Friday, July 13, 2012

Shem and Eliyahu Righteous Priests

Parashas Pinchas

The Righteous Priest and His Heritage – Pinchas and Shem

Rabbi David Katz

In the Torah Portion of this week: “Pinchas” we are introduced with two interesting and off the beaten path- character concepts that accentuate the Messianic Redemption: The Righteous Priest and the heredity concept that weighs into the Messiah. It is exactly these two issues that resonate with a common frequency between Pinchas and Shem. Shem and Pinchas are subsequently both termed “Righteous Priest” and both are inheritors of sacred Torah that defines [Messianic] Heredity. One can even draw out their respective roles as revealed in Torah, all the way to being actual and vital characters even in the Messianic Days. As it says in the Talmud Sukkah 52b in regards to “The Four Craftsmen”: The Messiah son of David, Messiah son of Joseph, Elijah, and “The Righteous Priest.” As one can clearly see by the characters listed, both Elijah and the Righteous Priest are in direct relation with the cardinal characters of the Final Redemption: Messiah(s) son(s) of David and Joseph – the two who actually are revealed and usher the Redemption to fruition. The missing ingredients would then fall to the Righteous Priest and Elijah – of which the commentators identify the Righteous Priest as Shem son of Noah and Elijah as Pinchas the Priest. (Rashi on Shem: Sukkah 52b and Targum Yonaton Shemos identifies “Pinchas, this is Elijah”)

The first obvious question is: how did Pinchas receive the title of Righteous Priest and equally why is Shem called by the same name? The story of Elijah is a saga that begins in our very parsha this week, with Pinchas slaying a member of the Tribe of Shimon for his acute immorality. Pinchas (who although was a descendent of Aaron was not a Priest at the time due to his not being a son of Aaron at Mt. Sinai) took it upon himself to bring justice to this sin against the covenant and prevent a possible destruction of Israel. He had a vision of a spear and realized he needed to spear the sinner who rebelled against God, upon which by result of his reaching for the spear; God gave miraculous aide and success, while Pinchas was given the Covenant of Peace. This led to Hashem joining him with the other Priests in eternal Priesthood. What was unique to come out of this was the distinction of the High Priesthood, something quite in common with Shem. For this Pinchas was granted an additional soul granting him the merit to be called by the additional name: Elijah. It is Elijah who would later on in the Tanah gain additional merit to be considered “The Righteous Priest.” The Righteous Priest is prophesied in the Tanach in the book of Malachi, as it says “The Lips of the Priest shall safeguard Knowledge.” [Malachi 2:7] It is in the special section of Blessings after a circumcision meal [of which Elijah attends each child of Israel’s circumcision] termed “Harachaman” that after the Blessing of the Messiah, we Bless “The Righteous Priest” of which is identified explicitly in the rest of the Prayer as Elijah. Thus it is the full expression of the life of Pinchas and his becoming of Elijah that he merits being The Righteous Priest.

Shem had a slightly different and cryptic route in becoming “The Righteous Priest.” As we all know, Shem was born to Noah as Shem son of Noah. Suddenly in Genesis Parasha Lech Lecha, Shem and Abraham meet on the Temple Mount, and the sages identify “Malki Tzedek” as Shem! [Talmud Nedarim 32b] In this location of scripture it is a bit vague to say the least of how Shem actually became Malki Tzedek. There are two well known sources that help explain Malki Tzedek and his relationship to his true identity as Shem: Psalms 110 and Talmud Sukkah 52b. In the Psalms reference, the words that compose the verses speak of Malki Tzedek and he is easily identifiable through connotation, while easily seen in light with Abraham. However in the Talmud, the commentator Rashi explains that Shem is a craftsman due to his efforts to help make the Ark. It is assumed he is the Righteous Priest because in his meeting with Abraham, Shem is called a Priest to God Above. The result is quite fitting: Shem son of Noah who is also known as Malki Tzedek is now known also as The Righteous Priest. The second issue is the matter of heredity. In this week’s Parsha, Hashem reveals laws of heredity to Moses by account of the requests of five righteous women/sisters who are called the Daughters of Tzlafchad. The Talmud [Bava Basra] identifies them in their greatness before Hashem, something that was a great surprise to Moses! They requested to inherit their father, after he died without the merit of having a firstborn son to properly inherit his father. Thus the sisters requested and were granted the Blessing of a portion of their father’s Blessing. The interesting result of this is that not only did this happen in parashas Pinchas, but later on in the Book of Joshua, Pinchas himself will merit the same Torah Law that a daughter can inherit her sonless father.

Pinchas married a woman whom Rashi identifies as a woman from the Hills of Ephraim. The last verses in the Book of Joshua state that Pinchas buried his father in this territory of land belonging to Ephraim. The commentators ask: how could a Priest have Land in Ephraim, as Priests generally do not have Land! They learn that Pinchas must have inherited his wife; someone who would have had no brothers who could have inherited their father. Thus Pinchas inherited his great spiritual gifts from the Tribe of Joseph from both his mother and his wife. Pinchas merited Blessings from his wife as we have stated and his mother comes directly from Joseph. Thus Elazar, Pinchas’ father’s burial in Ephraim is then quite logical. It is thought Pinchas inherited none other than a daughter of Joshua and thereby inherited his Messianic mission from then on. The Talmud Megila says Joshua and his wife Rachav merited the most distinguished Priests and Prophets to come from them. It is clear from text and Kabala that Pinchas married a daughter of Joshua and thus adopted the Messianic Future of which he would be called the Righteous Priest.

Shem also has a mark of heritage, and one that resonates loudly with Redemption. Judah son of Jacob had children with his first wife, and ultimately she would die early on. His eldest son also died early on this left his widow without a mate, even after she was promised to two remaining sons of Judah, with hopes to revitalize the soul of the original son that died. This wife of Judah’s first son was none other than Tamar daughter of Shem.

After several complications in the Levirate Marriage [term of marriage to bring back to life souls of the departed] Judah found himself in a lustful confrontation with Tamar of all people! They were together and she conceived twins. However since these twins were from Judah, they were thought to be the key in revealing the future Redeemers. The interesting point to note is that Tamar was none other than the daughter of Shem!

When we apply the laws of heritage to Tamar and Judah, it works out that Shem is very heavily involved in the fashion of the Levirate Marriage. By doing a specific set of events in the order of operation with Tamar, Judah, and his three sons, the result is that Shem enters into the lineage of Judah, and thus ultimately Messiah! It is now through the Special Levirate Marriage and intricate Jewish Law that Shem actually enters into the bloodline of Judah! The result is that there is a fulfillment of the Blessing from Jacob about Judah being King, one that will produce a David and a Solomon; all from Malki Tzedek – My King of Righteousness. The ultimate expression is that Shem and his now association with Redemption will garner the other title Righteous Priest.

Thus is in this week’s Torah Portion of Pinchas, the seeds of redemption are planted, and over the course of the entire Tanach one can eat of its fruit, the fruit of the Tree of Life, the Fruit of Redemption. If Shem is an obscure Torah character, one thing we can learn from Pinchas is that he is as well! Thus the two Men together, Pinchas and Shem share not only merit in redemption, but for unique reasons, they are forever joined and helping others identify a great mystery: who is the Righteous Priest! The path to grasping redemption from at least one angle can boil down to one simple issue: what is the Righteous Priest? – Malki Tzedek or better known as Shem son of Noah.



Unknown said...

An amazing Dvar Torah. Yishar koach.

Klishlishi said...

Jerusalem was a city consecrated to the pursuit of righteousness by the survivors of the Flood, who founded there a theocratic order as a bulwark against idolatry. All Jerusalem's early rulers bore the title tzedek - righteousness - in their names, from Malkitzedek, Achitzedek, Amitzedek etc., up to the last, Adonitzedek at the time of Joshua's conquest.

It is remarkable that the Germans are starting up again just at this time. Germany (referred to in Ezekiel 38's Gog and Magog and in the Talmud as "Gomer") is in the forefront to have circumcision - the outstanding trademark of the Jew - actually outlawed! Remember that the very first thing the Nazis did in their war against Der Ewige Jude "The Eternal Jew" was to outlaw shechita: "The Germans started WW1. The Germans started WW2. Mark my words: the Germans are going to start WW3!" (British astronomer Sir Patrick Moore said recently).

Joe said...

I was so excited to read this intricate woven tapestry that from behind shows knots and ties but viewed from in front reveals the beautiful kaleidoscope of the association of Shem/Malki Tzedek with Yehudah and Pinchas/Eliyahu with Yosef.
In like manner the parshiyot of Torah in Bereishit shows the very same tapestry between Yosef and Yehudah.

I look forward to the ultimate unification of Etz Yosef and his family tree with Etz Yehudah and his family tree as prophesied in Yehezkel.

These are the two pillars of the Beit HaMikdash. "Boaz" and "Yachin" are outward expression of the inner reality of the Temple. Boaz, the Navi/Kohen representing the "spirit of Kodesh ha Kodeshim" and Yachin,the Melech representing the "truth of Torah Menorah and Lechem HaPanim," must be united into the "spirit of truth."

Just as the Sh'kenah was missing from the second Temple and the Kodesh ha Kodeshim was empty, so too the Navi/Kohen craftsmen must return to enliven the truth of Torah light and sustenance that remained in Yehudah even though Yosef was lost in the galut of Ashur but was guaranteed to return at the end.......hence the need of Pinchas/Eliyahu for this particular mission whilst Shem/Malki Tzedek enlivens Yehudah.

Are we witnessing this? In my opinion, I truly believe so, even though Yehudah is out there in full view, the work of Mashiach ben Yosef is covert behind the scenes as his namesake portends, preparing the way for Mashiach ben David, the Tzemach Tzedek and the ultimate unification of ALL Yisrael.And in that day as Yisrael is one, Mashiach will be one.....HaShem and His Holy Name will be ONE......THE ULTIMATE KIDDUSH HASHEM.

May it happen speedily in our day.

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