Parshas Pinchas 5770 – Bilam’s Plot

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Rabbi Moshe Eisemann's Shiurim
Rabbi Moshe Eisemann's Shiurim
Parshas Pinchas 5770 - Bilam's Plot

Most of us are very well acquainted with the details of the very sad story of Zimri. We know how he came and challenged Moshe. Our horrified minds can all too well imagine the scene. Moshe and all the Zekeinim stand by helplessly as Zimri commences his depraved chillul Hashem, even as the moans and gasps of his dying compatriots rise up from all around his tent. But, baruch Hashem there is a stir in the crowd. We can see Pinchos simply jump out of his skin! “Achi Avi Abba! Didn’t you teach me when you came down from Har Sinai that a zealot can take the life of one who dares have relations with an Aramis!?” Moshe Rabbeinu acknowledges the halacha and tells him “Krayna d’Igresa, ihu l’havei parvanka! You remembered the din, you follow it through!” Quickly Pinchos grabs a spear and deftly disguises it as a walking stick. In a miraculous succession of miracles he makes his way to Zimri’s tent and skewers the offending parties. This brings about a tremendous kiddush Hashem and the plague comes to a thankfully abrupt end.

What underlies this story? We know its details so well – but are our eyes opened to its true motifs? I can only speak for myself, but there is so much here that I would really love to understand. The questions abound and we must pick somewhere to start and so we will start somewhere basic. It appears that Bilam’s plot was to pack in a one-two punch. The immorality of the women was calculated to tow in its wake the sin of Avodah Zarah, most specifically the worship of Pe’or. What is the relationship here? What did Bilam want to accomplish by twining these two sins together?

Let us read through some of the pesukim here together and see where we can get (Bamidbar 25:1-5):

וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בַּשִּׁטִּ֑ים וַיָּ֣חֶל הָעָ֔ם לִזְנ֖וֹת אֶל־בְּנ֥וֹת מוֹאָֽב: וַתִּקְרֶ֣אןָ לָעָ֔ם לְזִבְחֵ֖י אֱלֹהֵיהֶ֑ן וַיֹּ֣אכַל הָעָ֔ם וַיִּֽשְׁתַּחֲו֖וּ לֵֽאלֹהֵיהֶֽן: וַיִּצָּ֥מֶד יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לְבַ֣עַל פְּע֑וֹר וַיִּֽחַר־אַ֥ף יְקֹוָ֖ק בְּיִשְׂרָאֵֽל: וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְקֹוָ֜ק אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֗ה קַ֚ח אֶת־כָּל־רָאשֵׁ֣י הָעָ֔ם וְהוֹקַ֥ע אוֹתָ֛ם לַיקֹוָ֖ק נֶ֣גֶד הַשָּׁ֑מֶשׁ וְיָשֹׁ֛ב חֲר֥וֹן אַף־יְקֹוָ֖ק מִיִּשְׂרָאֵֽל: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֔ה אֶל־שֹׁפְטֵ֖י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל הִרְגוּ֙ אִ֣ישׁ אֲנָשָׁ֔יו הַנִּצְמָדִ֖ים לְבַ֥עַל פְּעֽוֹר:

And Yisrael settled in Shittim and the nation allowed themselves to stray after the daughters of Moav. And they invited the nation to partake of the offerings to their idols and the nation ate and prostrated themselves to their idols. And Yisrael sealed themselves onto Baal Peor, and the wrath of Hashem flared in Yisrael. And Hashem said to Moshe, take the leaders of the nation and let them hang the perpetrators before Hashem in the view of the sun and Hashem’s wrath shall withdraw from Yisrael. And Moshe said to the Justices of Yisrael, let each man kill those of his constituents who have sealed themselves onto Ba’al Pe’or.

What is astonishing about this parsha is the nonchalant manner in which the Torah seemingly rattles off yet another piece of Desert news! Klal Yisrael has just emerged from their thirty-eight year holding pattern of Desert life. We saw what happened the last time we were here with the Meraglim and we are determined that it not happen again. We are on the cusp of entering Eretz Yisrael and everything is just perfect – and then what?! Zenus? Avodah Zarah? Not just any Avodah zarah but the Pe’or? Every single person who gets to the end of Parshas Balak in the course of shnayim mikra should suddenly turn very pale, our knees should start wobbling and we should at least grab a chair, if not faint outright!? How in the world can we just sit here and simply absorb the smashing wallop that this parsha delivers?? Is there something wrong with us?

The Ramban on B’nos Moav:

Such a parshah does not afford us the luxury of saying “צריך עיון”. It is one which demands a reaction, the ghastly shock of its import cannot simply slip us by! We need some help here, and we must give a tremendous yasher koach to Hashem for having sent us the Ramban to illuminate this dark, scary and gloomy parshah (Bamidbar 25:16-18):

וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יְקֹוָ֖ק אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר: צָר֖וֹר אֶת־הַמִּדְיָנִ֑ים וְהִכִּיתֶ֖ם אוֹתָֽם: כִּ֣י צֹרְרִ֥ים הֵם֙ לָכֶ֔ם בְּנִכְלֵיהֶ֛ם אֲשֶׁר נִכְּל֥וּ לָכֶ֖ם עַל־דְּבַר־פְּע֑וֹר וְעַל־דְּבַ֞ר כָּזְבִּ֨י בַת־נְשִׂ֤יא מִדְיָן֙ אֲחֹתָ֔ם הַמֻּכָּ֥ה בְיוֹם־הַמַּגֵּפָ֖ה עַל־דְּבַר־פְּעֽוֹר:

And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: Attack the Midyanim and kill them. For they were a source of affliction to you through the deception that they wiled against you in both the affair of Pe’or as well as on the account of Kozbi, princess of Midian their sister, who was killed on the day of death on the matter of Pe’or.

וטעם בנכליהם – כאשר פירשתי (לעיל כה א) כי זקני מדין חשבו המחשבה הרעה הזאת, כמו שנאמר (לעיל כב ד) ויאמר מואב אל זקני מדין, כי בהם נתיעצו מתחלה והם נתנו עצה זו למואב שתזנינה בנותם עמהם ויצמידו אותם לבעל פעור להדיחם מעל השם, ואם לא נזכר שם. ועוד ששלחו להם בת מלכם לזנות עמהם, וזה טעם ועל דבר כזבי בת נשיא מדין אחותם – כי לולי מדעת יועצי המלכות נעשה, כבודה בת מלך במדין מה תבקש בשטים בערבות מואב לבא אל מחנה עם אחר, כי ישראל בערבות מואב בשטים היו, ומאין תבא שם המדינית הזאת. אבל היתה יפת תאר מאד, ושלחו אותה זקני מדין שם כי אמרו בתואר אשה יפה רבים הושחתו (יבמות סג ב)[1]:

The meaning of “b’nichleihem” – As I have already explained, it was the Elders of Midian who schemed up this horrible idea, as the pasuk says “And Moav said to the Elders of Midian.” For – although this is not mentioned at the outset – Moav initially consulted with these Elders, and they were the ones who gave counsel to Moav that they should have their daughters first seduce Klal Yisroel to have relations with them, by way of which they would cement them to Ba’al Pe’or and thus sever Klal Yisroel’s connection to Hashem. Furthermore, the Midianites even sent their princess to seduce them, thus the meaning of the pasuk “And on account of Kozbi the princess of Midian their sister.” For, were it not for the advice of the royal advisors, what would Her Majesty, Princess of Midian be doing in Shittim, in the camp of a foreign nation! For at this time, Yisroel were in the Plains of Moav in Shittim, and how did this Midianite come to be there?! But, she was exceedingly beautiful and the Elders of Midian sent her there, saying “Through the form of a beautiful woman, masses have been destroyed.

Almost as an aside, the Ramban throws in a nugget of information that speaks volumes. “והם נתנו עצה זו למואב שתזנינה בנותם עמהם ויצמידו אותם לבעל פעור להדיחם מעל ה’ – and they were the ones who gave counsel to Moav that they should have their daughters first seduce Klal Yisroel to have relations with them, by way of which they would seal them onto Ba’al Pe’or. Thus would they sever Klal Yisroel’s connection to Hashem.”

It is clear from the Ramban that the attachment that Klal Yisrael developed to the Pe’or was not happenstance and a quick look at the pesukim confirms this:

וַיִּצָּ֥מֶד יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לְבַ֣עַל פְּע֑וֹר…

And Yisroel were attached to Baal Peor…

…הִרְגוּ֙ אִ֣ישׁ אֲנָשָׁ֔יו הַנִּצְמָדִ֖ים לְבַ֥עַל פְּעֽוֹר.

… Let each man kill those of his constituents who were attached to Baal Peor.

Each time that the pasuk describes Klal Yisroel’s attachment to the Pe’or it uses the nifal form of the word. It was others who sealed them onto its lavatorial protrusions. This would never have happened, were it an outside pressure not exerted upon them, and that pressure was the zenus generated by the advice of the Elders of Midian. Why did they give this advice? What did these Elders want to accomplish? Says the Ramban it was להדיחם מעל ה’! They wanted to cut the bonds that tie us fast to the Ribono Shel Olam! The hatred that the Elders of Midian display here is unbelievable! For the sole purpose of undoing the special bond that exists between us and the Ribono Shel Olam they made peace with their age-old enemies[2], sent their own delegation to Bilam and even made a prostitute out of their princess! They were not afraid of the Bnei Yisrael! They had nothing to fear, as their lands were nowhere near the future conquest of Klal Yisrael, so what did they want this for? Their was no reason other than an irrational hatred of Klal Yisrael and everything that we stand for!

But it was not only the Elders of Midian who were in on this plot. Chazal have a kabbalah that a significant hand was lent to the plot by Bilam whose involvement from beginning to end was also a product of Midianite counsel. Their intimate knowledge of Moshe’s power of tefillah caused them to first seek a similar weapon against Klal Yisroel in Bilam who also possessed a special relationship with the Ribono Shel Olam. But that did not pan out and so they resorted to Plan B which was this two step process of first toppling the morality of Klal Yisrael through the prostitution of the Moabite women, and then delivering the knockout punch through the Pe’or. This is a summary of what we are taking away from the words of the Ramban.

Midian’s Confidence:

There is something here that bothers me. What made the Midianites so sure that their plan would work? Let’s think about the people whom they are targeting for a moment! These are people who not five minutes before were just described by Bilam as being “teruas Melech bo”, dear and close friends of the Ribono Shel Olam! On the morning of this whole sordid affair they got up and ate mon for breakfast. Do we have any idea of what the mon was? The pasuk in Tehillim (78:25) describes the mon as follows:

לֶ֣חֶם אַ֭בִּירִים אָ֣כַל אִ֑ישׁ…

Bread of mighty ones was eaten by man…

Rashi explains that the mighty ones that this pasuk refers to are the angels! Angels are purely spiritual beings, and what sustains them is purely spiritual sustenance. The cheerios that Klal Yisroel mixed with their milk that morning was a chunk of spirituality incarnate! We can only imagine the exalted level of the Klal Yisrael as they recited the blessing of “Borei Lechem min Hashamayim!” How in the world could anyone dream that they would be successful at crashing down people who stand at the top of the world through such a plot? But we know that they did entertain such a dream, and we know even further that they were not wrong! They snared 157,200 people at minimum, and not only did they snare them but they firmly cemented them to the Pe’or! How could they have known? Where was their confidence rooted? How did they know that their gamble would pay off?

The truth is that I don’t have a good answer to this question. I have no idea how people who were flying at such an altitude could have had any sort of desire for these women. But I do think that we can understand a little bit of what took place. Let us think back to Parshas Chukas. There, in the wake of Aharon’s passing we encounter the following shocking pasuk:

וַיְדַבֵּ֣ר הָעָ֗ם בֵּֽאלֹהִים֘ וּבְמֹשֶׁה֒ לָמָ֤ה הֶֽעֱלִיתֻ֙נוּ֙ מִמִּצְרַ֔יִם לָמ֨וּת בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר כִּ֣י אֵ֥ין לֶ֙חֶם֙ וְאֵ֣ין מַ֔יִם וְנַפְשֵׁ֣נוּ קָ֔צָה בַּלֶּ֖חֶם הַקְּלֹקֵֽל:

And the nation complained to Hashem and to Moshe “Why did you take us up from Mitzrayim to die in the desert, for there is no bread and no water and our souls are disgusted by the nutrient-lite bread.

Chazal tell us that this bout of complaining was not simply a case of the doldrums expressing themselves. It was a very calculated decision to take themselves down a notch in the level of their Ruchniyus before entering Eretz Yisroel. They did not want to enter the land as Ochlei HaMon! They felt that it was too much for them, they just wanted to be normal people! Sure, they would keep the mitzvos and sure they would learn Torah! They would be kovei’a itim, they would daven three times a day, but to maintain this level of bitachon where they would go to sleep each night with not a morsel in the cupboard, knowing that the slightest misstep would result at the very least in a good long walk the next morning – and at the worst who knows what – they felt that that was too much for them. They just couldn’t handle it, and so they drew back. They rejected the mon and in so doing they rejected the Ribono Shel Olam himself! This was a disaster of epic proportions! Although they did teshuva through the episode of the nechash hanechoshes, the ripple effects of that decision were still to be felt for quite some time and it is in the light of that decision that we must understand what occurred here.

It would appear to me that this catastrophic decision that Klal Yisroel made to worship the Pe’or was a very ehrliche one, if such could be said. It is possible that we might even be able to understand it once we understand a very important hashkafa about physicality.

The Spirituality of Physicality:

One of the most oft recited Berachos in our lexicon is the beracha of Asher Yatzar. In this beracha where we thank Hashem for making our body function so incredibly smoothly we say something that we say nowhere else. It is a phrase that is just absolutely terrific and goes as follows:

ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם אשר יצר את האדם בחכמה וברא בו נקבים נקבים חלולים חלולים גלוי וידוע לפני כסא כבודיך שאם יפתח אחד מהם או יסתם אחד מהם אי אפשר להתקיים ולעמוד לפניך ברוך אתה ה’ רופא כל בשר ומפליא לעשות.

You are the source of blessing, Hashem our G-d, Ruler over the entire world, who has formed man with wisdom and created in him many openings and many cavities. It is revealed and known before Your Seat of Glory that if one of them were to be opened or one of them were to be blocked, it would be impossible to exist and to stand before You. You are the source of blessing, Hashem, healer of all flesh and doer of wondrous things.

Did you notice something unbelievable about this beracha? No? Go back and look again. Watch the phraseology and the person in which it speaks. We begin the main text of the beracha in the third person. “who has formed man with wisdom and created in him many openings and many cavities.” So far this is just like the beracha of Hamotzi or Shehakol or just about any other beracha. But then we switch! Suddenly we come face to face with the Creator of the world and we speak directly to Him! “It is revealed and known before Your Seat of Glory!” There is no other beracha to my knowledge in which we do this[3]! What is the purpose of interjecting this soliloquy to the Creator in the middle of what seems to be a birkas hashevach?

I believe that the answer to this question will become self-evident once we contemplate the purpose of the beracha of Asher Yatzar. Let us think about what we are doing over here. Earlier this day, or perhaps yesterday we ate a meal. Whatever it was that we ate then was made out of two parts, both intimately and intricately intertwined: ochel and p’soles. Ochel is that which the body can absorb, and p’soles is that which it cannot. To survive, the body must be able to split the two from each other. Somehow, calcium and vitamin B, potassium, iron, magnesium and all sorts of amino acids must be extracted from unabsorbable cellulose housings. To accomplish this vital task Hashem has devised an unbelievably complex series of chemical, hormonal and mechanical processes, and He personally supervises each and every single one of literally millions if not billions of reactions to direct each and every last molecule of nutrition to the precise place in the body that needs it. Every single movement of our bowels in the Beis Hakisei is coordinated and choreographed directly from the Kisei HaKavod by the Ribono Shel Olam! This is absolutely incredible! Is there any place more lacking in kavod than the lavatory? That’s what we would think! Yet that is the one place where we are told that Hashem watches over it precisely from His Kisei HaKavod!

Why are we so incredulous? Because we ourselves are very distant from the true understanding of reality. The truth is that the Ribono Shel Olam is the one who keeps the entire world in existence, in every single one of its infinitely infinite details, at every single second! There is no one else! There are no other forces delegated to deal with the uncomfortable details of life. Everything is the Ribono Shel Olam, and lest we forget that fact, and think that in our most debased moments we are somehow disconnected from Hashem, along comes the beracha of Asher Yatzar to remind us in the most powerful way that it just is not so! “It is revealed and known before your Kisei HaKavod!” Right there, in the exact same setting as the most exalted spiritual creations, the Seraphim omdim mima’al lo, the Chayos yishoreiru, Keruvim yaronu, v’Erelim yevareicho, concepts that are so lofty that we dare not even translate them here; that exact setting is where Hashem decides the precise details of our bowel movements!

What we are hitting upon here is that the entire chasm that separates between the lofty and the mundane is completely a figment of our imaginations. Our second nature is to imagine the Ribono Shel Olam as completely above and removed from this world. There couldn’t be a more false notion than that! Each and every one of the physical aspects of our lives are as intimately and intricately interwoven with the spiritual as are the nutrient and waste components of the predigested food in our stomachs! There is no great divide! Physicality and spirituality are not strangers to each other, and they most certainly are not supposed to be enemies! They are partners in life! When one lives in the way that Hashem wants us to they are married together in a most lovely and harmonious fashion!

An Error in Perception:

This is a concept that escaped those people who rejected the mon. Their desire to backtrack from their relationship with the Ribono Shel Olam, to live mundane lives where they could have lived sublime ones, showed that they had not absorbed the lessons of Asher Yatzar! They did not realize that a mundane life of subsistence on physical fruits is no less sublime than a spiritual life of subsistence on mon! Had they understood this then they would have understood that all of their grumbling was absolutely pointless!

But they didn’t understand. Blocked off as they were from the world of Asher Yatzar, they lost touch with this reality, that it is the Ribono Shel Olam who cares for the physical in the exact same way that He cares for the spiritual! Numb and out of touch, overwhelmed by the real feel of physical existence – and most importantly, confronted by the powerful desire for the Moabite women – they were prime targets for the Pe’or and its blandishments. “Turn to me for your physical needs. I can help you. You have a whole physical life that needs tending to. Hand that job off to me. The Ribono Shel Olam is much to lofty to be bothered with your puny physical needs!” This was a terrible chink in our otherwise impregnable spiritual armor, and with his knowledge of it, Bil’am felt that he had a sure bet. Unfortunately, he was not wholly wrong. Baruch Hashem Klal Yisroel survived, but the cost was unbelievable!

The Meaning of Kana’us:

Into this terrible breach stepped Pinchas. With a deft and miraculous thrust of his spear, he impaled Zimri and Kozbi and brought their terrible offence to a sudden halt. This incredible act of zealous kana’us took the place of what by all rights should have been the jealous kana’us of the Ribono Shel Olam and stopped the decimating plague that had begun to wreak such havoc in Klal Yisroel, most particularly the Shevet of Shimon. To fully appreciate the kana’us of Pinchos it would be instructive to first appreciate the kana’us of the Ribono Shel Olam himself in this matter. Let us turn to the Ramban back in Parshas Nasso (Bamidbar 5:15):

וְהֵבִ֨יא הָאִ֣ישׁ אֶת־אִשְׁתּוֹ֘ אֶל־הַכֹּהֵן֒ וְהֵבִ֤יא אֶת־קָרְבָּנָהּ֙ עָלֶ֔יהָ עֲשִׂירִ֥ת הָאֵיפָ֖ה קֶ֣מַח שְׂעֹרִ֑ים לֹֽא־יִצֹ֨ק עָלָ֜יו שֶׁ֗מֶן וְלֹֽא־יִתֵּ֤ן עָלָיו֙ לְבֹנָ֔ה כִּֽי־מִנְחַ֤ת קְנָאֹת֙ ה֔וּא מִנְחַ֥ת זִכָּר֖וֹן מַזְכֶּ֥רֶת עָוֹֽן:

And the man shall bring his wife to the Kohen and he shall bring her offering for her, one tenth of an eiphah of barley flour; he shall not pour upon it oil nor shall he place upon it frankincense for it is a mincha of kina’os, a mincha of remembrance to recall sin.

Says the Ramban:

ועל דעת כל המפרשים “כי מנחת קנאות הוא” לומר בעבור שזאת המנחה מנחת עונש היא גרועה להיות שעורים בלא שמן ולבונה, כי המנחה אשר אזכרתה לרצון לה’ באה סלת חטים בשמן ולבונה. ולפי דעתי, טעם “כי מנחת קנאות הוא” יחזור אל ראש הפסוק, יאמר שיביא האיש את הקרבן על אשתו כלומר במקומה, כי מנחת קנאות היא להזכיר עונה ואיננו ראוי שתביאנו היא משלה, אבל הוא יקריב מנחה לשם שיקנא את קנאתו וינקום את נקמתו ממנה. וטעם השעורים, שתהיה סערת חמת ה’ חמה יוצאה סער מתחולל על ראש הרשעה יחול, וכענין צליל שעורים האמור בגדעון (שופטים ז יג) שפתרו אותו לסער ומהומה רבה. וכן בכלי חרס, סימן שתשבר ככלי יוצר, וכן העפר, כי עפר היא ואל עפר תשוב.

The opinion of all the commentators is that the words “for it is a mincha of kina’os” come to say that because this mincha is of a punitive nature that it is degraded to consist of barley without oil or frankincense, for it is only the mincha whose purpose is to arouse Hashem’s “good-will” that is comprised of fine wheat flour with oil and frankincense. In my opinion however, the meaning of the words “for it is a mincha of kina’os” hearkens back to the beginning of the pasuk and it means to say as follows: In this case, it is the man who brings the mincha “upon his wife” that is to say in her stead, for since it is a mincha of kina’os, it is not fitting that she should bring it of her own and on her own. Rather he brings the mincha to Hashem in order that He take up his (the husband’s) jealousy and avenge from her his own vengeance. Accordingly, the reason this mincha consists of barley, “se’orim”, is to bring about a “se’aras cheimas Hashem”, that a whirlwind tempest of Hashem’s wrath should fall furiously upon the head of this evil woman, (in a similar vein to the cake of se’orim in the story of Gide’on[4] where the meaning of the barley in the dream was interpreted to be a storm of terrible upheaval). It is in a similar vein that it is brought in an earthenware container, as a sign that she should shatter like a piece of pottery. So too does the procedure call for earth, for she is made of earth and it is to there that she will return.

Such fury! Such rage! Do you hear the Ramban’s phraseology?! The jealous wrath of the husband is so violently strong that the Torah directs him to call forth a whirlwind tempest to shatter his faithless wife and turn her back into the dust that she came from! His bitter hatred drips from every single word in the parsha with merciless venom! This is what jealousy looks like when a woman betrays the trust of her husband.

Klal Yisroel is married to the Ribono Shel Olam. Our chuppah took place beneath the held-aloft mountain of Sinai, and ever since then we have enjoyed the closest doting relationship possible with the Ribono Shel Olam. To turn now to the Pe’or was a terrible breach of faith with Him, an exact equivalent to the married woman who seeks the attentions of a man who is not her husband and it aroused an equivalent wrath by the Ribono Shel Olam! That fury poured out in a rolling wave, a veritable tsunami of plague and death. But suddenly it all stopped.

How did it stop? It was held back singlehandedly by Pinchas who poured out his entire self in one furious and vengeful thrust of the spear for the vengeance of Hashem’s honor! His fury and hatred for what Zimri had done was equal to the fury of the Ribono Shel Olam and stood in its place. What was to have been accomplished by the deaths of many thousands more was instead achieved by the dying gasps of Zimri and Kozbi as they were held aloft, impaled at the top of Pinchas’s spear.

It is crucial that we understand what is going on here. The Sefer Mima’amakim explains that this terrible hatred of the husband for his wayward wife is the result of the incredibly intimate relationship that they had enjoyed together. She is him! Etzem mei’atzamai, basar m’besari! By entertaining the affections of someone else she is taking a knife and cutting deep, deep into the very being of who he is! He is wounded to his very core and through the minchas kina’os the husband lets forth his anguish at what has happened to him! “Let the gale storm winds completely smash and shatter her! Let them return her to the dust from which she was formed!” And so it is in our relationship with the Ribono Shel Olam. When Klal Yisroel tells the Ribono Shel Olam that they are not interested in his jurisdiction over their physicality, that the Pe’or is just a fine substitute who can care for their physical needs, they are, k’vayachol cutting into their relationship with the Ribono Shel Olam in a caustic way! Yisroel v’Oraysa v’Kudsha Brich Hu chad hu! We and the Ribono Shel Olam are one entity and this rejection of the Ribono Shel Olam’s dominion eats away at our union in a most palpable way. Though we cannot possibly “injure” the Ribono Shel Olam Himself in the way that the Sotah slashes into her husband, the Ribono Shel Olam cherishes his relationship with us far more than any mortal husband could care for his mortal wife. His reaction to our betrayal is thus many times more severe. “Smash them!” “Shatter them!” “Let their smithereens revert to dust!”

But the Ribono Shel Olam is not alone in His rage. Someone else is fueled by its flames and that is Pinchas. His visceral reaction to the chillul Hashem caused by Zimri showed that he identified completely with the Ribono Shel Olam! By Pinchas there was absolutely no separation between himself and the Ribono Shel Olam. The union of Hashem and Klal Yisrael remained complete within himself. When he took action it was the Ribono Shel Olam taking action, and through that action he was able to reunite the rest of Klal Yisroel with the Ribono Shel Olam once more.

  1. תשלום לשון הרמב”ן ותרגומו:

    וקרוב הוא שהיה גם בלעם בעצה הזו, כי בשובו מארץ מואב עבר במדין כי דרכו משם והיה ביועצי המלכות, ואולי נתעכב שם לדעת מה יהיה בהם, לפיכך מצאוהו ישראל במדין והרגוהו שם (להלן לא ח). ויהיה פירוש ויקם בלעם וילך וישב למקומו (לעיל כד כה), שהלך לו לשוב אל ארצו. וכן נראה, כי ישראל לא יהרגו המתנבא רק ברשות התורה, אבל כאשר נאמר להם כי צוררים הם בנכליהם אשר נכלו לכם וגו’, הנה כל המתנכלים מחוייבי מיתה, ולכן המיתו גם בלעם כי ידעו שהוא בעל העצה הרעה הזאת:

    It is likely as well that Bilam was involved in this plot, for upon his return home from Moav he passed through Midian, for his path led through there and he was one of Midian’s royal counselors. Possibly, he tarried there to find out what would be the result of their plot. Thus it was that Klal Yisroel found him there in Midian and killed him there (Bamidbar 31:8). The proof to this thesis (that Bilam was the source of this horrible plot) is that Klal Yisroel would never kill a Navi without the permission of the Torah. When they were told “For they afflicted you with the plot that they schemed against you…” all those who were in on the plot were liable to die, and therefore they killed Bilam, knowing as they did that he was the one behind this evil plot.

  2. See Rashi to beginning of Parshas Balak.
  3. Although in the beracha of Borei Nefashos we seem to say something similar “You are the source of blessing, Hashem, Ruler of the world, Creator of many souls and their deficiencies, for everything that You have created in order to sustain the soul of all living beings, the source of blessing is He who vitalizes all the worlds”, the truth is that there are many, myself included who follow the ruling of the Gaon to recite the word שברא rather than שבראת thus rendering the blessing’s translation to mean “for everything that He has created in order to sustain the soul of all living beings…”, keeping this beracha in the third person throughout.
  4. See Shoftim 7:13 where Gide’on is commanded by Hashem to listen in to the conversation of two Midianite soldiers in the vast Midianite army that had invaded Eretz Yisroel. There he heard one recount to the other his dream in which he had seen a cake of barley flour strike a tent in the Midianite camp: it pierced the tent and flipped it over, after which the tent collapsed. His friend interpreted the dream as a reference to the impending defeat of the Midianite army by the hand of Gide’on.