Weekly Reading Insights: Pinchas 5765


Overview of the Weekly Reading: Pinchas

To be read on 16 Tamuz 5765 (July 23)

Torah: Numbers 25:10-30:1
Haftorah: Kings I 18:46-19:21 ("Pinchas is Eliyahu")

Pirkei Avot Chapter 6

Pinchas is the 8th Reading out of 10 in Numbers and 41st overall, and 2nd out of 54 in overall length.

Pinchas  receives priesthood as reward for his zealous act (see end of Balak) of killing a tribal prince who acted immorally. After that is 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 commands what should happen in all future cases where a direct heir is not available. Before his death, G-d tells Moshe to view the Land 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.


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:41-65/Pinchas)

To such a person I relate the verse (Lev. 5:22) concerning someone who "has found that which was lost" [i.e. the reincarnated part of his soul] "and is deceitful concerning it" [by adding wrongful deeds instead of rectifying it], "and swears falsely" [by not behaving righteously as he had promised]. It would have better for such a person not to have been born [since he has made matters worse for both himself and the reincarnated part of his soul].

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From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:41-65/Pinchas)

By the way, this also explains the difference between Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh in the following way. On Shabbat, the male principle predominates due to the influence of Abba, but on Rosh Chodesh, the female principle predominates due to the influence of Imma.

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From the "Shlah". (S:41-65/Pinchas)

Just as Joseph preserved the holy covenant with G-d then, so Pinchas, his descendant maternally, restored the holy covenant with G-d by taking G-d's revenge on Zimri. As a result, 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.

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"Pinchas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned My anger away from the people of Israel, while he was zealous for My sake among them." (25:11)
In enumerating Pinchas' praise, the first thing the Torah mentions is that he acted "among them." In Judaism, true zealousness for G-d does not mean withdrawing from society and becoming a recluse, but expressing it on the communal level.
(Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz)

"Let the L-rd, G-d of all living souls, appoint a man over the congregation." (27:16)
Such was Moses' plea before G-d: Our Father, as You are the G-d of all living souls-to the righteous and evil alike-so may You please grant Your people a leader who will deal fairly with "all living souls" who will love each Jew equally.
(Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev)


from the Chabad Master series, produced by Rabbi Yosef Marcus for

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org

MOSHIACH THIS WEEK (M:41-65/Pinchas)

"My sacrifice... you shall observe to offer to me in its time." (Num. 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)

[Reprinted with permission from L'Chaim Magazine (www.lchaim.org).]

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:41-65/Pinchas)

Parashat Pinchas is always read just before or at the beginning of the summer mourning period. The Talmud says that Pinchas, the priest, and Elijah, the prophet and announcer of Mashiach, are the same person. It is as though G-d is giving us the cure before the malady by telling us not to worry: if parashat Pinchas is being read, then Elijah is soon to arrive and announce Mashiach's arrival! What can we do to help this happen? First, we can learn from Pinchas's actions. He did not wait for Moses or any other great person of his generation to correct a wrong that angered
G-d. Without even considering the risk to himself, Pinchas hurled himself into action. Each of us must be a zealot for G-d's honor like Pinchas. When no one else may be capable or willing to take charge (like when someone is drowning), each of us must see ourselves as being personally responsible and take action!

Later in the Torah reading, we see another example of taking initiative. Five sisters came with a claim to the leaders of their generation, a generation in which each person was on the level of a prophet. Their father died, leaving no male heir, and the portion of the Land that should be given to their branch of the family would consequently be given to another branch. These women said, "We care so much, why should we lose?" According to G-d's response, Moses changes the system accordingly. By including this whole exchange as part of the Divine Scripture, the Torah makes these women into heroes.

But there is another interesting point. The verse says that the sisters made their request standing before Moses, Elazar the priest, the tribal princes, and the whole congregation at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. (Num. 27:2) Rashi comments, "First before Moses and afterwards in front of Elazar? Is it possible that if Moses did not know, Elazar would?" Rabbi Yeshaya says, "No! We must switch the two expressions around - that they came to Moses last, after bringing their request to the all the other leaders listed in the verse"; Aba Chanan, in the name of Rabbi Elazar, has an alternate explanation: "These leaders were, in fact, all together in the study hall and the women stood in front of them at the same time with their request."

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains how the story of the daughters of Tzelofchad is similar to the institution of Pesach Sheni (Second Passover - see Num. 9:1-14), which came about when Jews did not want to miss the opportunity to sacrifice the Pascal Lamb. In both cases the Jews were saying, "this is so important to us, why should we lose out?" In both situations G-d on high responded to a claim made from below! (This is in contrast to Moses teaching G-d's commands - the emphasis on receiving rather than initiating.)

Both events emphasize how much we can accomplish through our Torah study and mitzvah observance in this world, when we truly care. This also connects to the two different explanations of Rashi. "Switch the expressions" can also be read: "Switch the normal order of reality". Instead of G-d being the initiator, these fundamental changes came from below, from people who understanding and sincerity led to their claim. The same can be said for the second explanation, that everyone was sitting in the study hall, again emphasizing the power of Torah study and self-initiative from below.

These ideas are particularly pertinent today. We did not create this world and its injustices. The Torah tells us not to sit passively while negative things go on around us. We can transform our environments. Most importantly, when great leaders have promised us that Mashiach's arrival is imminent, it is not enough for us to sit and wait for the right moment. It is in our power to initiate the coming redemption by insisting, through our thought, speech, and action that the current situation is not correct - we want to merit Mashiach now!

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach, Shaul

P.S. Please also read my weekly Shabbat Law, below.)

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