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Home » Numbers 25:12 – The True Motivation of Acts of Zealotry

Numbers 25:12 – The True Motivation of Acts of Zealotry


21 Tammuz 5783 – 10 July 2023

“Therefore, say (to Pinchas), ‘I am giving him My covenant of peace’ ”

It is interesting that this episode in the Torah is split between two portions. We read about Pinchas’ act of zealotry at the end of last week’s Torah portion of Balak. When Zimri, leader of the tribe of Shimon brazenly fornicated with the Midianite Cozbi in the presence of Moses and others at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting – Pinchas rose up and impaled them both with a spear.

However, we’re not told about the reward he received – a covenant of peace and eternal priesthood for his offspring – until the beginning of this week’s Torah portion.

Rabbi Moshe of Coucy explained the reason for this disjuncture. Not every act of zealotry stems from righteousness. Sometimes, it may be more a product of hot-headed intolerance or fanaticism. In order to know the true motivation of the zealot, you have to observe the nature of their relationships with others. Only if you see that they are indeed level-headed and truly respectful of others can you assume that their zealotry was meritorious rather than an expression of their own hot temper.

This is the reason, according to R’ Moshe of Coucy, that the Torah does not immediately record Pinchas’ reward at the end of last week’s Torah portion. The break in the narrative represents this period during which he could be scrutinized in order to determine the likely true motivation for his act of zealotry.

By Rabbi Michael Skobac

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