Parashat Balak concluded with Pinchas killing Zimri and Kozbi. Zimri was the head of Sheivet Shimon who slept with Kozbi, a Midyanite princess. Pinchas publicly slew both of them to show that their actions were utterly outrageous and disgracing to Hashem. Then, at the beginning of this week’s Parashah, Hashem awards Pinchas “Beriti Shalom,” “My covenant of peace” (BeMidbar 25:12) and the mantle of priesthood; Kehunah. Two questions arise from this: What is the connection between the covenant of peace and the Kehunah? Why did Pinchas deserve to be a Kohein more than anyone else who performed a Kiddush Hashem?
Rashi answers the first question by stating that the two aren’t necessarily connected - the Brit Shalom is Hashem’s way of showing kindness to Pinchas, just as Pinchas was kind to Hashem, while the Kehunah is a reward for Pinchas’ actions. The Gemara in Sanhedrin (82b) states that his reward was the Brit Shalom. However, people still suspected Pinchas of committing unjustified murder. In order to dispel that notion, Hashem also awarded Pinchas the Kehunah. According to the Gemara, the connection between the covenant of peace and the Kehunah is that the covenant was the reward, while the Kehunah was proof that Hashem approved of Pinchas. Furthermore, when Pinchas killed Zimri and Kozbi, a plague that had already killed 24,000 people stopped. Hashem therefore regarded Pinchas as having saved lives, not as having taken them. According to Ibn Ezra, Pinchas earned the Kehunah, while the covenant of peace was entirely different. The covenant of peace was protection from Zimri’s and Kozbi’s followers, lest they try to kill Pinchas. It seems that the two rewards Pinchas received, while building on each other, were still separate.
But why was Pinchas the only person in the Torah to merit the reward of Kehunah? Not even Moshe, one of the greatest men ever, merited the Kehunah. Ibn Ezra argues that the reward of Kehunah wasn’t simply that he would become a Kohein, but that the Kohein Gadol would come from his lineage. The Torah records that Pinchas stopped Hashem’s “jealousy,” which Rashi comments means rage that results in death or destruction. One of the Kohein Gadol’s duties was to lead the Aron Kodesh into battle to help the soldiers and stop plagues. Also, Pinchas generated a great Kiddush Hashem, and the greatest continuous Kiddush Hashem is Korbanot. In the merit of Pinchas terminating the plague, making a Kiddush Hashem, and saving lives, he and his posterity were granted those same jobs for eternity.
Pinchas is a wonderful role model for standing up for Torah values. Without any support, Pinchas, a man of not much prominence at the time, killed a prince and a princess as a Kiddush Hashem to oppose immoral behavior. Although we should not go to the extreme that Pinchas went to, we can nonetheless learn from Pinchas that when something going on around us is not right, we must take a stand against it and uphold order and justice.