By: Shalom Olensky
This week in the Torah:
“G-d spoke to Moshe, saying, ‘Pinchas… calmed my wrath from upon the Children of Israel, by avenging my vengeance in their midst; hence I did not destroy the Children of Israel by my vengeance. Therefore, tell him that I am hereby giving him my covenant of peace. He and his seed after him shall have the covenant of eternal priesthood, in return for his avenging his Almighty One and thereby atoning for the Children of Israel.’ ” –Numbers 25:10-13
Moshe, too, had achieved atonement for the Jews when they had occasionally misbehaved, by advocating on their behalf before G-d. Yet, not only did Moshe not attain the covenant of priesthood, nor for his descendants, rather, in fact, even his existing prominence, as leader, was not passed along to his children; Yehoshua, his loyal disciple, succeeded him. What was greater about Pinchas’s accomplishment?
Moshe, although always completely at the ready to risk his safety for his brethren, nevertheless was characterized mainly by his spiritual gift to the Jews; praying to G-d on their behalf and teaching them Torah, so that they would evoke G-d’s favor.
Pinchas, on the other hand, a) was defined by his putting himself in actual physical danger to assuage G‑d’s wrath, and this, b) by means of showing his brethren the error of their ways, evoking within them feelings of remorse and return to G-d.
In other words, while Moshe affected the Jews from Above, Pinchas affected them from below and from within themselves.
When improvement is accomplished by Divine influence, it lasts only so far as the Divine illumination lasts. The improving entity has not essentially changed for the better. But when this entity recognizes the need for improvement based on its very own conclusions, the improvement is lasting.
Pinchas, by improving the Jewish standards in the latter manner, was awarded in kind; a lasting and perpetual increase in holiness.
It is not enough to keep strictly to the intrinsically holy. One must involve oneself in the world as well, teaching it, to realize on its own, how G-d is the sole source of goodness.
(Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. 18, Pinchas)