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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Pinchas

This week's sedra tells of Pinchas's act of bravery and zealousness by killing Zimri and Kuzbi as they desecrated G-d's name in public. He was awarded by G-d with the covenant of the priesthood. In the sedra as well are enumerated the names of the families of the tribes and the laws of inheriting and distributing the Land among the tribes. The sedra also includes the sacrifices for the holidays. The following verse is found as G-d rewards Pinchas with the covenant of priesthood.

Numbers 25:11

Pinchas son of Elazar, the son of Aaron the priest, turned back My anger from upon the Children of Israel when My jealousy became his jealousy in their midst so I did not destroy the Children of Israel in My jealousy.


My jealousy became his jealousy: Rashi: [This means] when he avenged My vengeance; when he expressed the rage that I should have raged. All language of "kina" is one of being incensed ("burned up") to avenge a jealousy.

What are your basic questions here?

Your Questions:


Some questions: What is Rashi telling us? And why is he telling us this?

Or: What's Bothering Rashi?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Rashi tells us the meaning of "Kano es Keinasi" (He took My jealousy as his). He tells us this is the same as "He avenged My vengeance."

Why the need for this interpretation?

What is bothering him?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Rashi is disturbed by saying that G-d is jealous. Why would G-d ever be jealous, no one is anywhere near G-d that He should be jealous of him? and of whom would he be jealous in our case?

How does Rashi deal with this?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Rashi shifts the word "kina" (jealousy) to mean "nekama" ( revenge or vengeance); in this way he removes the question. G-d can certainly take vengeance on the sinner, this is not the same as being jealous.

But this leads to another question on Rashi.

Your Question:


A Question: How can Rashi make this shift, from a word that means "jealous" to a word that means, "avenge"? This seems like a literary sleight of hand; an arbitrary change .

Can you make sense of this?

Hint: See Rashi's next words.


An Answer: Rashi goes on to say: "All language of "kina" is one of being incensed ("burned up") to avenge a jealousy". So he tells us two things: 1) That all "kina" (jealousy) involves becoming emotionally charged - hot, "burned up". And 2) This charge is directed towards and becomes vented in an act of revenge. So Jealousy and Revenge are two similar states. One is an inner state of hot anger and the other is the behavioral manifestation of that hot anger in an act of vengeance. This is why Rashi can make the switch from "jealousy" to "vengeance" and still remain within reasonable verbal limits.

Note that Rashi interprets the word "kina" this way throughout his Torah commentary. See Numbers 11: 29 and Exodus 20:5. In both cases Rashi connects the word with an action. And we understand that the connecting idea is the "heat" the person feels when he is jealous which leads to some action.


As I looked at and pondered this Rashi-comment, I noticed that the three words "kina" and "nekama" and "ketzef" which Rashi uses to connote anger, vengeance, jealousy, all have the "hard" letter "kuff" (K) in them. By "hard" I mean their sound is harsh. The letter "chuff", on the other hand, has a softer sound. It occurred to me that many words with harsh connotations have the letter "kuff" while other words with softer connotations have the letter "chuff."

Some examples: "Kore" (cold) vs "chome" (warm); "Kashe" (hard) vs "Rach" (soft); Rachamim (mercy), Chesed (kindness); "chemla" (compassion). "Katzetz" (cut off); Katztav" (butcher). I am sure there are many exceptions to this "rule" but then maybe there is something to it!

Can we add: Kosbi (the woman sinner) and Pinchas (our hero)???

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi."

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