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 There are great challenges in everyone's life. There are natural drives which exist within us that force people to commit sinful behavior. The Talmud succinctly sums up the situation by stating: “Most people steal, a minority of them are sexually immoral and all are covered with the dust of evil speech and slander.” Money is a great temptation and the drive to acquire it is so strong that stealing in one way or another is natural to many and even condoned by large sections of society.

Sexual immorality however, in spite of its current seeming glorification in media and the arts, is still frowned upon by most of society. All sections of our society are reeling from scandals of sexual abuse and inappropriate sexual behavior. Rabbis have taught us that the God of Israel abhors and hates sexual immorality. It stands not only as a defilement of the human body and a degradation of the human personality, but also as an act of rebellion against God's model for society.
The sexual drive within us is strong, vital and necessary. Without it human continuity and creativity would be stifled and aborted. However, Judaism preaches not the abstinence or mortification but rather the channeling, control and discipline that enhances the sexual drive itself and creates a more moral society.
The Jewish world, over its many millennia of existence, has seen many libertine societies rise to the fore and dominate for a time until eventually falling into disfavor. However, it is a constant struggle, both personal and societal, to prohibit sexual laxity and any form of immoral behavior.
This is the background for the behavior of Pinchas and his act of zealotry. Though many even in his time, as Rashi points out, disagreed with his tactics and misunderstood his zealotry, Pinchas was the person who restored moral balance to Jewish society after the debacle of the daughters of Midian.
Sexual immorality eventually destroys the society in which it reigns. It helps explain the demise of many empires and their inexplicable disappearance in past history. Pinchas sees his act as a lifesaving one for Jewish society and for all later generations. It taught us the vital lesson that sexual immorality is not to be tolerated, for it slowly but surely erodes the foundation of all societies and cultures.
Only the Lord could judge the true motives of Pinchas in killing Kozbi and Zimri and therefore it was necessary for the Torah to reveal to us that Heaven condoned and approved of his zealotry and actions. Pinchas will go on to have a distinguished career as a High Priest and a leader of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel in later generations. But he will be eternally remembered as the enemy of sexual immorality and of his refusal to bow to current popularity or political correctness. There is a lesson in this for all of us today as well.
Shabbat shalom
Rabbi Berel Wein

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