Weekly Reading Insights

Pinchas 5763

Overview of the Weekly Reading: Pinchas
To be read on 19 Tamuz 5763 (July 19)

Torah: Num.25:10-30:1; Haftorah: Jeremiah 1:1-2:3 (1st of 3 "Haftorahs of Punishment")

Pirkei Avot - Chapter One

Stats: Pinchas , 8th Reading out of 10 in Numbers and 41th overall, contains 6 positive mitzvot and 0 prohibitive mitzvot. It is written on 282 lines in a parchment Torah scroll, 2nd out of 54 in overall length.

Overview: Parshas Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1) opens with Pinchas receiving priesthood as reward for his zealous act (see end of Balak) of killing a tribal prince in the midst of an immoral act. It continues with the census of all the tribes followed by instructions for dividing the Land of Israel according to families. The five daughters of Tzelofchad came to Moshe saying that their father 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 what should happen in all future cases where a direct heir is not available. Before his death, G-d tells Moshe to view Israel from Mt. Avarim, as he will not enter it; instead, Yehoshua, his main pupil and attendant, is publicly commissioned as future leader of the Jews. The parsha concludes listing details concerning daily, Shabbat, New Month and Holiday offerings.


"...Appoint a man over the community who will go out before them." (27:16-17)

Appoint a man whose soul "will go out" in love of every Jew. The most important trait of a Jewish leader is that he should have self- sacrifice for every Jew.

(Rabbi Yitzchak of Varka)

"My offering, My bread for My sacrifices." (28:2)

The "offering" that G-d values over all others is "My bread for My sacrifices" -- giving bread and tzedaka to the needy, as it states, "Give the hungry man of your bread."

(Rabbi Pinchas of Koritz)



Selected with permission and adapted from the three-volume English edition of Shney Luchot HaBrit -- the Sh'lah, as translated, condensed, and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1630), known as the 'Sh'lah' - an acronym of the title, was born in Prague. A scholar of outstanding reputation, he served as chief Rabbi of Cracow, and more famously, of Frankfort (1610-1620). After his first wife passed away, he remarried and moved to Israel in 1621, where he became the first Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. He later moved to Tiberias, where he is buried, near the tomb of the Rambam.

G-d granted him, "My covenant Peace." Targum Yonathan, on that verse, says that Pinchas was transformed into an angel who would live until he could announce the final Redemption.
It is further written of Pinchas that G-d's covenant of life and well-being was with him, "The true Torah was in his mouth. He walked with Me in peace and equity, nothing perverse was on his lips. With complete loyalty, he served Me, deterring many from committing iniquity (Malachi 2:5).

Since Pinchas prevented many from sinning, he is described by the prophet as having the true Torah issuing forth from his mouth. Truth is an element that reinforces and strengthens religious belief and practice. It is not something merely personal, but is something that must be demonstrated publicly in order to convince a community to do penitence. Such a result is called Emet, truth. Truth is something of an everlasting nature.

Concerning such truth, the prophet Jeremiah proclaims in the name of the L-rd (5:1): "Roam the streets of Jerusalem, search its squares; look about and take note; you will not find a man. There is none who acts justly, who seeks integrity -- that I should pardon her."
This is surely a very remarkable statement. How could the existence of even a single just man be questioned, when at that time there lived in Israel numerous prophets and pious men in Israel!
The answer is simply that these Torah scholars had failed to act publicly to call upon the masses to mend their ways, and return to the ways of the Torah. Jeremiah laments that there is not a single person in the courtyards of Jerusalem who has the moral courage to proclaim his convictions publicly!
Rabbi Amram in Sanhedrin 119 states explicitly that Jerusalem was destroyed because the Torah scholars ignored the commandment to admonish their fellow Jews. When contrasted with this kind of behavior, Pinchas stood out as a man of truth in whom the jealousy for his G-d was paramount. This explains why he was rewarded with everlasting life.

(adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Zefat on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here)


In this week's portion the Torah speaks about dividing the land into tribal portions. First G-d tells Moshe that the land should be divided according to the census (26/54). The more populous tribes would receive larger portions; smaller tribes would receive smaller portions. But then G-d continues (26/55), "according to lots should the Land be divided". Actually, when the lots were drawn for each tribe determining which portion it would receive, this seemingly 'random' lottery, perfectly coincided with the systematic dividing of the Land according to tribe size.

There were two aspects to the division. One according to the census-dividing the land in an equitable way according to the tribes' populations. The second way of dividing the Land was according to a lottery-essentially a divine decree verifying this division, so that the tribes would not dispute the division (please see Rashi and the other commentaries on the verse.)

Utilizing a lottery invokes a level that is beyond intellect-the hand of G-d making the choice. On the other hand, dividing the Land according to census is tied to logic-it makes sense.

The fact that both aspects-the rational and the supra-rational-came together in this week's Torah portion, is a divine message telling us that this week in particular, our own efforts have to reflect this dichotomy. To survive Jewishly and successfully face the world, we have to merge together the natural and logical with the supernatural and divine. How is this done? On the one hand, we have to work according to the rules of reality, not to rely on miracles, using our abilities to the max. We must find logical solutions to even difficult problems, and work systematically to deal with those issues. Nevertheless, even as we do this, through our actions we also have to reveal that nature itself is directed by G-d. We have to work on the premise that if we invest ourselves to the full extent of our ability, G-d will help us arrive at the necessary goal, even if right now it seems out of reach. Chassidut teaches, "Nature itself is in reality higher than nature". This reminds me of another saying, "Lead a supernatural life, and G-d will provide the miracles".


Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here)

For all our insights for this parsha from last year

Redesign and implementation - By WEB-ACTION