In the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, Pinchas, G-d rewards Pinchas for having “zealously taken up My cause among the Israelites and turned My anger away from them.” The reward was the priesthood: Pinchas and his descendants would be kohanim (priests). “I have given him My covenant of peace…a covenant of eternal priesthood to him and his posterity after him.”
Our Sages tell us that “Pinchas is Elijah.” Like Pinchas, Elijah the Prophet was a zealot, chastising the Jewish people when necessary. Similarly, as reward for “zealously taking up My cause for G-d, the L-rd of Hosts,” G-d granted Elijah a “covenant of peace” – that he would personally attend every brit mila ceremony.
On a deeper level, the term “covenant of peace” alludes to the relationship (“treaty”) between body and soul. This connection was particularly apparent in Elijah, as his soul never departed from his physical body. As the Torah relates, instead of passing away, Elijah ascended heavenward “in a tempest” – both the soul and physical body.
How was Elijah able to do that? The answer lies in the concept of refinement. Elijah’s physical body had been completely purified to the point that it no longer obscured the underlying spirituality of the soul, thus constituting a vessel for holiness. Accordingly, there was no need for Elijah to die and be buried. The body itself could ascend and absorb all the higher spiritual revelations.
In this respect, Elijah was even superior to Moses. Moses’ physical body was certainly holy; in fact, “the house filled with light” the moment he was born, illustrating how his physical being was not an impediment to the light of the soul.
Nonetheless, Moses passed away and was interred, as this light never completely permeated his body to the extent that it was fundamentally transformed. While he was alive, Moses’ body allowed the light of the soul to shine through, but it remained essentially physical.
This helps to explain why Elijah the Prophet will be the one to herald the Final Redemption, as the whole meaning of Redemption is the definitive refinement of the physical world and its transformation into a vessel for holiness. Indeed, in the Messianic era, “The glory of G-d will be revealed and all flesh shall see [G-dliness].” “Flesh” – the material plane – will be able to perceive “that the mouth of G-d has spoken.”
The power to effect this transformation was granted to Pinchas; had we been worthy, the Final Redemption would have occurred immediately upon the Jews’ entrance into the Land of Israel. Due to various negative factors this was not the case, and we are still waiting. But thank G-d, Elijah’s announcement of Moshiach’s arrival is imminent, along with the era of complete Redemption it signifies. Moshiach NOW!!!