Weekly Reading Insights

Pinchas 5762

Overview of the Weekly Reading: Pinchas
To be read on the Shabbat of 19 Tammuz, 5762 (June 29)

Torah: Numbers 25:10-30:1
Haftorah: Jeremiah 1:1-2:3 (1st of 3 "Haftorahs of Punishment")
Pirkei Avot: Chapter One, (Chapter Six outside of Israel)

Stats:Pinchas contains 6 positive mitzvot and 0 prohibitive mitzvot. Among the Weekly Readings,
ranks 2 out of 54 in number of verses, 9 in number of words, and 4 in number of letters

Parashat Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1) opens with the narrative of Pinchas receiving priesthood as reward for his zealousness (see end of parashat Balak) in killing a tribal prince for his wanton behavior. The parsha continues with the census of all the tribes, followed by instructions for dividing the Land of Israel according to families. The five daughters of Zelafchad came to Moshe saying that their father had died leaving no male heir to inherit his portion of land. G d commands that these women be given their father's portion, and also communicates what should happen in all future cases where there are no direct heirs. Before Moses dies, G-d tells Moses to observe Israel from Mt. Avarim, as he will not be allowed to enter; instead, Joshua, his foremost pupil and attendant, is publicly commissioned as the future leader of the Jewish people. The parsha concludes with a listing of the details concerning daily, Shabbat, new month, and holiday offerings.


"My sacrifice... you shall observe to offer to me in its time." (28:2)

The Hebrew word used for "observe" is often used to imply hopeful anticipation of a future happening. Though we do not have the opportunity to observe the laws of sacrifice while in exile, our constant anticipation and hope for the rebuilding of the Temple gives us a portion in the sacrifices which were previously offered there.

(Sefat Emet)

"It is a continual burnt-offering." (28:3)

The "tamid" (perpetual) offering, symbolic of all the sacrifices, was totally consumed on the holy altar, affording neither the person who brought it nor the priests who served in the Holy Temple any benefit from its flesh.

We learn from this that a person who sincerely desires to draw near to G-d must serve Him without regard for any benefit it may bring him.

(Lubavitcher Rebbe)

"A continual burnt offering which was offered at Mt. Sinai." (28:6)

A continual burnt-offering hints to the "hidden love" which every Jew has. This love is continuous, it never ceases.

(Ohr HaTorah)



Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco, on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only to his Torah commentary.

"Let the Lord, the G-d of the spirits appoint, etc," (Numbers 27:16)

The fact that G-d has equipped all of us with both a free will and unequal levels of intelligence makes it an almost foregone conclusion that each one of us reacts, - i.e. uses this freedom of will - differently when confronted with identical data.
In other words, it is in the nature of things that no two people react identically to what happens around them.

In view of what we have just said it is clear that the 600,000 people Moses was in charge of comprised 600,000 personalities. How could they be expected to be fused into a uniform, like-minded congregation? The reason that Moses was able to find a common denominator with each one of them, i.e. "to tune in to the wavelength of each Israelite," was the fact that his soul was the root of all their soul (compare Tikkuney Hazohar chapter 69). This is the mystical dimension of Isaiah 63:11: "G-d remembered the days of old, Moses His people." (Compare what we have written on Numbers 11:12 in connection with the words: "Have I conceived them?") This was the reason that Moses was so concerned that no one but he would be able to truly understand these people and lead them.

For considerations such as these, Moses reacted to the news that he was about to die by asking G-d "Let the Lord, the G-d of the spirits appoint, etc." that G-d in His capacity of understanding the immense variety of spirits, i.e. personalities of the people, should appoint someone who could "tune in" to all these various spirits.
When Moses said that such a leader "should go out ahead of them and …lead them." He referred to the ability of the people to agree with the initiative of their leader.
At the same time, Moses said: "and who will come home with them," i.e. that the leader should also be able to align his thinking to their thinking. He must be capable of accepting suggestions by the people.

Moses' words to G-d could be summarized as follows: "I am prepared to do what You have told me; however, I cannot die with my mind at ease (as You promised me) unless I know that You have appointed a new leader who possesses the qualities I have mentioned. If not, the people will, for all practical purposes, be like a flock without a shepherd."

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter


This week's portion begins by G-d praising Pinchas the son of Aaron for turning back G-d's wrath. Because Pinchas avenged
G-d's honor, He did not eradicate the Jewish people. Pinchas was rewarded in that he and his progeny were conferred with the status of priestshood. The Selah reminds us that when we see an act that desecrates G-d or the Torah, we should be zealous to stop it. G-d's appreciative reward to Pinchas shows us how important such actions are.
After the sin of the golden calf, Moses also turned away G-d's wrath and ended the plague. So why wasn't Moses also rewarded with the priesthood, or at least with something that could be bequeathed to his descendants? The answer is Moses used his power of prayer to nullify the negative decree from Above. Although Moses accomplished it, we see that the effect on the Jews was minimal-they sinned again. Therefore, the reward Moses received was also only temporal. Pinchas, on the other hand, affected the world from below, by causing the Jews to do repent through his deed. Since he changed the way the world is composed, at least in some measure, the world could not return to it former state. Accordingly, G-d rewarded him in a similar fashion, with an eternal change of status as a priest. In relation to ourselves, we have to try to create 'facts on the ground', positive changes that affect the behavioral parts of our lives, not just changes in our thoughts and emotions that are detached from action..
* * *
Pinchas is always the portion that begins the observance of the Three Weeks. One explanation is based on the statement in the Midrash Yalkut Shimoni, that Pinchas is in fact Elijah, the harbinger of the Redemption. G-d is sending us the cure before the illness! The Three Weeks are a period of mourning for the destruction of the Temple and the ensuing exile we are still suffering. The end of the exile will commence with Elijah's announcement that the Mashiach has arrived. Behold, do not lose faith, the redemption is in the works. Even the words themselves, "Pinchas is Eliyahu" reinforce the message. 'Pinchas' evokes the image of serving G-d at any cost, even at the peril of one's own life. Elijah is the beginning of the Redemption. Pinchas is Elijah, means that when we act with self-sacrifice, we bring the redemption closer.
The Chozeh of Lublin says that the Three Weeks are connected with the three festivals, Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. At first glance, we might think this means that just as we are commanded to be happy during the festivals, we are supposed to be sad during the Three Weeks. This is not the case! Chassidim are quick to remind everyone of the Talmudic saying (Taanit 29) that in the month of Adar (which contains Purim) we increase our joy, and in the month of Av (the last nine days of the three weeks) we decrease joy. Don't read it that we decrease, i.e. have less joy; rather, read it that during this period, we lessen, i.e., enjoy the pleasures of the world less, but do it with joy.
The Torah portion concludes with a discussion of the daily and holiday offerings that were brought in the Mishkan (Tabernacle). After the destruction of the Temple, the Talmud tells us that we fulfill our obligation for the daily and special offerings through our daily prayer. The Three Weeks are an especially propitious time to reevaluate our relationship with G-d through prayer. If we can concentrate on with Whom we are communicating, then just as an offering atoned for our sins, so, too, will our sincere prayers 'clean the slate' in our relationship with G-d.



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