This weeks Parsha is Parshas Pinchas. In the Parsha we read the climax of the story of Pinchas. When Bilaam the Gentile prophet failed to curse the Jewish people, he advised Balaak to send the girls of Moav to try to entice the Jewish men to sin. This advise succeeded and Hashem punished the Jews by sending a plague. Twenty four thousand Jews died in the plague. In the meantime, one of the Jewish princes from the tribe of Shimoen took a princess from the Mididanites and went to do a sin with her in front of the entire Jewish people. Moses and the Jews with him were crying when they saw this brazen act of sin in public. Pinchas reminded Moses that Jewish law says that if one does such a brazen act as taking a non-Jewish woman to have relations in public, those who are zealous for the honor of Hashem kill him. Moses told Pinchas that since he was the one who remembered the law, he should be the one to carry it out. Pinchas then took a spear and killed both the prince and princes who were doing the sin. Hashem told Moses that the reward that Pinchos would get for standing up and stopping the public transgression was twofold; First of all Pinchas would become a Cohen. Although his father was Elazer, son of Aaron the High Priest, Pinchas himself did not yet have the status of a Cohen since he had already been born at the time that Aaron was chosen to be a Cohen. Secondly, Pinchas got a gift of eternal life Ė as our tradition tells us that Pinchas is Elijah the prophet who ascended alive to heaven.
Why did Pinchas get such reward? Where does the trait of being so zealous for Hashem come from? In Mesillas Yeshorim, (Path of the Just), Rabbi Luzzatto explains that being zealous, or jealous, comes from Love of Hashem. Fear of Hashem causes us to refrain from doing bad things. This can be easily understood if we compare this to a situation where a police car is following us. If we refrain from speeding, itís not because we love the policeman. Rather, it is because we fear him or the authority he represents. On the other hand, if we do something positive for someone, whether we buy them a present, give them time,Ö we do so out of love. Love causes positive actions to come out, while fear just causes us not to do negative things. In observing the commandments the same is true. When we refrain from eating something that isnít kosher, or from breaking Shabbos, we are showing fear of G-d. When we put on tefillin, pray or give charity we are showing love of G-d. When Pinchus stood up and showed his zealousness for G-d, Mesillas Yesharim explains that was caused by love of G-d.
The most important lesson that we must learn from Pinchus is that love of G-d dictates that we must care about what is going on around us. If we remain indifferent to Shabbos being broken, to laws of Torah being violated or not observed, there is something missing in our love of G-d. What we actually do about it has to be thought about and examined, but first and foremost Pinchus taught us that a Jew must care about what other Jews are doing. Hopefully this care and concern will translate into helping ourselves and others come closer to G-d