Posted by Yitz Grossman.
The treasurers and the clerks of the Temple went to visit him [Pinchas], and they found him working in a mine extracting rocks.
When his brethren, the kohanim, came to see him he was ploughing the field, and from the field he rose to wealth. And the same is written of Elisha…
When our Sages tell us that Pinchas was a miner before becoming kohen gadol they are teaching us that even though a person might find himself in the lowest depths (symbolized by the mine), he has the ability to lift himself up until he reaches the highest point of holiness. Thus we understand that it makes no difference how low a person may have fallen; elevating oneself depends only on actualizing one’s potential. If you make sincere efforts to be the finest person you can be, you can lift yourself up and reach your goal. The darkness and loneliness of a mine are depressing. But this did not deter Pinchas from becoming kohen gadol.
Rabbi Chanina recalled that Pinchas did not come up from the darkness of a mine to his high position. Instead, he explained that he used to be a farmer who would plow his field. Rabbi Chanina attributed Pinchas’ success to having seen the sun shining, heard the birds chirping, and breathed the fresh air of the fields. This awesome and inspiring beauty helped him realize the potential he had within him. Rabbi Chanina is pointing out the tremendous benefit a person derives when he has a positive environment from which to learn. From these influences one gains a positive attitude and comes to believe in his ability to succeed.
The fields were also a source of inspiration for the Prophet Elisha. Every day he had sunshine, and he knew how to utilize the joy it gave him to the maximum. Everything was promising and uplifting for him. The brightness he saw gave him the strength to reach the heights of holiness known as prophecy.