Thursday, July 7, 2011

[KollelH blog] BALAK - Was Pinchas A Rodef?

At the conclusion of the parsha we learn of the episode involving Pinchas when he zealously avenged Hashem's vengeance from upon the b'nai yisroel. Zimri, who was the nassi of shevet Shimon (or only of a bais av), had performed an avaira with a Midianite woman in public. The halacha states that in such circumstances a kanoi (zealot) can kill the one doing the avaira, in an effort to avenge Hashem's vengeance. If one is not a kanoi or he is not acting to avenge Hashem's vengeance he may not kill the one performing the avaira. In addition, a kanoi may only kill the transgressor while he is performing the avaira. Once thed sinner is no longer engaged in the avaira, he may not be killed even by a kanoi. The Torah testifies that Pinchas was indeed acting to avenge Hashem's vengeance when he killed Zimri.

The Gimora in Sanhedrin 82 says that although Pinchas had the right to kill Zimri he nonetheless was considered a rodef (one who is pursuing another with intention to kill him). Since the halacha is that everyone can kill a rodef, had Zimri prompted and killed Pinchas instead he would not have been penalized for murder.

The sefer Kli Chemda (parshas Balak ; 4) asks the following question: the Gemara in Sanhedrin 74 says that although everyone may kill a rodef, if it is possible to save the one being chased without killing the rodef one may not kill the rodef. For example if one can injure the rodef (and that would suffice in preventing him from killing the pursuant) he must do so, and may not kill the rodef. In the case of Pinchas and Zimri, Pinchas was the rodef and Zimri was the being pursued. The Gemara says that Zimri the sinner, was allowed to kill Pinchas, as Pinchas himself was a rodef. However there should have been a clear alternative to killing that would have been sufficient to prevent Pinchas from killing the pursuant- if Zimri would stop performing the avaira, then Pinchas would have ceased pursuing Zimri! Why does the Gemara say that Zimri could have killed Pinchas when there was a way to prevent the pursuit without spilling blood?

The Kli Chemda is assuming that when the Gemara said that Pinchas assumed the status of a rodef the Gemara's intention was to equate him to all other rodfim. However we do find that there is a difference between the status of rodef that Pinchas attained and that of a regular rodef. The M'eri in Sanhadrin 82 says that no one aside from Zimri was allowed to kill Pinchas. With regard to a regular rodef , anyone who can prevent the murder must do so even if they must take the life of the rodef. Clearly the M'eri understood that the status rodef that Pinchas attained was different than that of a regular rodef.

Reb Moshe Shmuel Shapiro zt"l explains the difference between Pinchas and a regular rodef as follows: Pinchas was called a rodef even though Zimri was doing an avaira that he should be killed for because there is no obligation in bais din to kill him. The Torah granted permission to any kanoi to kill anyone who performs such acts. However the kanoi is acting outside of bais din and there is no judgment of death against the person. Although he has permission from the Torah to kill, bais din must view him as someone pursuing to kill another innocent man. Therefore when a kanoi pursues a perpetrator he will attain a status of a rodef.

However there is a difference between a rodef after an actual innocent man and a rodef after a man whom he has permission to kill. The reason that everyone may kill a rodef who is chasing an innocent man, is in order to save the victim's life. The Torah therefore puts the victim's life before the rodef's and so anyone may protect the victim by killing the rodef. In the case of Pinchas and Zimri, the victim was Zimri. The Torah would not allow anyone to kill Pinchas in order to save Zimri, for Zimri was punishable by death. However the Torah still allows the one doing the avaira to kill the kanoi as a means of self defense.

The halacha that if one can prevent the rodef from killing the victim without killing the rodef then he must take those measures, only applies to a regular rodef where the purpose of killing the rodef is to save the victim. When we are looking to save a victim we also must try to save the rodef if possible. Whereas by a kanoi who is chasing one doing this avaira, the one doing the avaira does not need to take precautionary measures not to kill his rodef since the reason he is allowed to kill him is not in order to save the victim.


Posted By KH to KollelH blog at 7/08/2011 12:43:00 AM

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