"Pinchas the son of Elazar the son of Aaron the priest…" (Num. 25:11)

The fact that Pinchas was much younger than any of the authority figures of the time – Moses, Aaron’s sons, or the other Sages – did not prevent him from acting in their presence, once it was clear that they were paralyzed. Similarly, we should not be intimidated by the fact that those of greater stature or learning are not righting some wrong that needs to be righted. It could well be, as it was with Pinchas, that Divine Providence is keeping them silent so a "less qualified" individual will seize the moment and answer destiny’s call to greatness. Rather, when Divine Providence presents us with an opportunity to right some wrong in the world, we must pursue it with total self-sacrifice, as did Pinchas. The fact that we are given this chance means that the fulfillment of our life’s purpose depends on it.

We are taught that Pinchas possessed the soul of the prophet Elijah, who existed prior to him as an angel. Practically, this means that Pinchas possessed within him the powers of his previous manifestation – Elijah the angel – when he was confronted with the sin of Zimri. We are further taught that Elijah will herald the Messianic age.

...when we emulate Pinchas...we are empowered to accomplish what we are called upon to do...

The lesson for us in this is that when we emulate Pinchas, responding to the call of the hour with self-sacrifice, we are empowered to accomplish what we are called upon to do and our efforts hasten the coming of the Mashiach.

[Based on Likutei Sichot, vol. 2, p. 342]

…"I hereby give him My covenant.." (Num. 25:12)

Priesthood is hereditary, that is, intrinsic to the individual. No amount of work can earn it for him. How then, could Pinchas have "earned" it? Pinchas must have been naturally fit for the priesthood, the traits associated with it having lain dormant within him from birth. His act of vengeance merely awoke his latent "priesthood personality" and made it his active consciousness. G‑d then granted him the priesthood officially.

In this way, Pinchas’ priesthood anticipates the Divine revelations that will occur in the messianic future. In general, Divine revelations are of two types: those that are a response to our initiative and those that are unsolicited. Each type has an advantage over the other.

The intensity of a revelation given in response to some initiative from below is always proportional to the intensity of quality of the initiative. Thus, such revelations are by nature limited, since finite beings can produce only a finite, limited arousal.

In contrast, the intensity of an unsolicited revelation is unlimited by any prior arousal, so it can be infinite. However, since it is infinite, it generally cannot be fully assimilated and integrated by its finite recipients. The advantage of the limited, elicited revelation is that its initiators have laid the groundwork for it, so it can be more fully integrated into their lives once it occurs.

This is analogous to a teacher-student relationship, in which the teacher’s knowledge is infinitely broader and deeper than that of his students. If the teacher lectures on a subject his students know nothing about, he can expound endlessly on it; some of it will "go in" and some (probably most) of it will not. His lecture is not a waste of time, since the students will have glimpsed the infinity of the subject and will have gained awe and respect for both the subject and the teacher. But they will be able to repeat very little of what they heard.

In contrast, if the teacher assigns homework and the students prepare for the lecture, the opposite will be the case. The teacher will not allow himself the liberty of disclosing endless insights to his students; he will stick to the topic his students prepared. He will reveal much less to them than in the first type of lecture, but they will understand and absorb whatever he says, since they have made intellectual "vessels" for it. The Divine revelations of the future will have both advantages. They will convey all the infinity of unsolicited revelations, but we will be able to fully absorb them. The world (including us) will be so refined that the finite will paradoxically be able to absorb the infinite.

Priesthood, being a gift of G‑d passed on hereditarily, is similar to an unsolicited Divine revelation: no amount of work, refinement, or money from "below" can procure it. Pinchas, however, did procure it by his acts. His priesthood thus evinced both advantages: the infinity of Divine initiative and the worthiness and integration of elicitation from below.

Pinchas could do this only because he exhibited self-sacrifice for G‑d...

Pinchas could do this only because he exhibited self-sacrifice for G‑d and His purposes in the world. As was mentioned in the overview, he thereby rose above the limits of reason and attained the connection with G‑d that will typify the messianic era. Since he was already functioning, in this respect, on the messianic level, his priesthood reflected this dynamic and was able to transcend the inherent limitations of the present order.

This is why G‑d described Pinchas’ priesthood as "My covenant of peace": "peace" implies a union or blending of two opposites. Here, the two opposites were this-worldly revelation granted in accordance with effort expended and the future dynamic of infinite, unsolicited revelation.

[Based on Likutei Sichot, vol. 4, p.1070, 1074]

© 2001 Chabad of California/www.LAchumash.org