Torah Weekly

For the week ending 15 July 2017 / 21 Tammuz 5777

Parshat Pinchas

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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G-d tells Moshe to inform Pinchas that Pinchas will receive G-d's "covenant of peace" as reward for his bold action - executing Zimri and the Midianite princess Kozbi. G-d commands Moshe to maintain a state of enmity with the Midianites who lured the Jewish People into sin. Moshe and Elazar are told to count the Jewish People. The Torah lists the names of the families in each tribe. The total number of males eligible to serve in the army is 601,730. G-d instructs Moshe how to allot the Land of Israel to Bnei Yisrael. The number of the Levites' families is recorded. Tzlofchad's daughters file a claim with Moshe. In the absence of a brother, they request their late father's portion in the Land. Moshe asks G-d for the ruling, and G-d tells Moshe that their claim is just. The Torah teaches the laws and priorities which determine the order of inheritance. G-d tells Moshe that he will ascend a mountain and view the Land that the Jewish People will soon enter, although Moshe himself will not enter. Moshe asks G-d to designate the subsequent leader, and G-d selects Yehoshua bin Nun. Moshe ordains Yehoshua as his successor in the presence of the entire nation. The Parsha concludes with special teachings of the service in the Beit Hamikdash.


Ahead of the Pack

“…because he took vengeance for his G-d…” (25:13)

The “herd instinct” runs strong in Man. The pressure to conform is both subtle and pernicious because it negates the responsibility of the individual. How often have we heard that specious defense of those Nazi monsters: “I was only acting under orders”?

We like to be with the herd. It’s comfortable to be rubbing shoulders with our peers, wearing the same brands, laughing at the same jokes, and sharing the same prejudices.

All real spiritual growth requires separating from the pack.

As religious Jews we all go to shul, we put on tefillin and we say berachot. Why? We’d like to think it’s because we are spiritual people, but possibly the more likely reason we do most of the things we do is because everyone else does it. That’s why going the extra mile, or even the extra inch, is so difficult and so precious.

The Ten Commandments are all in the second person singular. The Torah addresses us as individuals to remind us not to look over our shoulder and see what others are doing, but to take individual responsibility, for the Torah is addressing us individually and not just as a group.

Pinchas saw a clear desecration of G-d’s name, and he also saw Moshe, Aharon and the seventy elders doing nothing about it. He could have thought to himself, “Well, if they are not going to do anything, why should I?” Pinchas didn’t do that. He acted as though he alone was responsible to stop the profanity.

“…because he took vengeance for his G-d…”

The Torah didn’t say: “…because he took vengeance for G-d.” It says: “…because he took vengeance for his Gd.”

When Pinchas acted, he acted as though the Almighty was his G-d alone, and that it was his personal responsibility to right this terrible wrong.

  • Sources: Chomat Aish in Iturei Torah

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