Little Moishy was going to shul for the first time. His family lived far from the shul. But he had just turned five and his mother felt that the long walk would not be too much for him.
“I know I can make it,” Moishy said excitedly. “And I promise I’ll sit quietly, right between Yanky and Daddy, and I’ll look in my siddur.”
Moishy was true to his word. He watched and listened carefully to the davening and to the Torah reading. On the way home, Moishy commented: “When I grow up, I want to be a kohen,” Moishy said dreamily, “Then I could be called up to the Torah first!”
“Oh Moishy!” exclaimed Yanky. “You can’t grow up to be a kohen! You’re either born a kohen or you’re not and we’re not.”
The boys’ father smiled. Then, with a twinkle in his eye, he asked Yanky, “Can you think of someone who was not born a kohen but became one?” Yanky thought hard.
“It’s in this week’s parshah, ” his father hinted.
“But wasn’t Pinchas the son of Elazar the son of Aharon the kohen?”
“Yes,” replied the boys’ father. “Once Aharon and his sons were anointed kohanim, all their children born afterwards would automatically become kohanim. But Pinchas was born before Aharon and his sons were anointed kohanim. Pinchas did not automatically become a kohen when his father, uncle, and grandfather were anointed.”
“Then how did he become a kohen? ” asked Moishy.
“He earned it. A man called Zimri committed a grave sin in front of all the people. Pinchas was very troubled and he rushed to punish Zimri right away so that everyone would see that the words of HaShem must be obeyed.
“It was dangerous. Zimri was a leader, and his tribe might have harmed Pinchas for what he did. Nobody would have expected him to risk his life. But Pinchas thought only about the will of HaShem, he did much more than what anyone would have expected. To reward him, HaShem made him a kohen.
“This is a lesson for us, too,” the father continued. “We can’t become kohanim, but we can be sure that when we do more than what is expected, HaShem will reward us in an exceptional manner too.”
Our Rabbis tell us that Pinchas and Eliyahu HaNavi are the same person. Eliyahu will announce the coming of Mashiach. How can we make Eliyahu and Mashiach come more quickly? By following the example of Pinchas, and serving HaShem in an exceptional way, even beyond the call of duty.