Pinchas

l'ilui nishmat R' Avraham ben Yona Ya'akov

Complete Forgiveness

“Therefore say, ‘behold I give to him My covenant of peace” (25; 12)

In Torah Temima we asked, why did Pinchas merit to receive this reward of becoming a Cohen more than Moshe. We find that Moshe also removed G-d’s anger from Israel, both at the time of the golden calf and the time of the spies. It is written in the verse after the golden calf, after Moshe’s prayer – “And G-d relented on the evil which He had spoken to do to His people” (Ki Tissa, Shemot 32; 14). And after the spies – “I have forgiven” (Shelach, Bamidbar 14; 20). Despite this, Moshe never received a covenant of peace from G-d as a reward, unlike Pinchas. This needs explanation.
We explained tat Moshe did not completely remove the anger totally and forever. He only effected a temporary forgiveness, but did not remove the root and cause of the anger. We find this after G-d has forgiven the sin of the calf, “On the day that I will visit (punishment) I will revisit their sin” (Ki Tissa, Shemot 32; 34). In the Talmud (Sanhedrin 102a) it says: every tragedy that befalls the Jewish people contains within it part of the punishment for the sin of the calf. So we see that the sin was not erased completely and things were not like they were before. Similarly with the spies, after G-d says “I have forgiven”, He adds “Nevertheless, I swear that none of these people will see the land…” (Shelach Bamidbar 14; 23). On the verse that says “the people cried on that night” (14; 1), the Sages say: G-d said, ‘they cried for no reason. I will give them a reason to cry for all generations’ (referring to the ninth of Av, the date of the destruction of the Temple – Ta’anit 29a). We see that in both cases, the calf and the spies, the anger still remains, somewhat muted and restrained. Pinchas, however, removed the anger entirely. He uprooted it entirely so that there was no trace left for the future. Therefore he merited his reward.
Based on this explanation we can understand the wording of the prayer ‘Avinu Malkeinu’ in which we say ‘forgive us and pardon us for all our sins’. We also say ‘destroy the evil decree against us’. It is not clear why we need the repetition of the same idea. Forgiving and pardoning is the same as destroying the evil decree. Through forgiveness everything should return to its original state (with no decree).
Based on our explanation, even after the forgiveness and pardon, it is possible that there still remains a trace of the sin for the future. This is what we find in the forgiveness for both the sins of the golden calf and the spies, as we explained. Therefore we pray that not only should we receive forgiveness and pardon, but we also request that the decree should be destroyed, like a loan document if the lender forgives the borrower the loan. Until the loan document is destroyed, the mind of the borrower is still concerned lest he only be given a temporary stay and the loan is not forgiven completely. As long as the document still exists the money can still be claimed. Once it is ripped up it loses its validity forever. This is the meaning of the prayer – we ask that G-d tear up the decree against us even after He has forgiven us for the sin.