(717) 581-7891

Torah Thoughts: Parashat MIketz – Hanukkah 5779

This week we read Parashat Miketz, which continues the story of Joseph and his brothers. In addition, this Shabbat we will also be celebrating Hanukkah, so I would like to share with you a Hanukkah message in this Torah Thoughts.

How do we light the Hanukkah candles? We first light the Shamash (the “attendant” or “servant” candle). Then we say the proper blessings, and then, with the help of the Shamash, we light the appropriate number of candles for each night. On the first night we light one candle, on the second night we light two candles and so on until the eighth and last night, when we light eight candles. However, this way of lighting the Hanukkah candles was not the only one the sages knew. In fact, the Talmud registers the following discussion regarding how to proceed.

Beit Shammai says:  On the first day one lights eight and from then on one continues to decrease, and Beit Hillel says: On the first day one lights one and from then on one continues to increase (Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 21b).

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Parashat MIketz – Hanukkah 5779

Parashat Vayeshev 5779

Joseph’s life’s ups and downs

This week we are starting to read about Joseph’s life. Starting with this week’s parashah until the end of the Book of Bereshit, we will be reading Joseph’s stories.

It is interesting to note that of the fifty chapters that compose the Book of Genesis, exactly half – twenty-five- are about Jacob and his family. Of those twenty-five, thirteen are devoted to Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son. The Book of Bereshit devotes more space to Joseph than to anyone else. It means that we have a good understanding of his journeys during his life.  We witness his experiences, mistakes, and changes from the time he was a young man until his death.

Joseph had a life full of ups and downs. Starting with his dreams during his youth, which showed how he wished to be a great person and to be highly acclaimed by his parents and brothers.  His pride and arrogance in his early age caused his brothers to throw him in a pit, a very low place. Joseph’s dreams were of a high position, but his brothers brought him down.

After this episode, Joseph was sold and became the right hand of Potiphar. He went up, but then, he went down again this time to jail, accused by Potiphar’s wife for abusing her.

Read More...

Comments Off on Parashat Vayeshev 5779

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Vayishlach 5779

This week we read the story of the brothers Jacob and Esau’s reunion. Jacob decides it is time to go back to his home, twenty years after escaping from it because of his brother’s intention to kill him. Jacob is very afraid of what Esau’ might   do when he sees him. He carefully prepares his people for the worst after he is told that Esau is coming toward him with four hundred men.

When the brothers finally meet, Jacob bows low before Esau seven times, almost as if he were asking his brother to have pity on him. What does Esau do? The Torah tells us that, “Esau ran to greet him. He embraced him and, falling on his neck, he kissed him; and they wept” (Genesis 33:4).

Up Until this point in the Torah narrative, Esau was described as a strong, unsophisticated and rude man, always fighting with his brother and only interested in physical pleasures. Therefore, it is not surprising that the sages were puzzled by Esau’s reaction when he met Jacob. Was Esau really capable of pardoning his brother? Could he really be so moved by seeing his brother that he even cried on Jacob’s neck? Should we believe that Esau’s reaction was an honest one?

In addition, the Hebrew word for “he kissed him” that appears in the Torah Scroll (Masoretic) text has dots over its letters. This is usually interpreted as a sign that the Torah has a hidden message in these words. Maybe the Torah is trying to tell us that Esau had other intentions, ones that were not so pure?

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Parashat Vayishlach 5779

Parashat Vayetze 5779- “Two are better off than one”

This week’s parashah tells us that Jacob ran away from his family’s home because he feared that Esau would kill him after Jacob tricked their father into giving him the blessing, the blessing that should have been given to Esau.  

Jacob, our patriarch, reached Haran, where his mother’s family lived.  He saw Rachel there, and it was love at first sight. It is written in the Torah: “Jacob kissed Rachel and broke into tears.” (Bereshit 29: 11). He was so excited to find the love of his life that he cried with emotion.

After that, Jacob made an agreement with Laban, Rachel’s brother.  Jacob would work for him seven years in order to marry Rachel. The Torah says, “Jacob loved Rachel so answered, ‘I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel” (Genesis 29:18).

This verse is very special, given that there are few places in the Torah that use the verb ‘to love’ between a man and a woman. We could say that Jacob was the first romantic lover to appear in the Torah.

The parashah tells us that Jacob worked for Laban for seven years, as he had promised, and the text adds a very interesting quote: “Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days, for the love he had to her.” (Idem, 20).

Jacob loved Rachel so much that he didn’t realize how hard he had worked and the time passed quickly. Despite the fact that Laban cheated him, giving Jacob Leah instead of Rachel, Jacob decided to work another seven years to marry his beloved Rachel. His love for Rachel made Jacob’s life happy and meaningful.

Thinking about the love between Rachel and Jacob, it is interesting to note that in Judaism, in contrast to other traditions, ascetism and celibacy are not cherished values.

Read More...

Comments Off on Parashat Vayetze 5779- “Two are better off than one”

Parashat Toldot 5779

“Esau and Jacob divided by two different visions of the world”

This week’s parashah begins by telling us that Rebecca couldn’t bear a child; Isaac prayed to God and finally Rebecca became pregnant with twins. It is written that during her pregnancy Rebecca felt that the twins were struggling in her womb. She was concerned about this.

What does it mean that “the children struggled in her womb” (Bereshit 25:22)?

According to Rashi, the Rabbis explain that the word ויתרוצצו (struggled) has the meaning of running, moving quickly: whenever she passed by the doors of the Torah (i. e. the Schools of Shem and Eber) Jacob moved convulsively in his efforts to come to birth, but whenever she passed by the gate of a pagan temple Esau moved convulsively in his efforts to come to birth (Genesis Rabbah 63:6).

According to this Midrash quoted by Rashi, the infants had different visions of the world since they were in their mother’s womb. Jacob wanted to exit the womb to study Torah when Rebecca passed the school of Shem and Eber and Esau wanted to exit when she passed a pagan place of worship.

Jacob and Esau struggled with one another since they were conceived for their different visions of the world.

And then, as they grew, the Torah tells us of further differences: “When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the outdoors; but Jacob was a mild man who stayed in camp. Isaac favored Esau because he had a taste for game; but Rebekah favored Jacob” (Bereshit 25: 27-28)

When Jacob and Esau grew up, they chose different styles of life according to theirs beliefs and each one of the parents favored one of them: Rebecca favored Jacob and Isaac favored Esau.  The parents recognized, encouraged, and exacerbated the boys’ differences.

After this, the Torah tells us the famous story about the sale of the birthright:

“Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the open, famished. And Esau said to Jacob, ‘Give me some of that red stuff to gulp down, for I am famished’—which is why he was named Edom. Jacob said, ‘First sell me your birthright.’ And Esau said, ‘I am at the point of death, so of what use is my birthright to me?’ But Jacob said, ‘Swear to me first.’ So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.” (Bereshit 25: 29-33)

In this episode we can see the different visions of the world that Esau and Jacob hold.

Read More...

Comments Off on Parashat Toldot 5779

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Chayei Sarah 5779: Show Up for Shabbat

At the beginning of Parashat Chayei Sarah we are told about Sarah’s death. Abraham then purchases the cave of Machpelah in order to bury his wife Sarah. Right after that the Torah tells us that Abraham was old and God had blessed him in all things. Perhaps confronting his own loneliness and mortality (as the Chumash Etz Hayim suggests), the first thing Abraham does after burying his wife Sarah is try to find a wife for his son Isaac. Abraham sends his servant to the place he was born to find a wife for Isaac, since Abraham did not want Isaac to marry a Canaanite woman.
Why does the Torah tell us that the first thing Abraham did after burying his wife was to worry about finding a wife for his only son? As it has been said, perhaps the death of his beloved wife made him think that he himself might die soon. He felt he was responsible for his son and wanted to fulfill his responsibility as soon as he could. Even more important than that, the divine promise of making of Abraham a great nation was in danger should Isaac not form a family and have descendants.

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Parashat Chayei Sarah 5779: Show Up for Shabbat

Parashat Va-Yera 5779: Is it permitted to tell white lies in Judaism?

We know that truth is a very important value in Judaism and that we shouldn’t lie under any circumstances. But, what about white lies? Is it permitted to tell a white lie, a lie about a small or unimportant matter that someone tells to avoid hurting another person?
In this week’s parashah there is an interesting situation related to this theme. The Torah tells us that three men visited Abraham and Sarah announcing different upcoming news to each of them.
One of the men said, “I will return to you next year, and your wife Sarah shall have a son!” Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years; Sarah had stopped having the periods of women. And Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “Now that I am withered, am I to have enjoyment—with my husband so old?” (Bereshit 18: 10-12)

Read More...

Comments Off on Parashat Va-Yera 5779: Is it permitted to tell white lies in Judaism?

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Lech Lecha 5779: The Blessings Abraham Received

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Lech Lecha 5779

By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky 

The Blessings Abraham Received

This week we begin to read the stories about our patriarch Abraham. God tested Abraham many times but also blessed him many times throughout his life. God also promised Abraham he and his descendants would be blessed in different ways.

For example, in this week’s parasha God tells Abraham,

And I will make your seed like the dust of the earth, so that if a man will be able to count the dust of the earth, so will your seed be counted (Genesis 13:16).

It is clear that in this verse God is promising Abraham that his descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth. As Rashi explained in his commentary to this verse, “Just as it is impossible for the dust to be counted, so will your seed not be counted.”

Although this was an incredibly generous promise, especially for a man like Abraham who had no children at that moment, many commentators were surprised by the comparison of the people Israel with the dust of the earth. After all, everybody walks on the dust! Some midrashim try to explain that this is a realistic promise; meaning that although some nations will step on the people Israel, the Jewish people will survive and be numerous and prosperous and their enemies will disappear from the face of the earth.

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Parashat Lech Lecha 5779: The Blessings Abraham Received

Parashat Noach 5779: Noah and Abraham and their different reactions to a similar decree from God

This week’s parashat, which deals with the well known story of Noah, begins by saying:
“This is the line of Noah. Noah was a righteous man; he was blameless in his age; Noah walked with God. “ (Bereshit 6:9)
What does it mean that Noah was righteous “in his generation”? Why does the text include these words? You can understand the text without it. What does the text want to express?
There is a Midrash that deals with this question:
“What is the meaning of IN HIS GENERATION? Some interpret the phrase to his praise, and some interpret it to his shame, i.e., IN HIS GENERATIONS but not in other generations.
A parable: To what is the matter comparable? If one should put a silver coin among [a hundred] coins of copper, the one of silver would seem beautiful. Thus, did Noah seem righteous in the generation of the flood.
Then, how do some interpret it to his praise? The situation is like a jar of balsam which was put in a tomb where its aroma was good. If it had been in a house, how much better would its aroma have been!” (Midrash Tanhuma Buber Parashat Noach 5).

Read More...

Comments Off on Parashat Noach 5779: Noah and Abraham and their different reactions to a similar decree from God

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Bereshit 5779: Bereshit, Light and Renewal

 Bereshit, Light and Renewal

This week we begin again the annual reading of the Torah with Parashat Bereshit. This parasha begins with the creation of the world. The first thing created by God is light. As it is written,

God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Genesis 1:3)

Without light we would not be able to see and survive. That is why we thank God every day, during the morning prayers, for having created light. The first blessing before the reading of the three paragraphs of Shema Israel says,

Praised are you Adonai our God, who rules the universe, creating light and fashioning darkness, ordaining the order of all creation (see for example the Siddur Sim Shalom we use every Shabbat, on page 107)

The famous Chassidic rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev (Ukraine, 1740–1809) noticed that the blessing is written in the present tense. It says that God creates the light, not that He created it. Why is that? According to Rabbi Levi, this reminds us that the creation processes are constant. They did not cease even for a moment since the creation of the world. That is why we say in the weekday morning blessing before Shema Israel, “in Your goodness, day after day You renew creation.”

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Parashat Bereshit 5779: Bereshit, Light and Renewal

Torah Thoughts: Shabbat Chol Hamoed Sukkot 5779

A Fragile Sukkah, a Fragile Life

This week we are celebrating the festival of Sukkot. The main symbol of this festival is of course the Sukkah, the booth in which we live, or at least have our meals, for seven days.

If you build a sukkah every year, or if you ever built a sukkah in the past, you know very well that sometimes it is hard to keep your sukkah in good condition for seven days. Rain, wind and other climatic factors make it difficult to have the sukkah at the end of Sukkot looking the same way it did before Sukkot began.

The question is, should we feel bad because we cannot fully guarantee our sukkah will hold up during the festival? My answer is, not only should we not feel badly about it but, in fact, one of the most important lessons we learn during Sukkot is that nothing in this world is as strong and durable as it seems to be.

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Shabbat Chol Hamoed Sukkot 5779

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Haazinu 5779- Nature is a Witness of God

This week we read Parashat Haazinu. Although it is not the last parasha of the Torah, it is the last one we read during a Shabbat, because the Torah’s very last one, Vezot Habracha, is only read during the festival of Simchat Torah.

Most of Haazinu is a poem that Moses said before he died. The poem opens with the following words, “Listen, O heavens, and I will speak! And let the earth hear the words of my mouth!” (Deuteronomy 32:1).

Why did Moses choose the heavens and the earth as the witnesses for his words? According to Rashi, who follows the Midrash Sifrei, Moses was afraid of picking human witnesses. He thought, “I am made of blood and flesh, tomorrow I can die. If the people Israel comes tomorrow and says – We have never accepted the covenant” – who will be able to oppose them? Therefore, Moses had the heavens and the earth as witnesses, because they are eternal witnesses.

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Parashat Haazinu 5779- Nature is a Witness of God

Parashat Vayelech – Shabbat Shuvah 5779

“Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat of returning to our soul”

This coming Shabbat, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, is called Shabbat Shuvah, which means Shabbat of return. This Shabbat is part of the Yamim Noraim, High Holy Days, and Aseret Yemei Teshuva, ten days of repentance.

The name ‘Shuvah’ is a reference to the opening words of this week’s Haftarah, “Shuva Israel — Return Oh Israel to the Lord your God”. This haftorah is always read during the Ten Days of Repentance, the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Ashkenazi Jews read Hosea 14:2-10 and Joel 2:15-27, while Sephardic Jews read Hosea 14:2-10 and Micah 7:18-20. The selection from Hosea focuses on a universal call for repentance and an assurance that those who return to God will benefit from divine healing and restoration. The selection from Joel describes how a blow of the shofar will unite the people in fasting and supplication. Hosea focuses on divine forgiveness and how great it is in comparison to the forgiveness of man.

Read More...

Comments Off on Parashat Vayelech – Shabbat Shuvah 5779

Tora Thoughts: Parashat Nitzavim 5778: Two Cycles Integrated

Parashat Nitzavim is read every year on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashana. There are different explanations about why we do so.

First of all, there are some verses in our parasha about repentance/return (Teshuva), one of the main topics of the High Holidays. For example, “And you will return to the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, and you will listen to His voice according to all that I am commanding you this day, you and your children. Then, the Lord, your God, will bring back your exiles, and He will have mercy upon you. He will once again gather you from all the nations, where the Lord, your God, had dispersed you” (Deuteronomy 30:2-3).

Second, Parashat Nitzavim begins with an allusion to the eve of the Day of Judgment. It says, “You are all standing this day before the Lord, your God, the leaders of your tribes, your elders and your officers, every man of Israel” (Deuteronomy 29:9). As you may know, Rosh Hashana is also known as Yom Hadin, the Day of Judgment, because God judge every living creature on this day.

Third, the numerical value of the Hebrew words “You are all standing this day” is 694. It is the same value as the phrase laamod lislichot, or “To stand for Slichot.” Slichot are the penitential prayers on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashana (or the previous one, if Rosh Hashana falls too close to Shabbat).

Read More...

Comments Off on Tora Thoughts: Parashat Nitzavim 5778: Two Cycles Integrated

Parashat Ki Tavo 5778

Stones as obstacles or as facilitators of light, birth, life, dreams and remembrance

In this week’s parasha, parahat Ki Tavo, Moses and the elders, upon entering the land of Israel, ordered the people of Israel to erect large stones and write on them all the words of the Torah.

It is written in our parashah:

“As soon as you have crossed the Jordan into the land the Lord your God is giving you, you shall set up large stones. Coat them with plaster and inscribe upon them all the words of this teaching”. (D’varim 27:1-3). 

Thinking about stones, we may find special significance attached to stones in the Torah and in other classical Jewish texts.  Stones are used in multiple ways and are used as symbols. 

Read More...

Comments Off on Parashat Ki Tavo 5778

Tora Thoughts: Parashat Ki Tetze 5778: Believe in Yourself and Take the Initiative!

Parashat Ki Tetze begins with some laws regarding war. The first verse of the parasha says, “When you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord, your God, will deliver them into your hands…” (Deuteronomy 21:10).

This first part of the verse demands an explanation. From the verse it would seem to be understood that whenever Israel goes out in battle, God automatically delivers Israel’s enemies into their hands. Of course, that is not a fact, since we know from the Hebrew Bible itself that several times Israel was in trouble in different battles and wars.  Why does the Torah speak this way then?

The best answer to this question is that this is a well-known literary way for the Torah to state a conditional. We should read the verse as saying, “if you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord, your God, delivers them into your hands, then…”. This is most probably the literal meaning of the verse.

Read More...

Comments Off on Tora Thoughts: Parashat Ki Tetze 5778: Believe in Yourself and Take the Initiative!

Parashat Shoftim 5778- “Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates…” (Devarim 16:18)

This week’s parasha, parashat Shoftim, begins by saying: “Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates…” (Devarim 16:18). This verse literally expresses the importance of having judges and policemen in each one of the cities, granting justice and equity to the inhabitants.

However, some sages interpreted this verse differently.  In the verse it says: “Judges and offices shalt thou make thee…”  The sages call attention to the words “thou make thee;” saying that one should judge himself first, and after that, one may judge his fellowman. In other words, we should be our own judges and policemen.

This message coincides with the message of the current season. The month of Elul, the last one of the Jewish year, began last Saturday and Sunday, and we are headed toward the Yamim Noraim, days of Awe.  In the month of Elul, it is customary to blow the shofar in the morning to begin to get into the mood of reflection and meditation   In Elul we must be our own judges so that on Rosh Hashanah God will judge us, after our introspection.

Read More...

Comments Off on Parashat Shoftim 5778- “Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates…” (Devarim 16:18)

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Devarim 5778- Tisha B’Av

Parashat Devarim is always read during the Shabbat prior to Tisha B’Av. Why is this? Because in this parasha Moses reminds us of the story of the ten spies, who caused a terrible crisis among the Children of Israel after delivering a misleading report about the land of Canaan. As a result of the events that happened after this, God decreed that the generation that had left Egypt would die in the desert. According to the sages, that decree was given on the night of Tish B’Av, the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av.

However, what is Tisha B’Av and what do we commemorate on this day? Tisha B’Av is a fast day, the only day in the Hebrew calendar (apart from Yom Kippur) in which we fast for a whole day. It is a day of mourning to commemorate many tragedies that happened to the Jewish people. Many of these tragedies occurred on the ninth of Av itself or very close to it. This year, Tisha B’Av falls this coming Saturday, July 22nd, but because of the Shabbat celebration, it is commemorated the following day, on Sunday.

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Parashat Devarim 5778- Tisha B’Av

Parashat Matot – Masei 5778: “Do not separate yourself from the community” Pirkei Avot (2:5)

This week we read two parashot, Matot and Masei, the last parashot of the book of B’midvar. At the end of the first parashah, it is written that the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and part of the tribe of Menashe preferred not to cross the Jordan because they wanted to stay in the lands of Jazer and Gilead. Why? Because these lands were good for cattle and they had great numbers of cattle.

It is written in the Torah: “The Reubenites and the Gadites owned cattle in very great numbers. Noting that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were a region suitable for cattle, the Gadites and the Reubenites came to Moses, Eleazar the priest, and the chieftains of the community, and said, “Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo, and Beon— the land that the LORD has conquered for the community of Israel is cattle country, and your servants have cattle. It would be a favor to us,” they continued, “if this land were given to your servants as a holding; do not move us across the Jordan.” (B’midvar 32: 1-5)

In other words, they didn’t want to enter the promised land with all the people of Israel because they were concerned about their cattle, about their property or acquisition.

We can find here a tension between two values—being part of a people and being concerned about wealth. The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Menashe placed their possessions over their connection to the people of Israel.

Of course, wealth and possessions are relevant, and our tradition recognizes their importance in our lives. However, the problem is when the possessions become a goal rather than a means to a goal.

There is a Midrash that states: “Three gifts were created in the world, and these are wisdom, strength and wealth. One who merits any of them possesses all that is precious in this world. If one is privileged to possess wisdom, he has attained everything. If one is privileged to possess strength, he has attained everything. If one is privileged to possess wealth, he has attained everything. When does it apply? When they are gifts of Heaven and come through the force of the Torah.” (Midrash Rabbah B’midbar 22:7)

The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Menashe possessed great numbers of cattle and their only concern was to make their herds grow and be wealthier, rather than committing themselves to the continuity and welfare of the people of Israel. All the tribes were about to enter the land of Israel and live there together as a people, with their values and communal mission, but these tribes preferred to be apart from the rest in order to take care of their possessions.

There is another Midrash that comments regarding these tribes’ attitude:

“You find that the children of Reuben and Gad were rich, possessing large number of cattle, but they loved their money and settled outside the land of Israel. Consequently, they were the first of all the tribes to go into exile .… What brought it on them? The fact that they separated themselves from their brethren because of their possessions.” (Midrash Rabbah B’midbar 22:8)

According to this Midrash, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Menashe were the first to go into exile because they decided to separate themselves. The possessions were more precious to them than was being part of their people.

It is written in Pirkei Avot (2:5): “Al tifrosh min hatzibur”: “Do not separate yourself from the community.”

There are many possessions that we may love to acquire and many goals we would like to achieve during our lives. Many people place their possessions, their successes, or other kinds of motivations above their tradition or community. When one separates oneself from the community, one may be very wealthy and successful, but one loses a main pillar of our tradition, the community, the heart of our identity, our joy and continuity.

Thanks to the existence of synagogues around the world, the Jewish people is alive and we live out traditions and the lessons of the Torah with happiness and pride. One of the keys of our existence is to belong, to be part of a congregation where you can find meaningful values that are part of our tradition—values like friendship, solidarity, union, happiness, support, love, compassion, spirituality, justice, and equality.

It is very difficult to maintain the Jewish tradition in an island, separating yourself from the congregation. The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Menashe tried to do that but they failed.

We learn from this lesson not to follow the attitude of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Menashe, who placed their possessions above their people, values and tradition.

Remember the statement of Pirkei Avot, “Do not separate yourself from the community,” and try to be committed to your congregation with all your heart, mind, and hands.

Shabbat Shalom!

Read More...

Comments Off on Parashat Matot – Masei 5778: “Do not separate yourself from the community” Pirkei Avot (2:5)

Tora Thoughts: Parashat Pinchas 5778- Never Rush to Reward Extremism

Parashat Pinchas begins with God recognizing Pinchas’ actions by offering him a pact of peace or friendship. Pinchas was the grandson of Aaron.  The Torah says,

Phinchas the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron the Kohen has turned My anger away from the children of Israel by his zealously avenging Me among them, so that I did not destroy the children of Israel because of My zeal (Numbers 25:11)

If you read this parasha without knowing what had happened right before, you will not be able to understand what Pinchas did and why he was rewarded. You could only understand that Pinchas acted with zeal and that he turned God’s anger away from the Children of Israel. However, what did happen?

The missing story is of course at the end of the previous parasha, Balak. There we are told that the Children of Israel (or at least some of them) were participating in an idolatry cult in honor of the Moabite god of Baal-peor. They had also participated in sexual immorality. God became angry with the Israelites and, as a consequence, a deadly plague attacked them. When the situation seemed to be going out of control, Pinchas took a spear and killed a Moabite woman and an Israelite man who were publicly and immorally profaning God’s name. Pinchas’ action seemed to put an end to the situation and the plague.

Read More...

Comments Off on Tora Thoughts: Parashat Pinchas 5778- Never Rush to Reward Extremism