Kohen Forever (Pinchas)
No love, no friendship can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever. -Francois Muriac
God has made a lot of promises to us. And when you read some of those promises, they sound quite nice. However, many of those promises are conditional. If we are good, then God will bless us with bounty, success, victory over our enemies, and more. When we don’t fulfill our side of the deal, then God doesn’t necessarily feel obliged to fulfill His side.
For example, we are told by the Talmud (Tractate Berahot 4a) that our patriarch Jacob was worried that perhaps some sin of his may have reduced not just his reward, but even the divine protection God had promised him. Jacob, it seems, understood that God’s promise to him had been conditional.
However, there are a handful of promises that are unconditional. This week’s reading of Pinchas has one such promise.
At the end of last week’s reading, we are told of the mass promiscuity that men of Israel embarked on with the seductive women of Moab and Midian. At the height of the illegal dalliance, a prince of one of the tribes of Israel is publicly intimate with a princess from Midian. Moses and the elders are horrified and seemingly paralyzed into inaction, but Pinhas, the grandson of Aaron, takes a spear and skewers the couple during their romantic act. Pinhas’ violent, vigilante execution is credited with stopping the plague which had killed 24,000 men of Israel because of God’s wrath over the widespread immorality.
As a reward for his daring, decisive act, which demonstrated Pinhas’ love, obedience, and allegiance to God, God promises him an everlasting covenant of peace. The covenant installs Pinhas and all his descendants as Kohens, as the priests consecrated and dedicated to the service of God in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple.
The Meshech Chochma on Numbers 25:11 explains that this is an eternal, unconditional promise. It doesn’t matter if a future Kohen misbehaves, he will always retain the status of a Kohen, with all of the ensuing rights and responsibilities of a Kohen.
He underlines that whenever God makes an absolute promise through His prophet, the promise cannot be revoked by any sin. He brings as further proof that there were descendants of Pinhas, who though they were the opposite of shining examples of morality, merited to serve as High Priests during the era of the second Temple.
May we merit to see both conditional and unconditional blessings, speedily and in our days.
To the Kohens who are studying the laws of their Temple service.