Talmud Tips

For the week ending 4 August 2018 / 23 Av 5778

Zevachim 100 - 106

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
ArtscrollLibrary

Becoming a Kohen

“Rabbi Elazar said in the name of Rabbi Chanina: Pinchas did not become a kohen until he killed Zimri.” (Bamidbar 25:13)

“Rav Ashi said: Pinchas did not become a kohen until he made peace between the tribes.” (Yehoshua 22:30)

When did Pinchas, the grandson of Aharon HaKohen, become a kohen? Wasn’t he born into a kohanic family? Not really. Since his birth occurred before G-d proclaimed Aharon and his sons who were alive at the time to be kohanim, Pinchas, who had already been born at that time, did not automatically receive the status of kohen by virtue of birth. (Rashi on Bamidbar 25:13)

So, when did Pinchas become a kohen? There are two opinions in our gemara. Rabbi Elazar said in the name of Rabbi Chanina that Pinchas became a kohen after killing Zimri, the Prince of the Tribe of Shimon. Zimri had been publicly sinning in a very immoral manner. This heroic act by Pinchas caused a terrible plague to end, and earned him the status of kohen, as the Torah states regarding Pinchas: “And it shall be for him and his offspring after him a covenant of eternal kehuna.” (Bamidbar 25:13)

Rav Ashi, however, teaches that Pinchas did not become a kohen until later. Although, after what he did to Zimri he had received a blessing to be a kohen, and, in theory, he could have completed the process to become a kohen immediately, there was a delay in the process. Since he had killed a Prince of Israel, there was dissent from the people to his becoming a kohen at that initial time. But it was only years later, when he acted as a great peacemaker in preventing a civil war between the tribes (see Yehoshua 22:30), did the people consent to finalizing his status of becoming a kohen — a process which involved being anointed, wearing the kohanic garments, and bringing the special Mincha offering that every new kohen was required to bring at his inauguration. (Tosefot)

  • Zevachim 101b

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