Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pinchas, Nadav and Avihu

Rav Zalman Sorotzkin in his Oznayaim laTorah writes (based on Chazal) that when Pinchas killed Zimri, the tribe of Shimon was ready to pounce on Pinchas and attack him. A miracle happened -- Pinchas’s neshoma departed and he appeared dead, thus escaping their wrath. R' Sorotzkin quotes that mekubalim teach that when revived, rather than Pinchas' own neshoma returning to his body, the neshomos of Nadav and Avihu descended instead.

Why davka the neshomos of Nadav and Avihu? What do they have to do with the story? Obviously when dealing with sisrei Torah there are limits to what we can understand, but R’ Sorotzkin reveals at least some of the surface meaning. The sin of Nadav and Avihu was that they were “moreh halacha bifnei rabam.” Rav Sorotzkin explains that Nadav and Avihu desired an even greater hisgalus of Hashem than could be provided by their rebbe, Moshe Rabeinu. The gemara (Brachos 7) relates that Hashem wanted to reveal everything to Moshe when He appeared at the burning bush. Moshe, however, turned away; he felt he was not yet ready for such a revelation. Later, at mattan Torah, Moshe regretted his decision and begged Hashem, “Hodi’eini na es derachecha.” Hashem responded, “When I was ready you refused; now that you are ready I am not.” Nadav and Avihu understood that was a limit even to what Moshe apprehended – Moshe forever suffered the shortcoming of having turned away at the sneh. That level of full understanding was what they aspired to. That’s why they tried to offer ktores in the kodesh kodashim even without instruction or advice from their rebbe, Moshe. In that respect, they jumped beyond what they were ready for.

Remember the end of last week’s parsha: Zimri approached Moshe with Kozbi and challenged Moshe to stop him. Moshe froze – “nisalma mi’menu halacha.” It was Pinchas who reminded Moshe of the din of “kana’im pog’im bo,” and who carried out that halacha. Pinchas at that moment had the clarity to see and act when even Moshe Rabeinu himself was unable to. Nadav and Avihu’s desire to surpass their rebbe may have gone awry in their lifetime, but the spirit of their actions, the ability to transcend even Moshe Rabeinu, was fulfilled a generation later through the actions of Pinchas.

(Side point: Rashi in our parsha writes that Moshe’s not knowing the halacha of yerusha when asked by the Bnos Tzelofchad was a punishment for his declaring that all difficult shaylos should be brought to him. Why does Rashi not bring up this punishment at the end of P’ Balak where we learn that Moshe forgot the din of “kana’im pogim bo”? In both cases Rashi uses the term, "nisalma mi'menu halacha.")


  1. Anonymous2:56 AM

    Pinchas remembered on-the-spot a single din that Moshe, helpless before the incomputable affront of Zimri, forgot --how would that minor, isolated differential, however translated spiritually, satisfy Nadav's & Avihu's desire for "full understanding"?

    why did R. Yehoshua ben Korchah think Moshe's fear at the sneh* misplaced? can a clue be had from his name? "Hashem spoke to Moses face-to-face...Yehoshua...didn't leave from in the tent" (shemos 33:11): the apprentice, were he himself ever called, wouldn't miss even one moment's opportunity for an unwavering tete-a-tete (see the Glorious if & when you can! ["Hashem responded", not to
    "Hodi'eini na...", but to
    "Har'eini na..."])

    *plant type later verified by
    children's botanist, Theodor
    Seuss, PhD

  2. It's not necessarily that Moshe Rabeinu, a"h, forgot the halacha. He may simply have questioned as to whether he was kana'i enough to strike Zimri. When Pinchas announces the law publicly he demonstrates to Moshe that he is kana'i enough, hence the permission to proceed.

  3. good suggestion by GI. But with respect to DC's closing question, not sure if that answer would fit the words "nis'alma mimenu halacha" quoted by DC.

    A different answer: when Moshe forgets the halacha regarding zimri, it is not meant as a punishment for moshe but rather as an opportunity for pinchas. I think I recall a midrash (maybe even quoted by Rashi?) says this explicitly: Moshe forgot so that Pinchas could come and claim what was his. This is similar, I think, to chazal's expression "makom hinichu li avotai l'hitgader bo."

  4. chaim b.6:47 PM

    >>>Moshe forgot so that Pinchas could come and claim what was his.

    The gemara in Sanhedrin says that when Pinchas reminded Moshe of the din, Moshe responded that since he remembered, he should deliver the letter (so to speak). I think your approach reverses the cause (Moshe's forgetting) with the effect (Pinchas having an opportunity to advance).

  5. great unknown7:32 PM

    It is somewhat strange to me that Pinchas did something great, and as a result, he died and his body was colonized by outside neshamot.
    So, it wasn't Pinchas who received the "brisi shalom." And all of those Kohanim Gedolim in the future did not descend from him.

  6. Anonymous2:10 AM

    "somewhat strange", you say,
    great unknown? or tame, beside the wacky license taken here
    (be sure to hold on to your kippah
    thru the many loop-the-loops!)>>>


    ...and Alice in Wonderland was of
    course Ruth, but only after the retrofit of Golda Meir...

  7. G.U. - The Oznayim laTorah seems to say that the reason Pinchas became a kohein now was because he wasn't really Pinchas anymore, he was the shoresh haneshoma of Nadav and Avihu who were already kohanim. But when you talk about who was descended from Pinchas, I don't know -- does the term "descended" mean from body or soul? Maybe Pinchas neshoma came back as well, in addition to N & A's? Too much kabbalah for me.