The Additional Letter י'

“Pinchas son of Elazar son of Aharon the Kohen, turned back My wrath from upon the Children of Israel, when he zealously avenged My vengeance among them, so I did not consume the Children of Israel in My vengeance. Therefore, say: Behold! I give him My covenant of peace”

(Bamidbar 25:11-12)

The name of Pinchas is written here with an additional letter י'. Chazal (Zohar, III, 215b) explain that this letter alludes to Hashem’s Name.

Removing the letter י' from the Holy Name י-ה-ו-ה leaves ה-ו-ה, with a gematria of sixteen, the numerical equivalent of the Name חב"ו. This is an acronym of the words of the pasuk in Iyov (20:15), “ח*יל ~ב*לע ~ו*יקיאהו~ – He devoured wealth, but will disgorge it.” When a person sins with wasted seed, rachmana litzlan, the kelippah devours this seed, and it is considered a sin (Pri Eitz Chaim, Kriyat Shema al Hamitah, 5). In order to do proper teshuvah, the sinner must immerse in a mikveh. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, zy”a, explains that when a person is completely under water, he cannot breathe. His is then considered dead. When he emerges, he is like a newborn, free of sin. His “death” atoned for all his sins. After he has become purified, the kelippah disgorges the seed, returning it to the person. This is all by the power of the Holy Name חב"ו (see Middot, Hamtakat Hadin 54).

A Jewish actor was famous for his playboy personality. One day, he was inspired to do a complete turnaround. He became a ba’al teshuvah. He abandoned his dubious past, grew in his beard, and behaved with abstention and self-affliction. He would fast two days a week. One day, he went to immerse in the mikveh, where he met his death. His pure soul ascended to Heaven, empowered by the force of חב"ו. It is possible that Hashem was afraid he would revert back to sin if allowed to live.

When Zimri ben Salu sinned with the Midianite woman, he allowed the forces of impurity control over his seed. By piercing Zimri with his spear, Pinchas intended Zimri’s death to atone for his sin, rectifying the seed by means of the Name .חב"ו

This was, indeed, Zimri’s atonement. Regarding the pasuk (Bamidbar 25:14) “The name of the slain Israelite man who was slain with the Midianite woman was Zimri son of Salu,” the Ohr Hachaim asks why Zimri was called an “Israelite man.” He says it is in order to teach us that no Jew ever goes lost. The most seasoned sinner still has hope for repentance. The Ohr Hachaim continues that Zimri’s death completely separated him from the Midianite woman, with no impression of sin adhering to him at all. His death cleansed his soul. Therefore, he is rightfully called an “Israelite man.”

The Kabbalists write that the great Tanna, Rabbi Akiva, was a gilgul of Zimri (Rema MiPano, Gilgulei Neshamot 20:2). And Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 disciples were reincarnations of the 24,000 people who perished in the plague that swept through our nation in the wake of the sin.

Pinchas merited summoning the powers of the Holy Name חב"ו in order to atone for Zimri’s sin. For this reason, Pinchas merited the added letter י' to his name. Without the letter י', Hashem’s Name is numerically equivalent to sixteen, just as the Name חב"ו, the Name employed by Pinchas in rectifying Zimri’s sin.

The Letter י' Refers to Eternity

Hashem promised Pinchas (Bamidbar 25:12), “Therefore, say: Behold! I give him My covenant of peace.” The covenant was that he would live forever (see Yalkut Shimoni, Bamidbar 771). The Zohar (II, 190a) states that Pinchas was Eliyahu Hanavi, who ascended to Heaven alive in a whirlwind. He continues to live until this very day. The letter י', taken from Hashem’s Name, granted Pinchas the power to live forever, just as Hashem lives eternally.

We find that Yehoshua, too, had the letter י' added to his name by Moshe Rabbeinu. His name was originally Hoshea (הושע), and was then changed to Yehoshua  ,(יהושע) as the pasuk (Bamidbar 13:16) states, “Moshe called Hoshea son of Nun Yehoshua.” Why, then, didn’t Yehoshua also merit living eternally, as Eliyahu did?

Yehoshua did not receive this letter by his own merit. Moshe Rabbeinu wished to protect him from the plot of the spies and therefore conferred it upon him. In contrast, Pinchas received this letter through his own exertion, “when he zealously avenged My vengeance.” Pinchas risked his life to sanctify Hashem’s Name. Zimri had 24,000 bodyguards. Pinchas did not fear them and went to kill Zimri at the risk of his own life. For this reason, he earned his stripes, or, in this case, his letter. This is the י' which grants him eternal life.

Hashem also added the letter י' to the names of the families of Bnei Yisrael, as we read further in the parashah. For instance, the family of Shimon is called Shimoni, and the family of Yitzhar is called Yitzhari. But they, too, did not merit this letter and its supernatural qualities as Pinchas did. Hashem did it for a completely different reason. He wished to silence those who claimed that the Jewish women surely cohabited with Egyptian men when their husbands were out all day working as slaves. These people said that the members of the next generation were therefore illegitimate. Hashem added the letter י' from His own Name to theirs, to prove their pure lineage (see Yalkut Shimoni, Bamidbar 773).

In Summary

Hashem added the letter י' to the name of Pinchas.

Hashem’s Name י-ה-ו-ה is numerically equivalent to twenty-six. After removing the letter י', which was added to the name of Pinchas, the remaining letters ה-ו-ה are numerically equivalent to sixteen, the gematria of the Name חב"ו, the force employed by Pinchas in rectifying Zimri’s sin of wasted seed.

This additional י' from Hashem’s Name enabled Pinchas to live forever, for Hashem’s Name is eternal. Pinchas earned this letter, and therefore it had this effect. This was not the case with Yehoshua, who received an additional letter י' from Moshe as protection from the plot of the spies. Similarly, the names of the families of Bnei Yisrael received an added י', attesting to their kosher lineage. It did not have the power of the י' which Pinchas merited, for it was not earned by their own efforts.


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