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    Pinchas & Elijah – Pinchas

    Painting depicting Elijah the Prophet, by Zalman Kleinman

    Pinchas, after whom the sidra is named, was a zealot. So was Elijah. Is that why the rabbis in the Midrash identified the one with the other?

    There is a superficial comparison, but the two of them are actually quite different.

    Pinchas acts on impulse and seems to have no regrets. He sees evil and he acts. Were his victims really irredeemably wicked? He doesn’t pause to ask. He doesn’t seem to have any doubts. He just goes ahead.

    What a contrast to a basic (and little known) Jewish legal rule, that if all the judges in a criminal case are unanimous, the accused cannot be adjudged as guilty because there cannot be a situation in which nobody has even the smallest inclination to dissent.

    Consider Elijah. He – like Pinchas – is zealous for the honour of HaShem. But he carries himself in a different fashion. Despite his feeling of moral duty he is not sure he can live with himself. He wants to die. A still small voice nags at his conscience. That still small voice is God (I Kings 19:11-13).

    The still small voice symbolises the nuances of the moment. It says, as it were, “Elijah: in the end you have acted correctly, but you did well to feel those qualms”.

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