Haftarah for Pinhas

The prophet Elijah is so zealous for God, he loses his job.

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In the final verses of the haftarah, God has Elijah appoint a new king in Aram, a new king in Israel, and a new prophet in Israel--Elisha. By appointing Elisha, Elijah effectively surrenders his position as prophet. At the end of the haftarah, when Elisha asks to kiss his parents goodbye before following Elijah, we are left hopeful that perhaps Elisha will embody a more human, balanced kind of leadership for Israel.

Connection to Parashat Pinhas

Pinhas and Elijah are, famously, the Bible's two zealots for God. Elijah describes himself as a zealot in this week's haftarah, and the Torah text describes Pinhas as a zealot for bringing a bloody end to the public copulation of the Israelite man and the Midianite woman. Though the Torah seems to support Pinhas' zealotry, perhaps the choice of this Elijah story as haftarah is meant to remind us that zealotry is not always the best approach.

Some Jewish traditions not only compare these two personalities, and actually go so far as to say that Pinhas and Elijah were the same person. Since the Torah never reports on Pinhas' death, and Elijah is described as going up in a chariot to heaven, but not actually dying, it has been suggested that neither really died, and that Elijah was a later incarnation of Pinhas. This could explain their shared characteristics, as well as the choice of this haftarah for Parashat Pinhas.

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