July 29-30, 2016 – 24 Tammuz 5776
Annual (Numbers 25:10-30:1): Etz Hayim p. 918; Hertz p. 686
Triennial (Numbers 28:16-30:1): Etz Hayim p. 931; Hertz p. 695
Haftarah (Jeremiah 1:2-2:3): Etz Hayim p. 968; Hertz p. 710
Presidential Selection in the Torah
Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, CY Faculty
Timely as the Torah so often is, Parashat Pinhas includes the determination of Moses’ successor, and indeed has insights (non-partisan, of course) about leadership selection. [This Dvar Torah was written well before the conventions and the designation of the presidential candidates.] While today we take the choice of Joshua for granted, that is hindsight and habit. The process, at least behind the scenes, according to the Rabbis, was quite dramatic.
It begins with Moses’ graceful initiative in Chapter 27, immediately after God reminds him that he, like Aaron before him, will die in the desert and not enter the Land. Moses main concern is for the people:
16 ‘Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh
(אֱלֹהֵי הָרוּחֹת לְכָל-בָּשָׂר), set someone over the congregation;
17… that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd.’
Rashi brings a Midrash based on the fact that this conversation follows the episode of Banot Zelophchad, the daughters who claim the portion of their father who left no son. Moses, seeing that God grants their wish, says to himself: “the time has come for me to make a claim, that my sons inherit my position.” (Note that in verse 16 Moses was deliberately vague.) But, the Midrash continues, God rejects that idea. The Torah has told us nothing about Moses’ sons and their qualifications; God responds that Joshua has “never left your tent” (Ex 33:11). Loyalty and exposure to leadership are more important than yichus [family connections].
There is another candidate who has strong qualifications – Pinhas. Not only does he too have good yichus – he is the grandson of Aaron – but he did extremely well in the recent “primary,” the crisis with the Moabite women who had attracted the Israelite men to whoring and idolatry at the close of last week’s reading. Pinhas’ bold action, killing the prince of the tribe of Shimon and his Moabite companion who had strutted contemptuously through the Israelite camp, earned God’s praise and gratitude.
11 ‘Pinhas…has turned My wrath away from the children of Israel…
12 Therefore I give unto him My covenant of peace (בְּרִיתִי שָׁלוֹם);
13 and…the covenant of an everlasting priesthood (בְּרִית כְּהֻנַּת עוֹלָם);
Because… he made atonement for the children of Israel.’
Pinhas also had a distinguished military record (Num 31:6, victory over the Midianites), which continues to be an important attribute for leadership in Israel till this day.
But the Rabbis did not share God’s apparent enthusiasm for Pinhas. The Talmud is critical of him for not consulting with Moses before acting and holds that had Zimri, whom Pinhas killed, risen to defend himself and killed Pinhas, he (Zimri) would not have been held accountable.
Ultimately the Rabbis explain Joshua’s selection by a close reading of Moses’ words in verse 16, above, and God’s response in verse 18: ‘Take Joshua, the son of Nun, a man in whom is spirit (אֲשֶׁר-רוּחַ בּוֹ), and lay thy hand upon him.’ The apparently superfluous word “ruach – spirit,” used by both Moses and God, is interpreted to mean a leader who is attuned to the “spirit” (needs/personality) of each citizen, being fully cognizant that every person is an individual, with his/her own “spirit.” A worthy leader is one who understands this and responds to each person accordingly.
A Vort for Parashat Pinhas
Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, CY Faculty
The census taken in Chapter 26, in preparation for entry in the Land and its division amongst the tribes, includes two of Naftali’s sons “ליֵצֶר מִשְׁפַּחַת הַיִּצְרִי, לְשִׁלֵּם מִשְׁפַּחַת הַשִּׁלֵּמִי: – of Jezer (Yetser), the family of the Jezerites (Yitsri); of Shillem, the family of the Shillemites.” Noting the puns in the names (yetser = evil impulse and shalem = wholeness), R’ Yehiel Michael of Zluchow (18th C, Ukraine) said the verse hints at the Talmudic statement (Makot 10a): “a person is led where he wants to go.” ‘L’Yetser‘ – one whose impulses pull him finds the “family” of those whose impulses control them. ‘L’Shilem‘ – one who seeks wholeness, wholesomeness, she too will find those who will support and encourage her.
Vered Hollander-Goldfarb, CY Faculty
Our Parasha opens in the middle of the story of moral and religious failure on the part of the Israelites at Baal Pe’or. Pinchas stops God’s anger, but does he deserve to be punished for his method? In the rest of the Parasha we will see some preparations towards entering the land of Israel, and the details of our communal sacrifices.
1) God credits Pinchas, grandson of Aaron, with stopping God’s anger at the Israelites (for the story see 25:1-9). What 2 things is he promised because of his actions (25:12-13)? Why might he need the first and why does God need to clarify that he is entitled to the second?
2) This Parasha contains the second census in the book of Bamidbar, Numbers (hence its name). Who is in charge of this census (26:2-4)? Who is counted and what does that tell us about the purpose of this census? How much time has passed since the last one? Why is there a need for a second one? (We are now in the 40th year; the first one opened the book of Numbers, chapter 1.)
3) As the people are on the verge of entering the land, issues of division and inheritance of land crop up. What is the difficulty that the daughters of Tzlofhad present to Moshe (27:1-5)? How do they view land ownership?
4) God reminds Moshe that he will see the land that the people of Israel will receive, but not enter it (2:12-14). How do you think that Moshe feels upon hearing this? Why? What is Moshe concerned by at this point (27:15-17)? What does this tell you about Moshe?
5) Chapter 28 contains the public sacrificial requirements for all the special days mentioned in the Torah. However, the chapter opens (vv.1-8) with the most basic sacrifice, the Korban Tamid (the daily, or ‘permanent’ sacrifice). When is this offered? What is offered together with the sheep (vv. 5, 7)? Where else do you meet these 3 types of food? What might it tell us about some of the meaning and purpose of this public sacrifice?