Category Archives: Pinchas

First of the Three Weeks (Pinchas or Matot) – Calamity and Consolation

The three weeks between the 17th of Tammuz and 9 B’Av are a time of mourning the destruction of Jerusalem and all the calamities that have befallen the Jewish People throughout history. For those three Shabbatot, the custom is to read a specific set of Haftarot that are called in Aramaic, “Tlata de’Puranuta” (“the three of calamity”). The first week, which falls out on either Pinchas or Matot, we read the first chapter of Yirmiyahu.

One might think that the Haftarah would focus on describing the sins of the Jewish People which led to the destruction of Jerusalem, or on describing the destruction itself. However, the first chapter of Yirmiyahu is just not that scary. It only hints at the destruction with allusions and symbolic images, and the sins are mentioned only in passing.

So if the Haftarah is not about the causes of the destruction and not about the destruction itself, why do we read it during the weeks of mourning of the destruction?

The Haftarah ends with the following verses:

הָלֹךְ וְקָרָאתָ בְאָזְנֵי יְרוּשָׁלִַם לֵאמֹר
כֹּה אָמַר ה’
זָכַרְתִּי לָךְ חֶסֶד נְעוּרַיִךְ
אַהֲבַת כְּלוּלֹתָיִךְ
לֶכְתֵּךְ אַחֲרַי בַּמִּדְבָּר בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא זְרוּעָה
קֹדֶשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל לַה’ רֵאשִׁית תְּבוּאָתֹה
Go and call out to the ears of Jerusalem, saying,
so says Hashem:
I recall the kindness of your youth,
the love of newlyweds,
when you walked after me in the desert, in a land that is not sown.
Israel is holy to Hashem, the first of His crop…(Yirmiyahu 2:2-3)

After telling Yirmiyahu that the enemies are on their way to besiege Jerusalem, G-d reminds us of our earliest memories together, our time in the desert.

The Midrash presents a parable to explain the apparent incongruity:

משל למלך שנטל אשה היה אומר אין נאה הימנה אין משובחת הימנה אין מיושבת הימנה נכנס שושבינה לבית ראה אותה מנוולת הבית אינה מכוונת המטות אינם מוצעות אמר לה שושבינה הלואי את שומעת שהיה בעליך משבחיך לתוך השוק אין אותו השבח מעשי’ הללו אמר השושבין אם כשהיא מנוולת כך הוא משבחה אלו היית מתוקנת עאכ”ו כך דורו של ירמיה חוטאין והוא אומר להם (ירמיה ב) זכרתי לך חסד נעוריך וגו’ אמר להם ירמיה אלואי אתם שומעין מה הוא אומר עליכם הלוך וקראת באזני ירושלים וגו’ זכרתי לך חסד נעוריך וגו’ קדש ישראל וגו’ אמר אם בשעה שהם חוטאים כך הוא מחבבם כשהם עושין רצונו עאכ”ו

A parable of a king that married a woman and was saying about her,
“There is no one more beautiful than she is, there is no one more accomplished than she is, there is no one more cultured than she is.” Meanwhile, her guardian came into the house and saw that she is a mess, her house is a wreck, the beds are not made. He said to her, “If only you were to hear your husband praise you in public! His praises do not match your actions!” The guardian said, “If when she’s such a mess, this is how he praises her, if she were to put herself together, how much more so!”

So, too, the generation of Yirmiyahu were sinners, and G-d says about them, “I recall the kindness of your youth, etc.” Yirmiyahu said to them, “If only you were to hear what He says about you! ‘Go call out to the ears of Jerusalem’, and ‘I recall the kindness of your youth,’ and ‘Israel is holy to Hashem.’ If that is how much He loves you when you sin, when you do His will, how much more so!” (Midrash Bamidbar Rabba 2)

The point of this Haftarah is not to tell us how evil we are . The point is to tell us how important we are to G-d, how much He loves and cherishes His people. Even when we disappoint Him, He reminds Himself of our earlier acts of loyalty and love.

From this we learn that the destruction of Jerusalem and the other calamities that we mourn during these weeks were not a sign of G-d rejecting us. In fact, it is the opposite. G-d’s motivation in all of His interactions with us is to get us to fulfil our commitments to Him, and strengthen our relationship.

This is why, when G-d tells Yirmiyahu about his mission as a prophet earlier in the Haftarah, it is defined as:

לִנְתוֹשׁ וְלִנְתוֹץ וּלְהַאֲבִיד וְלַהֲרוֹס
לִבְנוֹת וְלִנְטוֹעַ
… to abandon, to smash, to ruin, and to destroy;
to build and to plant. (Yirmiyahu 1:10)

Yirmiyahu is tasked with warning us of impending destruction and ruin, and at the same time he is tasked with rebuilding.

The ultimate purpose of the destruction of Jerusalem, and all the destructions that the Jewish People have faced throughout our history, was to build a better nation and to plant the seeds of a better society.

We will spend the seven weeks after Tisha B’Av reading the Haftarot called “the Seven of Consolation” (“Sheva de’Nechemta”), seven selections from Yeshayahu’s words of comfort and hope. Yet even the Tlata de’Puranuta are founded upon G-d’s unconditional love for His people.

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Copyright © Kira Sirote
In memory of my father, Peter Rozenberg, z”l
לעילוי נשמת אבי מורי פנחס בן נתן נטע ז”ל

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Filed under Connections, Matot, Pinchas, Sefer Bamidbar, The Three Weeks


The Haftarah of Pinchas is read very rarely. Usually, it is already the first of the Three Weeks, which have special Haftarot of their own. It is from Melachim I, continuing the story told in the Haftarah of Ki Tisa, of Eliyahu at Har HaCarmel.

Linear Annotated Translation of the Haftarah of Pinchas

As to what Pinchas and Eliyahu have in common, to the extent that the Midrash has a tradition that they are the same person: Pinchas – Outrage

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Pinchas – Outrage

The story of Pinchas is actually told at the end of the previous Parsha. In the very first encounter the Jewish People have with a civilized nation after 40 years in the desert, the men are seduced by Midianite women. One in particular, the head of the Tribe of Shimon, takes a Midianite princess, parading her in front of Moshe and the elders, directly into his tent. G-d tells them to get rid of these people, but everybody, Moshe included, is paralyzed with shock. Pinchas grabs a spear, barges into the tent, and skewers the man and the woman together, in flagrante delicto.

Was this act of vigilante aggression, murder? Should Pinchas have been tried and executed?

Our Parsha begins with G-d making a special announcement pardoning Pinchas:

פִּינְחָס בֶּן אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן הֵשִׁיב אֶת חֲמָתִי מֵעַל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּקַנְאוֹ אֶת קִנְאָתִי בְּתוֹכָם וְלֹא כִלִּיתִי אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּקִנְאָתִי:
Pinchas, son of Elazar, son of Aharon the Cohen, turned My anger away from the People of Israel, as he was outraged on My behalf and I did not decimate the People of Israel due to My outrage. (Bamidbar 25:11)

G-d gives his stamp of approval for Pinchas’ violent zeal on His behalf. Is the message of the Torah that outrage on behalf of G-d is legitimate?

The Haftarah tells us another story of outrage, but with a very different reaction from G-d. Eliyahu tries to quit his job as a prophet (and quit his life while he’s at it), and tells G-d the following:

קַנֹּא קִנֵּאתִי לַה’ אֱ-לֹהֵי צְבָא-וֹת כִּי-עָזְבוּ בְרִיתְךָ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת-מִזְבְּחֹתֶיךָ הָרָסוּ וְאֶת-נְבִיאֶיךָ הָרְגוּ בֶחָרֶב וָאִוָּתֵר אֲנִי לְבַדִּי וַיְבַקְשׁוּ אֶת-נַפְשִׁי לְקַחְתָּהּ
“I am outraged on behalf of Hashem, the G-d of Tzva’ot. For the People of Israel abandoned Your covenant; Your altars, they destroyed; Your prophets, they put to the sword. I was left all alone – and they tried to take my life.” (Melachim I 19:10)

Like Pinchas, Eliyahu expresses his outrage on behalf of G-d. Unlike Pinchas, G-d does not offer Eliyahu a big pat on the back. Instead, He tells him to go train a replacement. This is how the Midrash describes G-d’s reaction to Eliyahu’s declaration of outrage:

ויאמר קנא קנאתי לה’ א-להי ישראל כי עזבו בריתך בני ישראל, אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא בריתי שמא בריתך, ואת מזבחותיך הרסו, אמר לו מזבחותי שמא מזבחותיך, ואת נביאיך הרגו בחרב, אמר לו נביאי ואת מה איכפת לך …[] ובאותה שעה שאמר אליהו על ישראל לשון הרע אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא אליהו עד שאתה מקטרג את אלו בא וקטרג את אלו הה”ד (מלכים א יט) לך שוב לדרכך מדברה דמשק

Eliyahu said, “I am outraged on behalf of Hashem that the People of Israel abandoned your covenant!”
G-d said, “It is My covenant, unless it is your covenant?”
“They destroyed your altars!”
He said, “They are My altars, unless they are your altars?”
“Your prophets, they put to the sword!”
He said, “They are My prophets. What business is it of yours?”
That time that Eliyahu was saying negative things about the Jewish People, G-d said to him,
“Eliyahu, before you start condemning the Jewish People, go condemn the idol worshippers in Damascus.” (Midrash Shir HaShirim Rabba 1)

G-d essentially tells Eliyahu to mind his own business, and save his outrage and condemnation for Israel’s enemies.

So what does the Torah actually mean? Is this outrage good or bad?

A different Midrash, based on the tradition that identifies Pinchas with Eliyahu , has G-d relating to both events:

ויאמר קנא קנאתי אמר לו לעולם אתה מקנא קנאת בשטים על גלוי עריות וקנאת כאן
Eliyahu said: “I am outraged!”
He said, “You are always outraged. You were outraged in Shittim about the debauchery, you’re outraged now. ” (Midrash Yalkut Shimoni Balak 661)

Shittim was the location of Pinchas’ story. What the Midrash is saying here is that once was enough. At that one unique place and time, in those precise circumstances, it was just exactly the right reaction, and G-d issued Pinchas a pardon. But there will not be any other situation like that, ever.

According to the Haftarah, G-d neither needs nor wants anyone’s outrage against the Jewish People. Not even when the entire Jewish People worships the pagan god Ba’al. Certainly not for anything less.

Copyright © Kira Sirote
In memory of my father, Peter Rozenberg, z”l
לעילוי נשמת אבי מורי פנחס בן נתן נטע ז”ל

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Filed under Pinchas, Sefer Bamidbar