Hebraic Studies - Parashat Pinchas – Study N 2.

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Parashat Pinchas Study N2

Be’midbar - Numbers 25-10 to 30:1.

With Rabbi Reuven Ben-Avraham.

As we come arrive at the end of Sefer Be’midbar - Numbers, and Moshe - Moses is constantly reminded that he will not be the one to lead B’Nei Yisrael into the Promised Land. In Parashat Pinchas, we find the second census of the people by the Jordan River before their crossing; those named in the first, at the beginning of the book, have almost all died in the wilderness. Yahushua - Joshua, one of two sole survivors, has been chosen to be the one who leads them into the Promised Land.

Yahushua - Joshua’s selection as leader comes in a passage from this week’s parashah that is used to this day in many rabbinic and cantorial ordination ceremonies:

And Moshe spoke unto , saying: ‘Let , the Elohim of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, who may go out before them, and who may come in before them, and who may lead them out, and who may bring them in; that the congregation of be not as sheep which have no shepherdBe’midbar - Numbers 27:15-17 (JPS version of he Torah).

At Elohim’s instruction, Moshe proceeds to lay his hands on Yahushua’s - Joshua’s head, authorizing him to be the next leader.

Yahushua - Joshua is a familiar figure; we have seen him as Moshe’ second-in-command throughout the wilderness story. However, he was not the only contender.

At the very beginning of this parashah, as well at the end of the last one, we read the story of Phinchas. Phinchas the priest was a zealot, who killed an Israelite man and Midianite woman who he caught in a certain unsavoury situation with a woman he was obviously not married to. The Talmud in particular shows deep ambivalence about Phinchas’ vigilante justice, but then the Talmud is not factual truth, as it is NOT from Elohim, but 100% from men! The fact is that the Torah, which IS THE WORD Of Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, he seems to be rewarded: his action stops a plague, and Elohim gives him a covenant of peace

“And spoke unto Moshe, saying:‘ Phinchas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Acharon - Aaron the priest, hath turned My wrath away from the children of Israel, in that he was very jealous for My sake among them, so that I consumed not the Children of Israel in My jealousy. Wherefore say: Behold, I give unto him My covenant of peace; and it shall be unto him, and to his seed after him, the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was jealous for his Elohim, and made atonement for the children of Israel’” Be’midbar - Numbers. 25:10-13 (JPS).

Moshe calls upon Elohim to choose a successor for him who will understand and respect the differences between people, rather than a zealot like Phinchas whose instinct is to find the sinners and kill them, to separate between “us” and “them.”

Who else might have been the next leader? One tradition suggests that Moshe looks to his own children. Following the famous episode in which Zelophehad’s five daughters step forward to claim their father’s inheritance (Be’midbar - Numbers 27:1-11). The leadership of the people will not to be hereditary; Moshe will not be the first in a family dynasty. Moshe’s legacy is to be based on merit, not blood and so Yahushua - Joshua, his disciple, will become the leader of B’Nei Yisroel.

But there is still something to be learned about leadership from the episode of the daughters of Zelophehad. They show tremendous courage, as women in a patriarchal society, to challenge the law and stake their claim, and it is a tribute to the Torah that they prevail. But there is more. Unlike almost all the siblings in Genesis, Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Rachel and Leah, Joseph and his brothers — there is no rivalry between these sisters. They manage to come together, for the good of their family and each other for they had all learned well and were all of good faith!

Pinchas modeled passionate leadership, but Moshe saw the risks: someone so passionate could be possibly be blinded to the needs of his flock, and to the differences that make them whole. In contrast, Elohim originally chose Moshe as leader because he searched for a lamb that went astray, and had compassion on its need for water. Phinchas would bring a politics of division with his passion, and so although he is rewarded in his relationship with Elohim, he would not be the leader of the people. The daughters of Zelophehad, who are brought together by their love of family and their love of the Land; Yahushua - Joshua, who patiently sat at Moshe’s feet and learned from watching him lead; these are the models to which we turn.

This parashat ends with the holiday calendar: which holidays are to be observed when, and what sacrifices are to be offered. In a very tangible way, this brings the conversation home. Think of what happens when we sit at the table together. It may be the Passover Seder; be it with our own families, or our chosen families, or some combination of the two. Almost certainly there will be differences of opinion, how could there not be, since we are all made in the image of Elohim? Our challenge is to show the generosity of spirit that Moshe shows, when he lays his hands upon Yahushua - Joshua. Elohim commands him to lay one hand on him, but Moshe uses both, “filling him generously with his own wisdom” “And he laid his hands upon him (Be’midbar - Numbers 27:23) “filling him generously with his own wisdom”. Inspired by Elohim, we look with generous eyes to see the uniqueness of every human being, and our ability to unite.

Standing before Elohim and standing up as a leader calls us to take risks. Parashat Pinchas provides us with the story of the daughters of Zelophehad, who also “stood” up and showed tremendous courage. These daughters not only demand their inheritance, but also, when Moshe turns the judgement over to Elohim, they become the first Israelites about whom Elohim affirms;

“The daughters of Zelophehad speak right: thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father's brethren; and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them” Be’midbar - Numbers 27:7 (JPS).

As we stand up before Elohim may we know for whom and for what we stand, as we have learned from the lessons given by our risk-taking, justice-seeking ancestors?

Remember we all need some time with those who have things in common with us, and thus it is good to spend some time in Shul (the Synagogue), etc. We all need to fill our lives and delight in our wonderful Jewish community, and many rediscover the peace that allowed for their faith to return and they continued to uphold prayers and the lighting of the Shabbat Candles, and enjoy the Kiddush with the Mishpacha (family). Shabbat Shalom!


May … “ bless thee, and keep thee;

make His face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee;

lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace”

Be’midbar – Numbers 6: 24-26 (JPS version of the Torah).

For those who have a yearning to learn more about the Torah and grow in being a good and faithful Jew, there are many valuable studies on Hebraic Studies enter the index below. If you have any questions you are welcome to email me.

And remember our motto seen on the logo at the top of this page: “The More Torah, the More Life”, for Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, is the one who gave us our Life!”

Rabbi Reuven Ben Avraham.


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