The Torah informs us that Pinchas' father had married one of the daughters of Putiel (Ex. 6:25), who, according to the Midrash, had fattened calves [a play on the word "Putiel"] for idol worship. The other tribes mocked Pinchas, attributing his violent zealousness to his pagan ancestry. Since the name "Putiel", however, concludes with the two letters of the name of G‑d, the Torah alerts us to the fact that Putiel had converted to monotheism.

Pinchas was transformed into an angel who would live until he could announce the Final Redemption….

As a whole, the verse alludes to Joseph who controlled his desire in his involvement with the wife of his master Potiphar, whose similarly sounding name reminds us of what took place then. Just as Joseph preserved the holy covenant with G‑d then, so Pinchas, his descendant maternally, restored the holy covenant with G‑d by taking G‑d's revenge on Zimri. As a result, G‑d granted him, "My covenant Peace". Targum Yonathan, on that verse, says that Pinchas was transformed into an angel who would live until he could announce the Final Redemption.

It is further written [of Pinchas] that G‑d's covenant of life and well-being was with him, "the true Torah was in his mouth. He walked with Me in peace and equity, nothing perverse was on his lips. With complete loyalty, he served Me, deterring many from committing iniquity. For the lips of a priest guard knowledge and people seek Torah from his mouth, seeing that he is an angel of the L-rd G‑d of Hosts". (Malachi 2:5,6) This verse clearly alludes to Pinchas, since Pinchas became an angel, as our Sages comment on Joshua (2:4; Tanchuma quoted by Rashi)

Since Pinchas prevented many from sinning, he is having the true Torah….

Since Pinchas prevented many from sinning, he is described by the prophet as having the true Torah issuing forth from his mouth. Truth is an element that reinforces and strengthens religious belief and practice. It is not something merely personal, but is something that must be demonstrated publicly in order to convince a community to do penitence. Such a result is called "Truth". Truth is something of an everlasting nature. Concerning such truth, the prophet Jeremiah proclaims in the name of the L-rd: "Roam the streets of Jerusalem, search its squares; look about and take note; you will not find a man. There is none who acts justly, who seeks integrity - that I should pardon her." (Jeremiah 5:1) This is surely a very remarkable statement.

How could the existence of even a single such man be questioned, when at that time there lived in Israel numerous prophets and pious men in Israel! Does not the same prophet (in chapter 24:1) describe that G‑d showed him a vision of the two Torah scholars of renown (Sanhedrin 38) who were exiled together with king Yechonyah? (Kings II 24:26-17) The answer is simply that these Torah scholars had failed to act publicly to call upon the masses to mend their ways, and return to the ways of the Torah. Jeremiah laments that there is not a single person in the courtyards of Jerusalem who has the moral courage to proclaim his convictions publicly! Rabbi Amram (in Sanhedrin 119) states explicitly that Jerusalem was destroyed because the Torah scholars ignored the commandment to admonish their fellow Jews.

He derives this from the verse "Her leaders were like stags that found no pasture". (Lamentations 1:6) The prophet there drew a parallel between the spiritual leaders of Israel and the stag whose head is usually down on the ground near its tail. The leaders of the Jewish people, similarly, buried their heads in the sand in order to, so to speak, "see no evil, hear no evil, etc." When contrasted with this kind of behavior, Pinchas stood out as a man of truth in whom the zealousness for his G‑d was paramount. This explains why he was rewarded with everlasting life.

[Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk.]