Regarding Pinchas’ birth it says, "Elazar the son of Aaron took a daughter of Potiel for a wife and she bore him Pinchas." (Ex. 6:25) On this the Sages say, ‘Potiel’ - this is Joseph, shepitpit [that he controlled1] his yetzer hara; [also] this is Jethro, shepitem [who fattened] calves for idol worship."2 This is the secret: When Pinchas was born, he incorporated two soul-sparks. This is the meaning of "Potiel", which is similar to tipin [drops], for he was from two soul-drops, one spark from the root of Joseph and the second spark from the side of Jethro. This level that incorporates these two souls is called "Pinchas".

The two explanations of Potiel are one. Through the secret of the Pinchas-tikun they unite and come to fruition. The Talmud draws parallel between shmirat habrit [guarding the covenant], the quality of Joseph, and faith - the opposite of idolatry. (Sota ) They both relate to the sefira of yesod, the root of Joseph, and greatly connected to Jethro. "And I betroth you [to Me] in faith - and you shall know G‑d." (Hagiga) The covenant of faith between G‑d and His people is like the covenant of marriage. Therefore were they coined an adulterous woman in the prophet’s parable when they went after other deities. (Hagiga)

They do however start from opposite ends of the spectrum. Joseph stood the test and was circumcised as an infant, always guarding the covenant. Jethro started out not only as a pagan, but as the chief priest of idolatry of the entire world. (Ex. 18:11, Rashi) From this place of darkness, he came to recognize monotheism.

The relationship between Joseph and Jethro is that of the classic archetypes of a tzadik and a ba’al teshuvah.

The relationship between Joseph and Jethro is that of the classic archetypes of a tzadik [one perfectly righteous] and a ba’al teshuvah [the penitent3]. The Talmud has a discussion about who is greater. But all agree that they are mutually beneficial and absolutely necessary for the world’s perfection.

Pinchas is special in that he incorporated both. This is hinted to in the way the Zohar divides his name: PN-ChS/pen-chas [face of pity]. (Zohar III Pinchas) Pen hints to the Joseph aspect of shmirat habrit causing a shining of the Divine countenance on the person. (Likutei Moharan) Chas hints to the pity extended to Jethro to accept his repentance and fix the damage caused by his idolatry.4

These innate soul-ties were prepared from above to make Pinchas ready to receive the souls of Nadab and Abihu. Presently it will be revealed that he acquired them through an act of zealousness, a transcending quality that draws a great encompassing light that unites opposites.5

Nadab was from netzach, Abihu from hod. Again, the above dynamic manifests through them. Netzach is absolute victory and eternity - one who never makes mistakes. Hod is submission and admittance of one who realizes his mistakes and corrects them.

Pinchas ascended to his category through his zealousness.

Along with these souls, Pinchas had an extra Y/yud added to his name, the letter that is written as a point. It represents the root idea that includes all the details that flow out from it. Interestingly, yud is the first letter of both Joseph and Jethro. Furthermore, with a yud, Pinchas equals 208, equivalent ot the gematria of Yitzchak/Isaac. This number is also eight times the Tetragrammaton, representing transcendence. It is the marked quality of Isaac, who was not totally of this world. (Gen. 26:2, Rashi) Pinchas ascended to his category through his zealousness. He therefore became Elijah, who did not die and ascended straight to heaven. A person can also exercise zealousness in himself to banish bad qualities. This helps bridge the gap and unite things inside him that seem to clash.

Do not be surprised how the spark of Jethro could combine with the spark of Joseph. It is already known that Joseph is in yesod, from which flows the drops of seed from all chasadim and gevurot - it is there that they intermingle. Thus it should not make you wonder how the soul-spark of Jethro, which is from another root, could mix with the soul-spark from Joseph. [By nature his soul is given to mingle with other roots.]

So we find that Pinchas received a soul-spark from Jethro, which was the level of ohr pnimi of the Nefesh of Adam from Atzilut. After that, Nadab and Abihu died because they brought the unauthorized incense-offering, (Lev. 10:1) and when Pinchas killed Zimri, he merited the souls of Nadab and Abihu, which are from the ohr makif of Adam of Atzilut.

This was possible because he already possessed a spark from the root of Jethro, and it completed the Nefesh of Atzilut within him, since he now possessed both the ohr pnimi and the ohr makif.6 However, the ohr pnimi entered him as an actual gilgul when he was born, whereas the ohr makif came to him in the secret of ibur after he was born and grown up.

There is another matter as a result of this difference. The soul that comes to a man when he is born is an actual gilgul, even if it is the combination of two sparks, as in the case of Pinchas who had a spark of Joseph and a spark from Jethro. Nothing else is required to make them work together.

However, in the case of a soul that comes in the secret of ibur after birth, like the Nefesh of Nadab and Abihu that came to Pinchas, another spark must accompany it. Furthermore, this spark must be new to the world and not a reincarnation. Such a spark joined with the Nefesh of Nadab and Abihu that came in ibur to unify it with the Nefesh of Pinchas, who was an actual reincarnation.

...another new soul had to come in ibur in Pinchas called "Elijah the Tishbi...

Therefore, another new soul had to come in ibur in Pinchas called "Elijah the Tishbi" from the inhabitants of Gilad, and from the root of Gad, which was a new soul at that time. This was in order to combine the Nefesh of Nadab and Abihu with the Nefesh of Pinchas itself, a gilgul from the time of his birth.

He also required an additional new soul in order to unite the new soul called "Elijah the Tishbi" with the rest of the older souls, that is the Nefesh of Pinchas and that of Nadab and Abihu. Therefore, he received an additional soul called "Elijah" from the root of Benjamin, mentioned in the verse, "and Jaareshiah, and Elijah, and Zichri, were the sons of Jeroham." (Chronicles I 8:27), as Elijah himself wrote to the Sages [that he is] "from the children of the children of Rachel [the mother of Binyamin]." (Bereishit Raba 71:12) We explain this matter at the end of this discussion.

Thus we find that four levels were in Pinchas. The first was that of the Nefesh of Pinchas with which he was born, a single soul even though it was the combination of two drops, one from Joseph and one from Jethro. The second level was the Nefesh of Nadab and Abihu, which came in the secret of ibur and is also called one soul, as is known from the Zohar - Nadab and Abihu are two limbs of one body. (Acharei Mot 57b) The third was a Nefesh called "Elijah the Tishbi" from the root of Gad, and the fourth level was "Elijah" from the root of Benjamin.

This then is the secret of what the Sages say, "Michael in one ... Elijah in four." Understand this.

The four souls of Pinchas became Elijah. Propelled by these souls, he is able to fly the whole world - span all of existence. Netzach and hod are called 'the two pillars’7 of existence. Energized by them, Elijah supports the universe and is at liberty to traverse it.8

[Translation and commentary by Perets Auerbach.]