Our parasha, parashat Pinchas, is named after “Pinchas, son of Elazar, son of Aaron the Cohen”, who turned back Hashem´s wrath from the children of Israel, when he Zealously (Kinah) took vengeance in the name of Hashem.
Because of this Zealous act, in the name of Hashem, he receives from Hashem ´Brit Shalom´- covenant of peace that is explained after as “a covenant of eternal priesthood”.
Apparently, the Torah treats Pinchas´s Zealous act in a very positive way, and even mentions the prize that Pinchas gets for his initiative.
But, Chazal in Pirkei Avot (4,21) writes “Jealousy, lust, and glory drive a man out of the world”, and indeed the Kinah. In fact, the Kinah is what caused the casting of Yosef into the pit by his brothers as it says (Berashite 35,11) – “So his brothers were Jealous of him…”
Obviously, the word “÷???“ in Hebrew, has a different meanings:
Kinah for something – Zealous, which is an attempt to change the reality for some idealistic aim.
And Kinah in something – Jealous, which is an attempt to change the reality for some selfish aim.
What can we learn from the fact that two different meanings, Zealous and Jealousy arise from the same Hebrew word, and that also in English they are very similar words?
Although the Torah treats Pinchas´ act in a very positive way, apparently, Chazal treats it more criticism and doubt to Pinchas´ zeal for his God, while he ´slew a man on the spur of the moment, without trial, or offering previous warning, without legal testimony being heard, and in defiance of all the procedures of Judicial examination prescribed by the Torah, which in practice render a conviction well nigh impossible. His deed of summary justice, taking the law into his hands, constituted a dangerous precedent, from the social, moral and educational angle´ (Nehama Leibowitz).
Chazal, in Talmud Yerusalmi (Sanhedrin 9,7) write that Pinchas act was against the sage´s opinion. And Rabbi Baruch Epstein, the author of the Pentateuch commentary Torah Temimah interprets the attitude of the sages in the following manner:
“Such a deed must be animated by a genuine, unadulterated spirite of zeal to advance the glory of God. In the case, who can tell whether the perpetrator is not really prompted by some selfish motive, maintaining that he is doing it for the sake of God, when he has actually committed murder? That was why the sages wished to excommunicate Pinchas, had not the Holy Spirit testified that his zeal for God was genuine”. In other words, Chazal had reservations regarding Zealous acts such as Pinchas´s act because of the danger that single persons without the society´s permition raise their hands to do a terrible crime and murder in the name of high and idealistic aim, such as a murder of a leader of a father´s house (or even a prime minister) in Israel.
Many times zealous acts come from peoples who stands with one foot in the place, which they criticize, and the zealous act is, actually, their way to fight against their own problems, and to define themselves forcibly in the idealistic side. And as Chazal say (Kiddushin 70:) “Anyone who declares unfit, with his blemish he declares unfit”.
This thing hints also in the Midrash that Rashi bring in the beginning of our Parasha (25,11) – “Because the tribes spoke disparagingly of him, saying ´have you seen this grandson of Puti the father of whose mother used to fatten calves for idolatrous sacrifices, and he has dared to slay a prince of one of Israel´s tribes!…”
In other words, they claimed, that he came from the same place, which he criticized – ” Remove the beam from before your eyes” and “the splinter from between your teeth” (Bava Batra 15:).
Apparently, Pinchas could have been the ultimate heir to Moshe´s leadership who was about to finish his job as the leader of Bnei-Israel in the end of our Parsha, Pinchas was the only one who took an initiative and stopped the crisis, where no one else including Moshe, the old leader, had no answer, and as Rshi wrote – “Moshe forgot the law in this case”.
But Pinchas didn´t take Moshe please, Because his way is a violent and Zealous way, and this is not the way of leadership which Bnei-Israel need, as we can learne from the fact that Moshe himself finished his job because he hit the rock, instead of speaking to it. For this mission of leading Bnei-Israel into the land of Israel Hashem chose Yoshua Bin Nun as it says: “May Hashem, God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the assembly…Hashem said to Moshe “Take to Yourself Yoshua son of Nun, a man in whom there is spirit, and lead your hand upon him.” (27,15-18)
And as Rassi says -“Appoint a leader for them who will bear with each person according to his disposition”(25,16)
In other words, the tolerance it character that is needed for true leadership.
This is also the message that Hashem gives in the Haftarah, to Eliyaho the prophet of whom Chazal said “Pinchas is Eliyahu (same person)”
Eliyahu the prophet, after his Zealous acts and after he had slain all the (400) false prophets with his sword, and proved the truth in front of the entier world, The next morning he still has to escape from Yezebel the queen who is trying to kill him, and nothing really changes. After all this he ask desperately from Hashem to die.
Hashem´s answered him in a vision – “and behold! Hashem is passing, and a great, powerful wind is Smasing Mountains and breaking rocks before Hashem – but not in the wind is Hashem. And after the wind an earthquake – but not in the earthquake is Hashem. And after the earthquake a fire – but not in the fire is Hashem. And after the fire a still, thin sound….”(kings 19, 11-12)
And in Zechariah´s words (4,6) – “Not through army and not trought strength, but trought My spirit, said Hashem, Master of legions”
Real change will come just through tolerance and spirit, and not by power and Zealous acts.