וְהִנֵּה אִישׁ מִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בָּא. מָה רָאָה לַעֲשׂוֹת כֵּן. לְלַמֶּדְךָ, שֶׁלֹּא חָלַק כָּבוֹד לַשָּׁמַיִם וְלֹא לַבְּרִיּוֹת. וְעָלָיו נֶאֱמַר, זֵד יָהִיר לֵץ שְׁמוֹ (משלי כא, כד). אָמְרָה לוֹ: אֵינִי נִשְׁמַעַת אֶלָּא לְמֹשֶׁה אוֹ לְאֶלְעָזָר, שֶׁאֲנִי בַּת מֶלֶךְ. אָמַר לָהּ: אַף אֲנִי גָּדוֹל כְּמוֹתוֹ, וּלְעֵינֵיהֶם אֲנִי מְבִיאֵךָ. תְּפָשָׂה בִּבְלוֹרִיתָהּ וְהֵבִיאָהּ אֵצֶל מֹשֶׁה. אָמַר לוֹ: בֶּן עַמְרָם, זוֹ מֻתֶּרֶת אוֹ אֲסוּרָה. וְאִם תֹּאמַר שֶׁהִיא אֲסוּרָה, זוֹ מִדְיָנִית, וְאוֹתָהּ שֶׁתַּחְתֶּיךָ מִדְיָנִית מִי הִתִּירָהּ לְךָ. נִתְעַלְּמָה מִמֶּנּוּ הֲלָכָה. גָּעוּ כֻּלָּם בִּבְכִיָּה. וְהַיְנוּ דִּכְתִיב: וְהֵמָּה בּוֹכִים פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד. וְלָמָּה בּוֹכִים. שֶׁנִּתְרַפּוּ יְדֵיהֶם בְּאוֹתָהּ שָׁעָה. מָשָׁל לְמָה הַדָּבָר דּוֹמֶה, לְבַת מֶלֶךְ שֶׁנִּתְקַשְּׁטָה לִיכָּנֵס לַחֻפָּה לֵישֵׁב בָּאַפִּרְיוֹן, נִמְצֵאת מְקַלְקֶלֶת עִם אַחֵר, נִתְרַפּוּ יְדֵי אָבִיהָ וּקְרוֹבֶיהָ. וְכָךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּסוֹף אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה חָנוּ עַל הַיַּרְדֵּן לַעֲבֹר לְאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וַיַּחֲנוּ עַל הַיַּרְדֵּן מִבֵּית הַיְשִׂמֹת עַד אָבֵל הַשִּׁטִּים (במדבר לג, מט). וְשָׁם נִפְרְצוּ בִּזְנוּת, וְרָפוּ יְדֵי מֹשֶׁה וִידֵי צַדִּיקִים שֶׁעִמּוֹ, וְהֵמָּה בּוֹכִים. וְלָמָּה רָפוּ יָדָם. וַהֲרֵי עָמַד כְּנֶגֶד שִׁשִּׁים רִבּוֹא בָּעֵגֶל, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וַיִּקַּח אֶת הָעֵגֶל אֲשֶׁר עָשׂוּ (שמות לא, כ). אֶלָּא בִּשְׁבִיל פִּנְחָס, כְּדֵי שֶׁיָּבֹא וְיִטֹּל אֶת הָרָאוּי לוֹ. וּלְפִי שֶׁנִּתְעַצֵּל, לֹא יָדַע אִישׁ אֶת קְבוּרָתוֹ (דברים לד, ו). לְלַמֶּדְךָ, שֶׁצָּרִיךְ אָדָם לִהְיוֹת עַז כְּנָמֵר וְקַל כַּנֶּשֶׁר וְרָץ כַּצְּבִי וְגִבּוֹר כַּאֲרִי לַעֲשׂוֹת רְצוֹן קוֹנוֹ. וּמִכָּאן אַתְּ לָמֵד, שֶׁמְּדַקְדֵּק הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עִם הַצַּדִּיקִים אֲפִלּוּ כְּחוּט הַשַּׂעֲרָה. (Numb. 25:6:) “Just then one of the Children of Israel came and brought a Midianite woman unto his brothers [before the eyes of Moses and the eyes of the whole congregation of the Children of Israel].” What reason was there for him doing so?97Numb. R. 20:24. [The incident serves] to teach you that he had respect neither for Heaven nor for mortals. It is also stated concerning him (in Prov. 21:24), “An insolent98Heb.: Zed. Cf. above, Lev. 3:7, which argues that this word implies idolatry and the uncovering of nakedness. and arrogant one, scorner is his name; [he acts with arrogant wantonness].” She said to him, “Because I am a king's daughter, I am surrendering to no one but Moses or Eleazar.” He said to her. “I also am as great as they are, and [to show you,] I am bringing you before their eyes.” [Then] he seized her by her braid and brought her to Moses. He said to him, “Son of Amram, is this woman permitted or forbidden? Now if you say that she is forbidden [because] this woman is a Midianite, [remember that] the very woman who is under you (as your wife) is a Midianite; and who permitted you to have her?” The ruling (halakhah) slipped from his mind. They all wept bitterly. That is what is written (in Numb. 25:6), “they were weeping at the entrance of the tent of meeting.” Why were they weeping? Because they became weak at that time. A parable: To what is the matter comparable? To a king's daughter who had adorned herself for entering the wedding canopy [and] for sitting in the [bridal] palanquin.99Gk.: phoreion. When she was found indulging in immorality with another, her father and her kinsfolk became weak. So it was with Israel. At the end of forty years they had camped by the Jordan to cross into the Land of Israel, and there they became lawless through unchastity. They weakened Moses and the righteous who were with him. And why were they weakened? See that [Moses] had [previously] stood up to six hundred thousand [men] with the [golden] calf, as stated (Exod. 32:20), “And he took the calf that they had made.” It was simply so that Phinehas would come and receive his due. Moreover, because [Moses] had been indolent [in the execution of justice], (according to Deut. 34:6) “no one knows his burial place.” [This fact serves] to teach you that one must be as strong as a leopard and as swift as an eagle to do the will of his Creator. Moreover, from here you learn that the Holy One, blessed be He, is as meticulous with the righteous as a thread of hair.