Overview of the Weekly
To be read on the Shabbat of 19 Tammuz, 5762 (June 29)
Torah: Numbers 25:10-30:1
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,
Pinchas 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.
THE CHASSIDIC REBBES (V:41-62/Pinchas)
"My sacrifice... you shall observe to offer to me in its time."
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.
"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
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.
"A continual burnt offering which was offered at Mt. Sinai."
A continual burnt-offering hints to the "hidden love" which
every Jew has. This love is continuous, it never ceases.
FROM THE MASTERS OF KABBALAH (O:41-62/Pinchas)
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
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."
essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter
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.