Please see the introduction to this series for context.
So we were talking about whether Pinchas and Eliyahu are the same. Popular belief has it that they are, while the sources we’ve examined so far indicate that they aren’t. Now, that said, the view that Pinchas is Eliyahu is not without basis — there are sources that indicate this, we just haven’t examined them yet. And, G-d willing, we’ll get there. But first I’d like to “cheat” a little bit — that is, share with you some thoughts I’ve had lately that I believe are very illuminating. So in order to just “get them out there,” we’re going to skip ahead a bit.
Basically, the main source (that I am aware of so far) that Pinchas IS Eliyahu is the Zohar, one of the primary sources in Jewish tradition for Kabbalistic or “mystical” ideology. But, as we have seen, this source appears to be contradicted by other midrashic sources. So, I was thinking lately, is this REALLY a contradiction?
While I do not intend right now to quote the entire passage of the Zohar and analyze it in depth, my current awareness of it has it indicating the following. When Pinchas stood up to slay Zimri in front of the nation, he had to go up against the entire tribe of Shimon who supported their leader, Zimri. Pinchas, despite his courage to undertake this mission, in the moment became so frightened that his soul forsook his body. In other words, he died. On the spot, however, the souls of Nadav and Avihu, the two sons of Aharon (Aaron) that had died earlier in the Torah, were thrown into Pinchas’ body so that he remained “alive” to carry out his mission successfully. This explains how he became a Kohen (priest) as a result of this event — heretofore he was not a Kohen since he was a grandson of Aharon before the status of priesthood was conferred upon Aharon and his sons. Any grandson already born did not receive Kohen status. But by absorbing the souls of these two Kohanim, the newly invigorated Pinchas was now a Kohen by virtue of his Kohen soul.
The absorption of the two Kohen souls also explains (to some degree) the status of immortality conferred upon him according to these sources, as every human being is indeed only “half” a soul. The normal means of uniting with one’s “other half” is through marriage, however, here, two “half souls” united in one body to create a “whole” soul. As a “whole” person, Pinchas body and soul(s) could now live unendingly together, since his was no longer deficient in any way.
But what about Pinchas’ original “non-Kohen” soul? I would like to synthesize this question with the sources that indicate that Eliyahu was not a Kohen but was, indeed, from the tribe of Binyamin (Benjamin). Perhaps, when the mystical sources indicate that “Pinchas is Eliyahu,” it refers to Pinchas’ original non-Kohen soul being reincarnated into the non-Kohen Eliyahu later in history.
In this way, Pinchas remains Eliyahu while Eliyahu need not be a Kohen by lineage.
Make sense? Opinions?