Sunday, July 9, 2017

Pinchas: The Ones He Killed--The Priest Confronts Zimri and Cozbi, in Sheol, the Torah's Afterlife

Pinchas: The Ones He Killed 

By Rabbi David Hartley Mark 

Scene: Sheol, the Afterlife as described in the Five Books of Moses. The Spirits of the Dead flit about a barren landscape. They do not speak. They prefer not to feel any of the emotions or passions which pushed them through life and, in many instances, caused their deaths.  
Off to one side, leaning against the Rock of Sisyphus, is High Priest Pinchas. He still grasps the long lance which he used to murder Zimri ben Salu, the Simeonite Chieftain, and Cozbi bat Zur, the Midianite Princess, whose flagrant activities offended both himself and, we may assume, God. Pinchas speaks: 

Pinchas: Although I am condemned to Sheol for all eternity, I do not repent one moment of my plan to skewer the evildoers, Ben Salu and Bat Zur! As kohen, it was my most sacred duty to guard the precincts of God's Holy House, and keep it pure from carnal violation. God rewarded me with an eternal friendship-pact, for me and my unborn descendants both! And yet, the law-court sent me to this hell, because I committed the capital crime of murder. 

(A Dark Angel with bat-wings approaches Pinchas. He does not shrink back, but lifts his lance for protection.) 

Pinchas: Who's that, ha? Spirit, careful how you approach an anointed kohen of our God Most High; He blessed me, raised me above the common herd, and made my person unassailable.  

The Angel: As your punishment for murder, Lord High Priest, you must confront the souls you sent to Sheol: I warn you—do not cause them further harm. You cannot, for they are lifeless sprites, like you. (He waves his arms in a circle) Show! 

(The Spirits of the Israelite Chieftain Zimri and the Moabite Princess Cozbi appear—not as they died, but in the bloom of youth.) 

Pinchas: This is a punishment for my eyes, to share eternity with such as these, who blasphemed in the flesh and offended my God and humankind—thus, I killed them. 

Zimri: O Priest! Your zeal destroyed our lives, it's true; but we are now together eternally. 

Cozbi: We had thought to unite our tribes by our act-- 

Pinchas: Hence, strumpet! I will not hear your pagan voice! 

Zimri: And she had spoken to me of joining with our tribe.... 

Pinchas: By cohabiting in daylight? Pah! You two make my innards churn. 

Zimri: What is your purpose, Priest?  

Pinchas: To keep the Israelites pure from such as you. 

Zimri: I have been granted prophecy which tells me that there will come future time when Israelites and gentiles will intermarry-- 

Pinchas: I must prevent that! (Brandishes his lance) 

Cozbi: But how? 

Zimri: Yes, how? 

Pinchas (in a weaker voice): By doing as—as I have done-- 

The Angel: And will that work? Will murder stop the young from loving out?  

Pinchas: I am silent. I-- 

Zimri: Let zealots rage and thunder in every way, 
Young people fall in love with whom they may.