After Am Yisrael was seduced into serving avodah zarah and immorality with the nation of Midyan they were punished by Hashem with a plague. Pinchus the son of Ahron with great zealousness killed the prince of the tribe of Shimon and the princess of Midyan in the middle of their cohabitation. The plague ceased. The Torah relates to us that Pinchus was rewarded with a Bris of Shalom, him and all his generations. What is this reward of peace?
The Medrash Rabba opens the parsha with the passuk דרכיה דרכי נועם וכל נתיבותיה שלום (Mishlei 3 17) the ways of Torah are pleasant and its pathways are peaceful. What connection does this passuk have to do with Pinchus and his zealousness?
We find an almost parallel event in which similar results occurred. When the Torah describes the mitzvah of the destruction of the עיר הנדחת the city that must be destroyed and its entire inhabitants killed because of their sin of idolatry, Hashem addresses the ones who will be involved with the killings that He will give them mercy (Devarim 13,18) and have mercy on them. The Ohr Chaim asks why do we find here this promise to the killers of the transgressors of idolatry that Hashem will grant them mercy?
He answers he following
ונתן לך רחמים ורחמך כוונת מאמר זה כאן, לפי שצוה על עיר הנדחת שיהרגו כל העיר לפי חרב ואפילו בהמתם מעשה הזה יוליד טבע האכזריות בלב האדם, כמו שסיפרו לנו הישמעאלים כת הרוצחים במאמר המלך כי יש להם חשק גדול בשעה שהורגים אדם, ונכרתה מהם שורש הרחמים והיו לאכזר, והבחינה עצמה תהיה נשרשת ברוצחי עיר הנדחת: לזה אמר להם הבטחה שיתן להם ה’ “רחמים”, הגם שהטבע יוליד בהם האכזריות, מקור הרחמים ישפיע בהם “כח הרחמים” מחדש לבטל כח האכזריות שנולד בהם מכח המעשה, ואומרו ורחמך, העיר בזה שכל זמן שהאדם הוא בגדר טבע אכזרי, כמו כן יתנהג ה’ עמו, שאין ה’ מרחם אלא לרחמן שבת ק
Hashem understands human emotions and psyche more than anyone since He is the sole creator of them. It is here where the Torah reveals that man is affected by his actions even if the intentions are pure and noble. The mere act of killing another person albeit that it is totally for the sake of heaven will have a damaging effect on human middos. Undoubtedly, the killer will lose a degree of his former sensitivity for the value of human life. If he kills a second time even for a mitzvah commanded by Hashem his sensitivity will be lost even more. We don’t have to look farther that the secularists, pedagogues, and educationalists who swear that merely watching films that portray abuse and violence will create abusive and violent individuals. How much more so with people who commit such acts in real life, even if in their minds they think it is a noble honor killing or such.
Hashem Himself has to guarantee the reversal of such a sensitivity loss for human life and promise to return the middah of rachmanus and compassion to its former levels. Without Hashem’s guarantee, the act of killing even being a mitzvah, will have compromised your nature and middos forever even though it might be unknown to you. It is totally out of the realm of possibility that Hashem would command a Yid to perform a mitzvah where it would have a dilapidating and corrosive effect on his middos even to the slightest degree. It is irrational that a mitzvah would transform you suddenly into a person who lost his patience and management over his anger? If there is a slight chance that this might occur, Hashem is there to guarantee you that He won’t let it happen.
This is the message of the Medrash in telling us that the Torah is pleasant and peaceful. If one is zealous with the right and pure intentions, even though the natural law dictates an adjustment and downgrade to one’s sensitivities towards the dignity of another Yid, Hashem reverses the process so one will recoup the loss. Torah is peaceful not abusive. Torah promotes peace not belligerence, life not death. If one loses an iota of rachmanus for another Yid then Hashem will lose rachmanus for him as well. This is why the passuk says that Hashem promises you rachmanus when you do the act of killing in order that He will have continued rachmanus on you.
With this concept we can understand the double name calling of אברהם אברהם at the Akaidah.ויקרא אליו מלאך ה’ מן השמים ויאמר אברהם אברהם . Avraham who was the pillar of chesed in the world, had to gird himself with the opposite middah in order to kill his son Yitzchak. Even though in actuality he did not follow through with the middah of brutality to slaughter one’s own beloved son, nevertheless the mind set and the rearing up of the middos necessary to execute the slaughter after taking the knife and almost slaughtering him (according to some mefarhsim Yitzchak actually died because of the fear of the almost being slaughtered) Avraham needed a tikkun to bring him back to his madraigah of former chesed and rachmanus. The Torah reveals to us in the double name calling the reversal of losing that rachmanus over his son. The gematriah of אברהם is רחם248 to have mercy. Here we find twice mercy. This parallels the explanation of the Ohr Chaim which says that Hashem is revealing here that He is returning Avraham’s lost rachmanus back to him as if to say I am giving you rachmanus so I will be able continue to have rachmanus upon you.
Pinchus’s lineage comes from a zaida who wasאוהב שלום רודף שלום אוהב את הבריות an extraordinary loving Yid. No question that his grandson also possessed naturally this middah of shalom and ahavas habriyos with excellence. Yet when the situation arose to be zealous for the kovod of Hashem, he mustered all his strength (the passuk say ויקח רמח בידו he took a spear in his hand. The mefarshim learn he gathered all 248 limbs of his body to perform this courageous act of Kiddush Hashem) and went against his nature and middos. Yes, it was a mitzvah, yes he saved Klal Yisrael from death, and yes he restored the kovod shamayim. However, even such a person like Pinchus who was willing to die for Kiddush Hashem required a rehabilitation of his middah of rachmanus which became compromised and tarnished because of his zealousness. This is why Hashem gifted him with the midda of shalom which reconstructed his sensitivities towards shalom and rachmanus that were lost because of his super mitzvah that he fulfilled.
Life has become very stressful and many times we unfortunately just lose it. We respond impulsively and emotionally without first evaluating the far reaching ramifications of our knee jerk reactions or speech. We leave a trail of negative and destructive debris behind us. We damage relationships with our loose lips. This requires teshuvah, introspection, a sincere apology, and a deep regret and commitment to fix up the wrong that was committed. This is not only relegated to the negative effects caused by our own choice and accord. Even if the unfortunate effect came about from fulfilling a mitzvah (at least in one owns mind) nevertheless a similar procedure of introspection and tikkun must take place for our middos that have become compromised.
Your act of unbalanced middos, even though a mitzvah, does not have Hashem’s guarantee of Eer Hanidachas, nor does it possess Hashem’s personal beracha to Pinchus. Therefore before one acts he must sift through very finely the “mitzvah” about to be performed examining it under a magnifying glass weighing carefully whether it is as lishma as we think it is.
A gadol once remarked when referring to an individual who was always in the public eye because of his religious zealousness that the difference between Pinchus and this person is that the Torah describes Pinchus as picking up a spear. This Yid 24/7 walks around with a spear held in his hands!
Secondly, we have to be willing to dedicate ourselves to the learning of mussar for hours afterwards in order to rectify the compromised middos that definitely will follow. Are we ready for all this?
Klal Yisrael, especially in Eretz Yisrael, live minute to minute under life threatening issues. The natural response is to react with a holy revenge. Our allies tell us to restrain. Know clearly that it is Hashem not the allies that are sending us this message. The message to restrain is not meant to hold back and not react at all, but rather to restrain and make a chesbon hanefesh without a knee jerk response. Fact: Personal Revenge by individuals will not halt further Yiddishe korbonos r”l. We must send Hashem the message that there is no choice. That in order to defend we must become offensive. With this we fully realize that even if the loss of Jewish lives were not an issue, there still exists a greater chance of not retaining the middos of chesed and rachmanus that we inherited from our Avos. Every person killed even from the enemy, is a setback and desensitization of our middos tovos.
Because of this offset, what would be if we were willing to accept from now on to work on broadening our middos in acquiring extra compassion, tolerance and rachmanus to our fellow Yidden no matter what type of Yiddishkeit they portray in order to make up for the loss of middos due to war’s casualties. Hashem will then see how valuable it is to Klal Yisrael to preserve their refined middos of chesed and rachmanus that they are willing to embrace even more Yidden into their hearts. No doubt בדרך שאדם רוצה לילך מוליכים אותו Hashem will respond by sending us a swift miraculous victory without the expense of the loss of lives and the forfeiting of our noble middos.