Zimri and Cozbi

Pinchas received the blessing of Peace (albeit somewhat moderated) for his act of Es Laasos Lashem, in which he didn’t consult his Rebbi, Rabbon shel Yisrael, Moshe Rabeinu for advice. I found a quote attributed to the famed Ishbitzer in Mei Hashiloach (oft quoted by Shlomo Carlebach) and widely considered an Ish Kadosh. He wrote:

“Behold there are ten levels of sexual passion. The first is one who adorns himself and goes out intentionally after a sinful liaison, that is, that he himself pulls toward him the evil inclination [yetzer hara]. After that there are another nine levels and at each level another aspect of freedom is taken from him so that increasingly he cannot escape from sin until the tenth level. At that [level] if he distances himself from the yetzer hara and guards himself from sin with all his power until he has no capacity to protect himself further and still his inclination overpowers him and he does the act, then it is surely the will of God. . . . For Zimri in truth guarded himself from all wicked desires, and when he understood that she [Cozbi] was his soul mate, it was not in his power to release himself from doing this deed. . . . The essence of the matter is that Pinchas thought Zimri was an ordinary adulterer . . . and the depth of the matter eluded him regarding Zimri that she was his soul mate from the six days of creation.”

I don’t get it. What was wrong with Chuppa and Kiddushin? What’s with the Ohel Moed? It seems to me that the Ishbitzer is trying to say that when people dramatically descend  in Madregos, there comes a point that they are no longer in control, and perhaps the power is lacking (challenged is a word I’d be more comfortable with).

I find the quote unnerving. Does someone have a Hesber?

On the contrary, we seem to learn from Adam and Chava, based on Gemora and Medrash that the Snake “raped” Chava, or inserted a “filthy spirit” to impregnate her. It was more than “plain” rape. Was it entrapment, seduction etc?

Cain, is from the union of Chava and the Nachash according to Chazal, at least figuratively. Adam was apparently influenced by Lilith with whom he somehow connected sexually with various Briyos as outcomes of that union.

Isn’t our task, starting from Avos and Imahos through Matan Torah, to reverse the failings of Adam and Chava and restore union between spouses to the level before the Nachash?

This seems to disagree with the Ishbitzer. The Ishbitzer goes on to say words that

Pinchas did not have the wisdom required to understand the situation fully. He saw inappropriate sexuality, and took it upon himself to punish it…but if he could have seen what was really going on, he would have known that Zimri and Cosbi were soulmates, a pairing foreordained at the moment of creation. And if he had known that, he would have behaved in an entirely different way.

Author: pitputim

I've enjoyed being a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia, as well as band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel and later in life at Machon L'Hora'ah, Yeshivas Halichos Olam.

12 thoughts on “Zimri and Cozbi”

  1. I grew up in a fundamental, independent Baptist church, school, and home, and even graduated from the nation’s most conservative Christian colleges (Pensacola Christian College and Liberty University). I was taught that the Bible is the final authority on every matter, and naturally I grew up believing everything I was taught as the “gospel truth.” There was no questioning it because “that’s what the Bible says,” or so I thought. Despite being told over and over again throughout my childhood that gay people “make God sick,” despite being raised in a conservative Christian home that constantly condemned gay people, despite being sheltered from the “influences of the world,” guess what … I am gay. I never chose to be gay and have never been attracted to the opposite sex. It wasn’t until my service in the Marine Corps where I began to accept the way God made me and I began to question what I had been so adamantly taught.


    1. Why worry,

      I heard a theory recently that Jesus himself was Gay!

      He spent all his life hanging out with 12 men (apostles) whom he accorded special loving & intimate relationships.


  2. Reb Iche,

    Here is the hezber.

    This is how one is to interpret the Izbitzer,

    Rebbe Leiner compares the account of Zimri to that of Yehudah & Tamar. In the same way that Cozbi was detined for Zimri, Tamar was destined for Yehuda. Neither could prevent the union, it was something they had to do as ratzon shamayim. Zimri then was Right were as Pinchos was Wrong, Al Kol Panim, his actions were sincere.

    Divinely ordained “sin” is the hallmark thesis of the Izbiitzer who sets out many examples of sinning at G-ds behest. The question then is, are certain individuals really acting against the law? Zimri acted against the law, in accordance with an inner conviction that this was the creators will. Rebbe Leiner tells us that Pinchos was rewarded not because his act of kanoyus was correct but becuase he acted with devotion to the Almighty.

    Many sins took place in accordance with G-ds will including the episode of the snake impregnating Chava, it was not “entrapment” as you suggest, rather it was something that had to happen and could not be avoided, it is part of the divine plan. The same way that Noach had to get drunk, even though it was issur, Noach knew it had to happen. G-d therefore desired the “sin” of Zimri.

    Zimri was not an adulterer c”v. Anyone who doesn’t understand this account should ask a Gerer Chusid for the correct hezber alpi Mei HaShiloach.


    1. Thanks Mark. I read what you wrote, but it’s not something I understand. I only understand a world within Daled Amos Shel Halocho. If a Hesber implies someone did something ‘right’ against Halacha then it requires a Navi al
      Pi Horaas Sho-oh.


  3. I am sure we are lusting to hear more from the whacko and his ten levels. Sounds interesting. He might put Shmueli Boteach out of a job.


  4. We find here a recognition, by rabbinic law, of the power of local custom. Another aspect of female virginity, and its public display, was the need to prove it. This could not take place before a wedding, but was built into the widespread custom of showing a sheet, stained with the blood of the bride, after the first sexual union on the night of a wedding. One of the oldest examples of this practice is alluded to in Deuteronomy 22:17. It continued to be common in many Middle Eastern communities, among both Jews and non-Jews, up to the present, even though it is by no means a fully adequate test.


  5. Many explain that Adam was called so because the word Adam comes from Adamah which means “ground” and Adam was created from the earth. However, this cannot be true because all the animals were also created from the earth [22] , so the animals should also have been given the title Adam and the title is not so special because it could easily apply to all animals. It is clear from the Scriptural usages of the word Adam that Adam never refers to animals, only the first man and his descendants are called Adam. The Maharal, Rabbi Yehuda ben Betzalel Loew of Prague (1525-1609), explains [23] why Adam’s name is associated with the ground. HaShem named the first man “Adam” in order to remind him that just as the ground is worthless yet has great potential and everything is in essence from the ground, so too a person is physically worthless (he is only made of dust and ashes), but has infinite potential for growth and development. It is for this reason that HaShem originally created Man as a singular entity as opposed to a couple (like the other animals that HaShem created a male form and a female form from the start); this singularity of humanity shows that each person has an infinite potential. Because of this infinite potential the Mishnah rules [24] that if one destroys a single Jewish soul, one has destroyed an entire world, while one who saves one Jewish soul has sustained the whole world [25] . Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) offers another explanation [26] as to why the first man was called “Adam”; the word Adam comes from the word Hadam that means “footstool”. Adam was supposed to reach such high spiritual planes that he was destined to sit at the footstool of G-d Himself, as His deputy. However, since Adam sinned, he was not able to attain such a high stature in the cosmic hierarchy.


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