Friday, July 20, 2012

Shem and Eliyahu Partners In Priesthood
Parashas Mattos [Masei]:

The Priest Anointed For War: The Future of Shem

Rabbi David Katz

In this week’s Parsha of Mattos, one of the Torah’s most fascinating [and Messianic] characters is introduced to us in one of the more subtle ways, as Israel journeys out to war against Midian. Pinchas the son of Elazar the Priest leads the Jewish People out to war, and the Torah tradition states that from this context Pinchas is termed: “The Priest Anointed for War” / משוח מלחמה. When the Children of Israel would finally be ready to cross the Jordan River, the leaders were to be a King (Joshua), a Priest (Elazar), a Sanhedrin (Elders), and a Priest Anointed for War (Pinchas). As the Sages in their writings on the Torah have stated “Pinchas is Elijah”, is the source of yet another famous term for Pinchas/Elijah: The Righteous Priest / כהן צדק, as brought down in the service of prayer in the special recital of Blessings in a circumcision, in the merit of the attendance by Elijah. There is yet another Righteous Priest from the famed Talmudic quote in Sukkah 52b of the Four Craftsmen, as the Bible commentator Rashi identifies this Messianic character (along with Messiahs of David and Joseph and Elijah) to be none other than Shem son of Noah due to his superb craftsman abilities that he demonstrated with his righteous father Noah in their construction of the Ark.

If we are to have two “Righteous Priests” in the identification of Shem and Pinchas/Elijah, perhaps through the character of Pinchas and what we know about him in the latter part of the Torah and the Prophets, we can begin to recapture lost data of Shem from the mysterious beginning of the Torah that seems to specifically eliminate the history and Torah of Shem from the curriculum. If it is assumed that our task as Torah students is to recover the Torah of Shem through the application of Torah. What better a source to turn to than a fellow Righteous Priest in Pinchas / Elijah! Pinchas has two possible connotations to identify with as a Righteous Priest who can equally double as a Priest anointed for war. There is of course the traditional sense of being anointed for war and the literal entrance into battle, while we can also entertain the domain of Torah as a potential battlefield, as King David was termed “A Man of war” with connotation equaling both the literal war sense and the arena of Torah. To round off the 4th Craftsman of the Final Redemption, Messiah son of Joseph, he is expected to be a fighter of the wars of God as well as a master in the realm of Torah; both in the highest regard. Thus if Shem is truly one of the Four Craftsmen, he would be expected to be as the other three that we have mentioned.

When we look at the life of Shem, he existed both before the Flood and after. Upon the completion of the Flood, we finally meet up with Shem at the Temple Mount as he finally finds the infamous Abraham and he is mysteriously titled Malki Tzedek (“My King of Righteousness”) who also is termed by the Torah “A Priest to God Above”. Thus we can effectively say that Shem is to be found in two “Worlds”, to which the Midrash Rabbah (Midrash Rabbah Noah) clearly states that when the Torah repeats a name twice in a row it is to signify that this individual has two worlds to his credit. One may learn this literally or figuratively states the Midrash, depending on if the subject is a righteous soul or not. The Zohar (Parshas Noah) goes on to state that Shem is in this category as depicted by the Torah’s recital of “Shem Shem” in Parashas Noah; not only does he merit “This World and the Next” but the implications exist on many levels. Pre and post Flood would serve as just one example for Shem.

It would seem that Pre-Flood Shem had a special function to help Noah not only in building the Ark but creating the space to make it possible. As one of his duties that would express his Priestly status (as if to be anointed for war), Shem could be depicted as a Priest who fought the Wars of Hashem. Since Shem would one day be listed as one of the Four Craftsmen, all of which serve(d) in Hashem’s Army, it is simple logic to assume that Shem merited this function in the Pre-Flood World. We see from Torah and Midrashim (Plural: Midrash) that Shem and Noah were very different types of Righteous Souls. Noah was depicted as the peaceful Man who literally saved the World from destruction and guaranteed its survival on an eternal level. If Shem is going to contrast with Noah, he is seen as the character that would be like a Priest Anointed for War. Order must have been maintained to allow for the construction of the Ark, and this order would revolve around Noah on an intimate level. Thus just as Pinchas fought his enemies as a Priest Anointed for War, Elijah fought the prophets of idolatry, and the Messiah’s of David and Joseph will do the same, Shem would find himself in elite company. In the future, the redemption will come from the defeat of the Mixed Multitude in Israel termed “Erev Rav.” The Zohar states that Pre-Flood enemies to Noah were the original souls of the Erev Rav. With the axiom “The First Redeemer is as the Last Redeemer” one can envision the wars that Shem fought to sanctify the Name of God. The second type of warfare is the craft of war as found in the study hall. As it is stated, King David was termed a Man of War in the realm of Torah. When we look to Pinchas, we find that the source of his greatness is in exactly this area!

When Midian sought to destroy Israel immorality, Pinchas had remembered the law that would have allowed the killing of the culprit of this horrible crime against God. Pinchas told it over to Moses, upon which Moses told him, “better to be carried out by he who remembered the Law!” Pinchas did in fact carry out the law, and he did act as the Priest anointed for Wad in the root concept. The interesting part of the story is that Pinchas merited the Priesthood (and obviously the rite of anointment in war as a Priest) from his dominion in Torah! Thus he was a true Priest (A Priest is by nature a teacher of Torah) anointed for War! Shem is no different, as we see with his meeting with Abraham.

When Shem met with Abraham, the text in the Torah is somewhat hard to grasp on a simple level. To extend this thought even deeper, the concept of the Torah of Shem is rather difficult to grasp on a simple level. However, when we apply to “Shem the Priest to God Above” the label of Righteous Priest – Priest Anointed for War, we can begin to recapture this hidden Torah. The Torah of Shem (in himself and in our application to recover “his” teaching) is to be enclothed with the sense of a “Man of War” – in Torah mentality. One must be highly aroused in the sense of Torah (which can be termed “High Intellect” in Torah) to get into all that Shem represents. Shem himself was at (a peaceful) war with Abraham in the name of Torah and Sanctification of God’s name when they met to give over the Priesthood at the Temple Mount. Abraham qualified this moment by terming Jerusalem as Yirah / Awe-Fear. Certainly Shem had made his mark upon Abraham! Shem reciprocated and called the Place “Shalom” / Peace. Forever from their meeting Jerusalem would be called Yerushalayim in the memory of their “war” in Torah in how to go about Blessing Hashem. Their war was friendly, for the sake of God, and was about getting to the Truth.

Thus we have Pinchas and thus we have Shem. Both were Righteous Priests. Both were Anointed for War (Shem, in a sense). The Torah can be hard to follow at times, as even to understand Pinchas one must search the depths of Torah and Kabbalah to realize Pinchas and Elijah as one expression of soul. The results are vast and broad, but one clear gem arises from the Torah of the Priesthood – the mystery of Shem. Shem was a Priest in the highest sense, to the extent that we may call him a Priest Anointed for War and the implications are endless. One thing though remains for sure, that just as Pinchas / Elijah is “The Righteous Priest”, Shem is in good company, as he lays claim to being the first Righteous Priest. Not only does Shem begin the Priesthood, he endures with it through the Redemption. Elijah (Pinchas) is simply termed as such in the quote of Sukkah 52b of the Four Craftsmen, yet it is Shem who is forever called the The Righteous Priest – and rightly so.

זמן כהן צדק ב''ה


Jesterhead45 said...

I get Shem being the Righteous Priest as well as the missions of both MBY and MBD, yet are you saying that the functions of both Elijah and the Righteous Priest are similar to MBY and MBD in the sense that one is active in a time of war (like MBY) while the other is active in a time of peace (like MBD)?

rabbi david katz said...

i would say both are active all the time as both moshiachs are active all the time..i didnt think it all the way through, because this topic is endless - you brought up a good point!

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