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Shabbat Parashat Pinchas| 5770

Parashat Hashavuah: Zealotry (Almost Always) Means Destruction

Harav Yosef Carmel

Our parasha begins with a description of the reward Pinchas received for his zealotry. It is important to internalize Pinchas’ uniqueness and realize that the special covenant of peace that he received and the ten miracles that helped him were given specifically to a person of his rare qualities.

The only person who seems to have been able to use Pinchas’ approach of zealotry is Eliyahu. This similarity may be behind the opinion among our Rabbis that Eliyahu and Pinchas are one and the same person (see Rashbam, Bava Batra 122b, among others). The Rabbis instituted this week’s haftara to be the one dealing with Hashem’s instructions to Eliyahu to give over the mantle of prophetic leadership to Elisha. (The parasha also discusses the mandate to pass leadership from Moshe to Yehoshua.) What is the idea behind the choice of this haftara?

The section begins with the apparent victory of Eliyahu. He proved to the people that “Hashem is the Lord,” avenging the murder of true prophets by killing the prophets of the Ba’al, enabling Bnei Yisrael to regain the blessing of rain, and even restoring a degree of normalcy in his relationship with the king (see Melachim I, 18:46), but Queen Jez

ebel swore to kill him in revenge (ibid. 19:2). Eliyahu, on one hand, despaired and, on the other, referred to his eagerness to be brave and zealous in his service of Hashem.

Hashem gave Eliyahu three instructions to accomplish before completing his role as the generation’s prophet/ religious leader. One was to anoint Chazael as king over Aram; the second was to anoint Yehu ben Nimshi as king over Israel; and the third was to appoint Elisha ben Shafat as the next prophet. However, the prophecy continued that these three would have a joint role: to kill off hordes of people from the nation, so that after they were done, only 7,000 people would be left (ibid.:15-18). In other words, the nation as it was known would all but cease to exist, leaving only a cadre of especially righteous people.

Scripture does not state explicitly how Eliyahu reacted to these instructions. However, by seeing the aftermath, especially in regard to Elisha, and by using some common sense, we can figure out what happened. Hashem’s instructions shocked Eliyahu into a realization that zealotry could be extremely dangerous, as few people can live up fully to the moral challenges that are thrust upon them. As a result, Eliyahu regretted the extent to which he had embraced zealotry. His close disciple and spiritual inheritor, Elisha, showed that it was possible to bring the people to a significant level of repentance by employing a pleasant demeanor and uniting the hearts of the sons and their fathers. This may be symbolized by Elisha’s request, which concludes the haftara. Before accompanying Eliyahu, he asked permission to go kiss his mother and father. Indeed the approach of hugs and kisses was taking the place of zealotry. This is an important message to internalize in all generations.

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Dedication

In memory of

The Rishon Letzion

Rav Mordechai Eliyahu ztvk”l

 

This week’s Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of
R' Meir ben
Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld
o.b.m 

Hemdat Yamim is endowed by
Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker and
Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.

Dedicated in memory of
Mina Presser bat

Harav David and Bina

on the occasion of her yahrzeit, 24 Tammuz
and members of her family who perished in the shoah
Al Kiddush Hashem
 
 

 

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