464. HE ASKS, IT IS WRITTEN: "AND WHEN PINCHAS...SAW...AND TOOK A SPEAR IN HIS HAND" (BEMIDBAR 25:7). What did he see? AND ANSWERS: He saw a letter Mem flying through the sky, and this LETTER is a sign of the Angel of Death, for THE mem wants to be built up with the letter Vav and the letter Tav TO FORM THE WORD MAVET (ENG. 'DEATH' - MEM VAV TAV). What did Pinchas do, for he was then attired with Isaac? He then took that letter Mem and snatched it away FROM THE ANGEL OF DEATH, and joined it with himself. And when the Angel of Death saw that Pinchas had taken the letter Mem to himself, he immediately turned back.
465. HE ASKS but what is the reason BEHIND ALL THIS? HE ANSWERS, when Pinchas was zealous in his heart, he attired himself with Isaac. And he rose up to 208, which is the numerical value of his name. It is also the numerical value of Isaac. And since he saw the letter Mem flying in the sky, he snatched it and joined it to himself, and immediately became romach (lit. 'a spear' - Resh Mem Chet). THAT IS, THE LETTER MEM JOINED THE NUMERICAL VALUE OF HIS NAME, RESH CHET (= 208) AND FORMED THE WORD ROMACH, as it is written: "and took a spear in his hand."
466. Because the letter Mem was the first mark for Adam that death was ordained over the world, because this letter flew over Adam's head at the time when, as it is written: "She took of (Heb. mi) the fruit thereof" (Beresheet 3:6). And this MEM was waiting for the letters Vav and Tav, at the time it is written: ."..and did eat (Heb. vatochal starts Vav Tav); and she gave (Heb. vatiten starts Vav Tav)... And the eyes of them both were opened (Heb. vatipakachnah)" (Ibid. 6 7). And thus was death (Heb. mavet, Mem Vav Tav) established over the world.
467. AND SIMILARLY now Pinchas saw that same letter Mem that was flying over the heads of Yisrael. And how did he see it? He saw the shape of an open Mem covered in blood. When he saw it, he said: This is certainly a sign of the Angel of Death. He immediately snatched it, mentioned over it the Name written in full and brought that letter down to himself. And as THE NUMERICAL VALUE OF PINCHAS is the letters Resh Chet, MEM COMBINED WITH THE RESH CHET to form Resh Mem Chet (Heb. romach, Eng. 'a spear'). Then he: "took a spear in his hand." And this is why it is also written: "has turned My wrath away from the children of Yisrael, in that he was zealous for My sake" (Bemidbar 25:11), for he was zealous for the Holy Name, for they had joined it to another dominion. "among them" (Ibid.). What is the meaning of "among them?" The answer is that he went in among a number of hordes and a number of great ones and gave himself over to death for their sake, IN ORDER TO SAVE THEM. THEREFORE IT IS WRITTEN: "AMONG THEM." But THE SECRET OF "among them" is as follows: The letters of "among them" (Heb. betochham) are, betoch (lit. 'within') Mem, for the zealousness that he showed was within a Mem.
468. HE ASKS, What is the reason that HE WAS ZEALOUS FOR this Mem? AND HE ANSWERS, This is because this was the sign for death, a sign for forty lashings. This is the sign of the four deaths decreed by the court, and from whence it rises and descends, descends and rises. When it rises IN NUMERICAL VALUE it amount to Mem (= 40) and when it comes down it is a Dalet (= 4), the four directions that separate from Male and Female of impurity. Because of them the four deaths are decreed by court. And from there they rise to Mem. Thus, the Mem is a sign and utensil of the Angel of Death. And this is what Pinchas took and established himself within Mem. And therefore, "I consumed not the children of Yisrael in My jealousy" (Ibid.).
469. HE ASKS, How can it be said that Pinchas turned away the wrath of the Holy One, blessed be He, when it is written: "And those that died by the plague were twenty and four thousand" (Bemidbar 25:9)? Had not even one of them died, I could have said "has turned away My wrath," but since so many died it does not make sense TO SAY "turned away My wrath... so that I consumed not the children of Yisrael:" AND HE ANSWERS that the matter certainly needs clarification, as follows: Woe to the person who faults his own seed. Woe to the one who does not guard his seed properly, FOR ALL THESE DIED IN THE PLAGUE. But heaven forbid, not even one of Yisrael died, with the exception of the tribe of Shimon. When the mixed multitude came, they intermingled with the women of the tribe of Shimon, after they had converted, and begot children, some of whom died at the Golden Calf episode and others of whom died in the plague; while those who remained alive died here, as it is literally written: "And the dead ones by the plague were twenty and four thousand." Scripture does not say 'which had died' but rather "the dead ones," which teaches that they were already dead, FOR THE WICKED ARE CALLED 'DEAD.'
470. And because Yisrael were careful, and the holy seed were all counted and not one of them was missing, therefore it is written: "I consumed not the children of Yisrael" (Ibid. 11). The inference here is that He did consume others WHO WERE NOT OF THE CHILDREN OF YISRAEL. And so, too: "turned away My wrath from over the children of Yisrael." He turned away from over the children of Yisrael, but he did not turn it away from the others, who were a mixed multitude. And therefore Scripture explicitly states: "from the children of Yisrael." This is why the children of Yisrael were counted again and the Holy One, blessed be He joined them to Himself. Something similar happened in the case of the Golden Calf, as it is written: "And there fell of the people..." (Shemot 32:28). All of these were from the mixed multitude. To prove the point that they were not of the children of Yisrael, the verse later says: "And Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Yisrael" (Shemot 35:1), WHICH SHOWS THAT ALL OF THEM WERE IN PERFECTION.