Friday, July 22, 2005

parshat Pinchas: A Real Shlumiel

At the beginning of parshat Pinchas, we finally hear the identity of the man Pinchas killed together with the Midianite woman. Bemidbar 25:14:

יד וְשֵׁם אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל הַמֻּכֶּה, אֲשֶׁר הֻכָּה אֶת-הַמִּדְיָנִית--זִמְרִי, בֶּן-סָלוּא: נְשִׂיא בֵית-אָב, לַשִּׁמְעֹנִי. 14 Now the name of the man of Israel that was slain, who was slain with the Midianitish woman, was Zimri, the son of Salu, a prince of a fathers' house among the Simeonites.
טו וְשֵׁם הָאִשָּׁה הַמֻּכָּה הַמִּדְיָנִית, כָּזְבִּי בַת-צוּר: רֹאשׁ אֻמּוֹת בֵּית-אָב בְּמִדְיָן, הוּא
15 And the name of the Midianitish woman that was slain was Cozbi, the daughter of Zur; he was head of the people of a fathers' house in Midian.

Who was this Zimri? In Sanhedrin 82b, we read:
Rabbi Yochanan said: [Zimri] had five names: Zimri, the son of Salu, Shaul, the son of the Canaanitish woman, and Shelumiel, the son of Tzurishaddai.

Zimri, because he became like an addled egg [betza hamuzeret]; the son of Salu, because he outweighed [hisli] the sins of his family; Shaul, because he lent himself [hish'il] to sin; the son of the Canaanitish woman, because he acted in a Canaanitish fashion, [i.e., depravedly]; whilst his real name was Shelumiel the son of Tzurishaddai.
Why equate him with Shlumiel ben Tzurishaddai? For we read, for example, in parshat Bemidbar, in Bemidbar 2:12:

יב וְהַחוֹנִם עָלָיו, מַטֵּה שִׁמְעוֹן; וְנָשִׂיא לִבְנֵי שִׁמְעוֹן, שְׁלֻמִיאֵל בֶּן-צוּרִישַׁדָּי. 12 and those that pitch next unto him shall be the tribe of Simeon; the prince of the children of Simeon being Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai,
Now, there were probably many nesiim, princes, for each father's house, in each tribe, aside from the one prince of the entire tribe, but on a midrashic level, since both are called nasi from the tribe of Shimon, they may be identified as the same person.

Further, in the closed-canon approach Chazal typically take, we cannot have Zimri mentioned just once, such that we do not see him elsewhere. And so, he is identified with someone we know from elsewhere in the canon, as one of the nesiim of the tribes. (Similarly, Shaul ben HaKenaanit is the last mentioned son of Shimon, in Shemot 6:15:
טו וּבְנֵי שִׁמְעוֹן, יְמוּאֵל וְיָמִין וְאֹהַד וְיָכִין וְצֹחַר, וְשָׁאוּל, בֶּן-הַכְּנַעֲנִית; אֵלֶּה, מִשְׁפְּחֹת שִׁמְעוֹן. 15 And the sons of Simeon: Jemuel, and Jamin, and Ohad, and Jachin, and Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Canaanitish woman. These are the families of Simeon.
So we see now the derivation of Shlumiel, for he is the ultimate Shlumiel - Zimra does the sin, and Shlumiel gets blamed for it!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

instead of "closed canon", i prefer the phrase "law of conservation of characters" :)


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