Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Parshas Pinchas 5768

Parshas Pinchas starts off where last week’s parsha finished. Moses sends Pinchas and the rest of Bnei Yisrael to war against the Midianites. An interesting thought is brought on this the Talmud, Masechta Sotah. In discussing the role of the Kohen who led the nation to war, the issue of why Pinchas was chosen in this role is brought up.

There it is said that Pinchas was chosen because he was to lead the nation in war not just for what had happened at Baal Peor, but also, that as a descendant of Yosef (through his mother), it was as revenge for the sale of Yosef by the Midianites to the Egyptians. From the incident at Baal Peor is easily understood why Pinchas should be symbolic of that- it was through his actions that the anger of Hashem had been averted and the nation saved. His willingness to act correctly when such monumental and blatant sinning had left great men like Moses, Aharon, Elazar etc stunned into inaction showed how much he loved the Torah and Hashem. Indeed, it was for this action that he became a Kohen.

But why is Pinchas chosen to be symbolic of the revenge of Yosef? There were princes of Ephraim and Menasheh that could surely have fulfilled that role, and would have been more symbolic in that role since they were within the tribes that were Yosef’s descendants! Here we learn an important lesson- Pinchas burned with fire, with emotion. He felt things- for him Hashem and Judaism were living things, things that were intimate to him. He felt the indignation at the disobedience of Hashem as an intimate attack. So too with the sale of Yosef, for him it was not history, not an event two centuries in the past which had gone cold.

From Pinchas we see that Judasism is not dry, the Torah and Tanakh are not merely history books of what happened to our ancestors. It is not a matter of rote and learning, of merely studying what happened to others- Pinchas shows us that we need to feel that what happened to our ancestors should feel like it happened to us today. Every year we read in the Hagaddah the father’s reply to his sons. To the wise one- that if our ancestors would not have been redeemed, he would still be a slave in Egypt; to the wicked one that he would not have been worthy of being redeemed. Both these answers have a common theme- it is addressed to the sons and their current situation- they are told that they, too, would have been redeemed or left behind- the Exodus is relived because it is intimate to US, not just to our ancestors. Similarly on Shavuot we are told that we must act as if the Torah had been given to us, personally. That it is ours for eternity, always new, always freshly handed to each of us in a personal capacity; it was not just something that was given to our ancestors, but something that we must feel was given to us personally.

Pinchas teaches us this- he feels, he acts. For him an act against Hashem is something not to be borne; for him the wrong done to Yosef is felt as if it had just happened. Let us learn from Pinchas and feel the Torah is ours, new and to be guarded and loved as if it were given to us today.

As always, comments, suggestions and nit picking are welcomed!

NB: This was actually written by me for Parshas Pinchas. But it actually deals with a topic from Parshas Matos, with Rashi commenting on this subject in his commentary on Parshas Matos. So I am dithering on whether I keep it Parshas Pinchas or retitle it to Parshas Matos. Comments on that anyone?

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July 17, 2008 - Posted by | Parshah, Talmud, Torah | , , , , , , ,

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