Thursday, July 25, 2019

why blame Pinchas?

1) Rashi explains that the Torah traces Pinchas' lineage back to Aharon as a response to those who claimed that Pinhas came from tainted stock and had unjustly killed Zimri.  Pinchas ben Elazar ben Aharon -- Surely the grandson of the greatest lover of peace, Aharon, could not have acted out of hatred or malice but did what he did solely to save Klal Yisrael.

How could the people have had even a hava amina of blaming Pinchas or accusing him of wrongdoing?  We read at the end of last week's parsha that it was the blow Pinchas delivered to Zimri that brought the terrible plague that had come as a punishment for the sin done with bnos Moav to an end.  The Midrash records a number of miracles that occurred to enable Pinchas to kill Zimri in the middle of Zimri committing an aveira -- the crime was evident to all. 

R' Chaim Elazary tells the story of the Rabbi whose ba'alei batim wanted him to take action and drive the shochet out of town based on rumors of his wrongdoing.  The Rabbi responded with a derasha: why is it that when it came time to tell Avraham to offer Yitzchak as a korban in the akeidah, Hashem himself appeared to Avraham to make the request, but when it came time to stop Avraham at the last minute from actually offering Yitzchak as a korban, then the Torah tells us that it was only an angel who appeared?  The Rabbi answered that to save a life, a command from a malach is more than enough, but to take a Jew's life requires the authority of G-d himself.  To fire the shochet and cause him to lose his job, lose his home, lose his reputation -- you better have the strongest proof in the world.

So too here, writes R' Elazary, although the plague was stopped, although Pinchas was the beneficiary of miracles, it doesn't change the fact that a Jew was killed.  It takes a lot to justify that.  It is only because G-d himself ratified Pinchas' actions that the people accepted it.

I don't know if it is pshat, but it is a very positive spin on what otherwise is a Rashi that portrays Klal Yisrael in a negative light. 

2) The gemara (R"H 18) writes that for the fast days of 10 Teves, 17 Tamuz, Tzom Gedalya, so long as there is no trouble in the world it is up to Klal Yisrael whether we want to fast or not (practically speaking we have long since made the decision as a community to always fast).  However, when it comes to 9 Av, since "huchpilu bo tzaros," there are so many tragedies that occurred on that day, the fast is always binding. 

Way back in 2006 (amazing this blog is still going 13 years later) I quoted a chakira from the Aruch la'Ner: does gemara mean that we have no choice whether we want to fast on 9 Av or not, or is 9 Av no different than any other fast -- we theoretically have a choice --  but because of the many tragedies that occurred it is assumed that we always chose to do so.

The Shulchan Aruch writes that the shamash should announce on the Shabbos before 9 Av that the fast will be that week.  Rama disagrees and writes that minhag Ashkenaz is not to make an announcement.  It could be the issue here is the Aruch la'Ner's chakira.  If 9 Av requires our theoretical buy-in, then the shamash needs to make an announcement for us to accept the fast.  However, if the buy-in in automatic since huchpilu bo tzaros and we have no choice, no announcement is needed (see Biur ha'GR"A on that din.  The S.A. and Rama also disagree about whether an announcement is made before Yom Kipur and Taanis Esther; that requires some other hesber than this one.)


  1. 1) "a Rashi that portrays Klal Yisrael in a negative light"

    that same Klal challenge Rashi's latest lineage trace: if the Torah omitted Yaakov* from the opening of parashat Korach (although in the context there, Korach's link to [K'has and] Levi was plainly the point to establish), then so too here in our parsha, the Torah omits Amram** from the lineage given (even though in context the point is to underscore the original priesthood of Aharon {so to arrive at 25:13, bris k'hunas})

    while Amram took a wife at Shemos 2:1 with whom "to save" [Jewish] life, Pinchas took a spear with which "to take a Jew's life"!***

    *to disconnect/contrast Yaakov and Korach

    **to disconnect/contrast Amram and Pinchas

    ***kichah-kichah part 2

    2) from 2006, "2)...the messengers of Bais Din went out...[even though] Rav Papa's statement remains true...with respect to 9 Av"

    when, in the words of Rav Papa, 'there is neither persecution nor peace' (but only darkness & danger), the messengers resemble an honor detail, a posthumous part of the shemira of the Mikdash that "is only at night" (D.C., June 4, '19)

  2. The pshat from Rabbi Elazary is a wonderful limud zchus, but does nothing about "re'uh ben puti zeh..."; which seems to invalidate this mehalach.

    1. Why? Since he had an avoda zara family history, he may have had an unworthy motive. Why is that inconsistent with R Elazari's idea that people accused Pinchas of acting without enough justification?