Parshas Pinchas; The Battle with Midyan : Our sedra, Pinchas, continues an event which occurred at the closing of last week’s sedra. In short, many of the Bnei Yisrael sinned with the Midianite girls, who made us bow to idols too (all Bilam’s advice). The ensuing plague is stopped by Pinchas. After the dust has settled, HaShem tells Moshe to kill the Midianites (25;17). The intriguing thing is that it is not until next week’s sedra (perek 31) that we actually carry out this command. And to make matters worse, HaShem repeats this command there (31;2), and Moshe is praised for carrying out this command so soon (Rashi 31;3), yet it was commanded six chapters ago in our sedra? Why is the command repeated and only acted upon later?
In order to attempt an answer, we should understand what comes between the command and its repetition. There are three things HaShem tells the Bnei Yisrael between the commands. First, that Bnei Yisrael are to be counted (26), secodnly the korbanos - one of which is the (twice) daily korban tamid - and thirdly (at the start of parshas Mattos) hafaras nedarim - the ability given to a father/husband to uproot the vows of their daughter/wife. (There was also the laws of inheritance, but that was only a reaction to the complaint of the daughters of Tzlophchad) The idea is that these three portions correspond to three stages of spiritual growth, only after all of which were Bnei Yisrael spiritually strong enough to fight off the Midianites and their idolatry. Let’s explain…
The Rambam (hil. Melachim 1;1) points out that Bnei Yisrael had three mitzvos upon entering the Land of Israel: 1) appointing a King, 2) wiping out Amalek, and 3) building a beis hamikdash. [As an aside these three are reflected beautifully in the yomim tovim at the start of Tishrei; Rosh HaShanah is when we crown our King of Kings, Yom Kippur is when we remove amalek (ie sin and doubt; it‘s when all the viduy occurs), and Sukkos is our mini-Beis Hamikdash surrounded by HaShem’s Presence.] Now, Eretz Yisrael is not only a place - it is a spiritual power too (where Torah and HaShem’s Providence is best reflected) - and thus these three mitzvos show a spiritual path to reach this goal of really living in the land with utmost kedusha. What are these three stages?
There is a general idea (I think I read it in one of Rabbi Tatz’s books) that there are three stages in spiritual growth: First there is a short-term burst of growth. Then, after that short burst is removed, there is a slow, longer stage of working back up towards that same level. And the last stage is (after having successfully worked on oneself) when one reaches a higher level than that attained after the initial short-term burst. These three stages correspond to the three mitzvos above: appointing a King is the initial short-term burst, removing amalek is the slower hard-working second stage (it’s a long subject, but amalek is a philosophy of chance occurrence; amalek is gematria of safek, so the removal of amalek marks the instilling of pure internal emunah and lack of doubts - no quick job). And building the beis hamikdash corresponds to the final stage of long-term spiritual high.
The idea is that the three commandments from HaShem above (counting, korbanos, hafaras nedarim) can correspond to the three mitzvos above, and thus in turn to the 3 stages of spiritual growth. Only then were the Bnei Yisrael spiritually ready to fight the Midianites.
First, therefore, is the idea that counting the Bnei Yisrael corresponds to the mitzvah of appointing a King. In order to understand this, we must understand exactly what a King is. (from R’ Pinkus) In short, a king moulds all the individuals of his land into one whole - a nation. This means that the king essentially gives the people their communal identity. This is mirrored in the counting of Bnei Yisrael which establishes them as a national unit. Thus, firstly, in the counting HaShem gives the Bnei Yisrael their identity in inserting a Yud and Heh (HaShem’s name) at the start and end of each family name (Rashi 26;5). Moreover, both reasons given by Rashi (26;1) for counting Bnei Yisrael show the facet of re-forming into one nation. The first refers to counting a flock of sheep after the wolves have been at them - so too are we counted after the plague. And the second reason is that we are counted both at the start and end of Moshe’s reign as leader; again the point at which we started to become a nation at yetzias mitzrayim.
The next command, that of the korbanos, can correspond to the removal of amalek and thus the second stage of growth - that of the slow, working stage. Perhaps one can introduce this via a question; why is the korban tamid (an olah offering) brought specifically here with the mussaf offerings which are on mo’adim, as opposed to with the rest of the normal olah offerings of parshas Emor? We can answer that it is placed here to create the above parallel to the slower hard-working stage and the mitzvah of removal of amalek. Certainly, the constant day-in-day-out korban tamid (the first and last korban of the day) represents the idea of a slow, consistent process of avodah. So too do the mussaf korbanos atone for sin and the offering of sacrifices in general testifies to HaShem’s creation of the world and our consequent using of the items of this world to attain closeness with Him. This mirrors the removal of amalek and their general philosophy of chance occurrence and doubt in HaShem running the world.
Lastly is the parallel between the removal of nedarim and the building of the beis hamikdash. This needs an introduction via some questions…
The Rambam (hil. Beis Habechira 1;1) counts the thrice-annual celebration in the mikdash (aliyah leregel) as part of the mitzvah of making the beis hamidkash. Why? The gemarra (nedarim 60b and Rambam hil. nedarim 13;25) says that making a neder is like building a bamah. [A bamah is a private altar, ie as opposed to that of the mishkan/mikdash]. What is this comparison? The Rambam points out (hil. Beis habechira 1;3) that once the Beis Hamikdash was built, the bamahs were forbidden. This can be explained in the following way…
The Beis Hamikdash is HaShem’s home in this world, and it is thus from that place that kedusha resonates and spreads out to the world (the gemarra in Yoma states that creation started from Yerushalayim and spread outwards). Thus, once the beis Hamikdash is built, all private alters are banned, since all kedusha is to resonate from the central Beis Hamikdash now, and not private, disparate, altars. This is why celebrating three times a year is part of the mitzvah of making the beis hamikdash, for included in its making is the inherent concept that kedusha starts from there - and going up there three times a year is a public recognition of this fact.
Now there are two types of oath; a neder and a shvua. The difference between a neder and a shvua is that a neder changes the status of an object, whilst a shvua makes you forbidden to do a certain action. For example, to say ‘this food is forbidden’ could be a neder (since it regards the object; the food), whilst saying ‘I will not eat food’ is a shvua (for it is expressed in terms of me and my actions). Making a neder is like building a bamah, since a neder is your private changing the status of an object (making it forbidden), just like a bamah is a private altar and source of kedusha, as opposed to the central source of the Beis Hamikdash, which changes the status of the world and its objects via the kedusha which is sourced therein. Thus, hafaras nedarim, (uprooting/removing a neder) is the negation of the private source of status-change and thus the return to the central source; the beis hamikdash. And as we said above, this recognition of the beis hamikdash as the source of kedusha as ‘beis HaShem’ and subsequent changing of objects’ status is part of the mitzvah of making a mikdash. Therefore, the mitzvah of hafaras nedarim and building the beis hamikdash correspond.
So in summary, it was only after Bnei Yisrael had been shown these three levels of spiritual growth via these three portions given to them, that they could raise themselves to the level of successfully defeating the Midianites and their dangerous idolatry. (Not necessarily that they had the time to put into effect all these three stages, but their very message was sufficient) Thus, HaShem first said the commandment to kill Midiyan in perek 26, since that was the aim, and then repeated it in perek 31, since then Bnei Yisrael were then ready to carry out the command. It was the immediacy in perek 31, when we were ready to carry out the command to fight, that saw Moshe praised.
Have a great Shabbes,

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