are told (34:35) that the fear of the Lord prevented anyone from chasing after Yaakov and his family.

Pinechas also took spontaneous action with the awareness that he would not be met with universal approval. Indeed, the very same gemara recounts the ensuing ridicule that Pinechas endured. Here, too, public relations were a significant consideration. A princess of Midyan was killed and such a high-profile incident could easily have brought on a war in an instant. Nevertheless, Midyan does not take action. (However, as we have discussed previously, according to some commentaries, they were plotting revenge.) Even though B'nei Yisrael are commanded to bring the war to them, that did not happen immediately.

Both acts of zealotry involved not only possible physical danger but subjection to public shaming, making them all the more heroic. And in both instances, Divine intervention saw to it that there was no negative blowback from the affected or surrounding nations.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Keves vs. Kesev
Dikdukian:  Shabbas be'Shabbato
Al Pi Cheshbon: Probability of the Goral

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