(Adapted from the Ma'ayanah shel Torah) : "And he said, I was zealous on behalf of Hashem ... , for B'nei Yisrael have forsaken His covenant, they have demolished Your altars and slain Your prophets by the sword".
* G-d complained, says the Yalkut, that Eliyahu seemed unable to put in a good word on behalf of Yisrael. He accused him of showing nothing but zealousness with regard to them. At Shitim (in the episode of Zimri, where he was better known as Pinchas), he displayed zealousness, and again in the Haftarah (as Eliyahu), he grumbled that Yisrael had forsaken Hashem's covenant, demolished the Mizbei'ach, and killed the prophets by the sword (Melachim 1 18:19). That is in fact, why G-d took Him away and had Elisha anointed in his place

.
Make no mistake, this in no way reflects negatively per se, on Eliyahu, who still went alive into Gan Eden, a privilege reserved for a mere handful of Tzadikim. And it was mainly in his capacity as a Navi, a leader of Yisrael, that zealousness was not considered the correct approach.
It nevertheless does seem odd, comments the Kochav mi'Ya'akov, when in one place, the Torah portrays Pinchas' zealousness as an outstanding merit, having saved Yisrael from total destruction, even to the point of earning him a number of unique rewards, and G-d Himself is full of praise for what he did. And then in another, He suddenly opts to consider his display of zealousness detrimental!?
* And he answers with the following parable. A doctor once took his only son to a doctor to cure his ailing hand. The doctor examined the boy and decided that he had to amputate the hand. The operation proved a success. In a short time, the son recovered from the operation. The father thanked the doctor, paid him handsomely for his services, and returned home with his son.
Some time later, the son fell ill once again, and his father took him to the same doctor. Once again the doctor examined the boy, and began treating him, using sharp drugs that endangered the patient's life. When the father saw this, he began to berate the doctor in no uncertain terms. He accused him of trying to kill his son instead of curing him. And what's more, he said, it was clear that the doctor was by nature a sadist, and that on the first occasion too, his intention had been, not so much to heal the boy, as to maim him for life.
* Here too, Eliyahu, alias Pinchas, came out with a sharp attack against Yisrael, accusing them of behaviour for which they deserved to be destroyed, without a word in their defense, without as much as a prayer on their behalf (in the way that Moshe Rabeinu did on numerous occasions), as befitted a Jewish leader.
That, says the Kochav mi'Ya'akov, is why G-d answered him like the boy's father answered the doctor. He accused him of possessing a natural tendency towards zealousness; with the sole interest of prosecuting Yisrael, to evoke the Midas ha'Din against them. Perhaps this was even a reflection of his true motive on the first occasion, at Shitim, where Hashem rewarded him so handsomely.
Perhaps there too, his intention had been not so much to save Yisrael as to evoke the Divine prosecution, to judge them for their sins.
* G-d hinted broadly here, that the job of a true leader is one who prays on behalf of K'lal Yisrael, and seeks ways and means to minimize their sins, so as to detract from their punishment, even at a time when they are truly wicked, and have sunk to the lowest levels.
To be sure, when speaking to the sinners themselves, one is obligated to rebuke them in the sharpest of terms, where necessary; But when addressing G-d, that is a different question.
* R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld, the Rav of Yerushalayim in the early part of the last century, was known for the high degree of zealousness that he displayed in his personal relationship with the secular leaders of Eretz Yisrael. Yet when he was once questioned about this, on the grounds that it is surely the way of a Tzadik to speak good about Yisrael and to seek merits on their behalf, he replied 'Believe me, when I tell you that every day I recite Tehilim and cry before G-d on behalf of all of K'lal Yisrael, even the biggest sinners. But that is when I speak directly to G-d. When I address them personally, the Torah obliges me to rebuke them in the strongest possible terms (a. to prevent others from taking their cue from them and going in their ways; b. to try and bring them to Teshuvah)'.
*
And this is also the way of Chasidus - sharply demanding from the person to improve, but pleading with Hashem on his behalf.



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