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Parashat Pinchas – Peace through vengeance – Rabbi Meir Kahane

Pinchas son of Elazar the Kohen turned My wrath away from the Children of Israel by zealously taking up My cause among them, so that I did not consume them in My own zeal [kin'ah]. Therefore say, “Behold, I give unto him My covenant of peace.” (Num. 25:11-12)

Precisely he who takes G-d's revenge merits an “everlasting covenant” and a “covenant of peace”. Zeal [kin'ah] is a Divine trait: “I, the L-rd your G-d, am a zealous G-d” (Ex. 20:5). Kin'ah is a Divine attribute, and it is the trait of any Jew who zealously takes up G-d's cause. It always involves revenge, as Rashi explains (Num. 25:11): “By zealously taking up My cause”: By executing My vengeance, by displaying the anger that I should have displayed. “Kin'ah” always denotes glowing with anger to execute vengeance for a thing. For this G-d praised Pinchas. Revenge is zeal for a good cause. By switching the order of letters, “lekanot”, to be zealous, becomes “lenakot”, to cleanse. Whoever is zealous on G-d's behalf cleanses the evildoer through his revenge. Until he does so, the evildoer remains unclean. G-d is also the “G-d to Whom vengeance belongs” (Ps. 94:1), and “a zealous G-d” (Ex. 34:14). Likewise, He is a G-d Who does not clear the guilty until He takes revenge on His enemies: “He will by no means clear the guilty” (Ibid., v. 7).

Yet besides fulfilling G-d's command, Pinchas also saved Israel from destruction. After all, Israel were duty-bound to take revenge and they did not do it. Following is S'forno (Num. 25:11): “By acting zealously in their midst for My sake”: He avenged Me for all to see, so that when they saw his deed and did not protest, they would find atonement for having seen the sinners and not having protested. In this way, he turned My wrath away from them. Ibn Ezra wrote, “He was zealous like his Maker, Who is described as being zealous on this earth. Had Pinchas not acted zealously, G-d would have annihilated Israel with a pestilence in His zeal.” Passing up the opportunity to carry our zealous, halachically mandated revenge is such a terrible sin that whoever refuses to do so deserves annihilation! Such was King David's intent in (Ps. 106:30), “Pinchas rose and wrought judgment, and the plague was stopped.” The avenger, Pinchas, merited not only a covenant of peace, but that the priestly gifts should be named after his deeds. Our sages say (Chulin 134b): Those who expound on unclear verses would say, “The shankbone corresponded to the hand [of Pinchas]: 'He took a spear in his hand' (Num. 25:7). The jowls corresponded to [his] prayer: 'Pinchas rose and prayed' (Ps. 106:30). The stomach corresponded to the belly in “[He drove the spear] through the woman's belly” (Num. 25:8).

Since G-d leaves it to good men to further the cause of goodness, after Pinchas took G-d's revenge against Zimri ben Salu and Kozbi bat Tzur, Moses appointed Pinchas leader when he sent G-d's hosts to take His revenge against the Midianites (Num. 31:6): “Moses sent forth the thousand men from each tribe as an army, along with Pinchas son of Elazar the Kohen.” Who won the “covenant of peace”, the everlasting reward of peace, if not Pinchas? Pinchas acted zealously on G-d's behalf, taking G-d's revenge, and becoming the first “mashuach milchama”, or Kohen anointed to lead the nation in war (Deut. 20:2-4). Yet G-d said (Num. 25:12), “Tell him that I have given him My covenant of peace”. Here we have a reward well-suited to the deed. Precisely he who gives up his peace and tranquility, devoting himself to G-d's battle and to taking G-d's revenge, merits everlasting peace. And precisely he who rebels against G-d, treating His command to fight and root out evil and evildoers with contempt , will never have peace, for there is no peace for the wicked, those who cast off their yoke.

Today, people have risen up to destroy us who are smitten with the alien [Western secular] culture. Tragically, these include even Torah scholars and learned Jews who have pronounced that, halachically speaking, there is no state of war between us and the Arabs in our land, hence we are forbidden to treat them as enemies. They have gone so far as to rule that if an Arab tries to attack or even to kill a Jew with a stone or weapon and flees, one may not kill him, but may only catch him and deliver him to the authorities, our impoverished regime which is better off ceasing to exist. If someone renders a halachic ruling that there is no state of war between us and the Arabs in our midst, that we are obligated to treat them with mercy, and that it is forbidden to kill one of them even after he tries to attack and kill a Jew, that person is nothing but a “rodef” [one who attacks with the intent to kill], who collaborates with the gentiles in the killing of Jews.

[As Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane puts it in his commentary on Parashat Pinchas]: Pinchas' act of killing Zimri and afterwards meriting the peace covenant teaches us that the Torah's way of bringing peace is by making the world a better place. The first step towards this goal is the uprooting of evil and evil-doers from the world. “Depart from evil” (Ps. 34:15) – this is the first step in making the world a better place. On the other hand, making peace with evil, or even worse, giving in to it, is the very opposite step that one can take if he wants to arrive at peace. Peace is not the mixing of good and evil and the attempt to create a co-existence between them, as we have been trained to think! The very opposite. There is no co-existence between good and evil, nor is there partnership between good people and evil people! The Master of the Universe demands of the righteous that they burn out the evil from the world - “and you shall burn out the evil from thy midst”, the Torah commands us in so many places, for only in such a way will peace reign in the world.

[See also Peirush HaMaccabee on Shemot, Chapter 1]: To burn evil out of our midst – this is the greatest compassion for the world, for all who are compassionate to the cruel will eventually be cruel to the compassionate (Tanchuma, Metzora 1); because this convoluted compassion allows the wicked to continue to commit evil. Can clay say to he who forms it, What are you doing?! (Isaiah 45:9); rather, we willingly accept upon ourselves the yoke of His Kingdom in love, in understanding and faith that He is indeed truth, and all His words are truth and justice. On the commandment to walk in all His paths and to cleave unto Him (Deuteronomy 11:22), the Ibn Ezra comments: And cleave unto Him – ultimately; and this is a great secret. The Avi Ezer (super-commentary on the Ibn Ezra, written by the Gaon Rabbi Shlomo ha-Cohen of Lissa) explains: The words of the Rav [i.e. the Ibn Ezra] are true, for Hashem's secret is given to those who fear Him (Psalms 25:14), who cleave unto His attributes, as Chazal said: Cleave unto His attributes. And in the cleaving itself there is a great secret: not to confuse one person’s task with another’s, to show compassion in a place where one must be angry (for instance against a student or a sinner), or to be humble in a place where one must garb himself with pride or vengeance, as with the actions of Pinchas. And few indeed are the people of greatness who cling to the attributes in truth and do not stumble in them. Are these not the greatest people in the world…? Engrave these words deep on your heart.

Compiled by Tzipora Liron-Pinner from 'The Jewish Idea' and 'Peirush HaMaccabee on Shemot' of Rabbi Meir Kahane, HY"D, and from 'The writings of Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane, HY"D'.

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