Pinchas was indignant. Things were being done in the Israelite camp which were morally intolerable. His conscience would not let him remain passive. Vayyikkach romach b’yado – “He took a spear in his hand” (Num. 25:7) – and he went after those who were flaunting their immorality for all to see, and he killed them.
The consequences of his deed may have compromised his position as a priest, but at that moment his instinct told him, “It is a time to act for HaShem; they have broken Your Torah” (Psalm 119:126).
The No’am Elimelech looks at the word romach – a spear – and finds that its letters have the numerical value of 248, the rabbinic enumeration of the limbs of the body. The implication is that Pinchas responded to the crisis with every fibre and facet of his body.
But 248 is also the number of positive mitzvot in the Torah – the “thou shalts”. This suggests a further interpretation: that Pinchas countered the challenge positively, not with violence or with passion and emotion, but with reason and persuasion.
The historical fact is that the romach he used was a real spear, and he really did carry out an act of indignant violence, but on another level the link with 248 can suggest that there is more than one romach with which one can attack a crisis.
Most of the time the calm voice of reason should be used to correct and contain a situation. There are times to appeal to the emotions and enlist heart as well as mind in moving from an unacceptable to an acceptable solution. Only in a real emergency when nothing else is working should you contemplate losing your cool and becoming physical.