Torah Weekly - Parshat Pinchas

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TORAH WEEKLY

Parshat Pinchas

For the week ending 23 Tammuz 5761/ July 13 & 14, 2001

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  • Overview
  • Insights:
  • The Heel Generation
  • Haftara
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    Overview

    Contents
    Hashem tells Moshe to inform Pinchas that Pinchas will receive Hashem's "covenant of peace" as reward for his bold action - executing Zimri and the Midianite princess Kozbi. Hashem commands Moshe that the people must maintain a state of enmity with the Midianites because they 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. Hashem 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 Hashem for the ruling, and Hashem tells Moshe that their claim is just. The Torah teaches the laws and priorities which determine the order of inheritance. Hashem 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 Hashem to designate the subsequent leader, and Hashem 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.



    Insights

    Contents

    THE HEEL GENARATION

    "Pinchas...followed the Israelite man and pierced them both, the Israelite man and the woman into her stomach..." (25:7-8)
    A few weeks ago, a great and holy Jew passed from this world of illusion to the World of Truth. He was a man noted for his pithy and incisive sayings; a man who was not in the business of being mealy-mouthed when the occasion demanded. Overthirty years ago he commented that having a television was like having a sewer running through the middle of your living room.
    I have a sneaking suspicion that television hasn't improved over the past three decades. A TV "Rip Van Winkle" awaking from a half-century snooze in front of a fifties test-card would pass out at what greeted his awakening. He would find it impossible to reconcile that fledgling invention with the permissive and permitted lewdness assaulting his eyes in all its gory Technicolor.

    He would not believe what he was seeing on the television.

    If, thirty years ago, having a television was like having a sewer run through your living room, today it's like having a full-blown, round-the-clock sewage plant.

    Ah, some say, but what about all the redeeming social value of the Great Mezmerizer? The creation of a global village, the arts and music programming, the politics, the sports, all the culture, dee-dah dee-dah. Debauchery dressed up as art. The "global village" - a soap opera of materialism preying on people's fantasies and weaknesses.

    We are so inured to immorality, vice and violence in our society that we barely bat an eyelid unless something particularly sordid leaps off the screen and into our homes to assault our jaded sensitivities.

    At the beginning of this week's parsha is an incident which to our refined twenty-first century sensibilities seems outrageously violent. With one spear, Pinchas justifiably kills a prince of Israel and a princess of Moav who are committing an act of gross depravity. He skewers them through their lower stomachs. How can such violence be condoned by the Torah? Where is the Torah's sensitivity?

    I'd like to ask you a question - Where is our sensitivity? Is there anything that still shocks us? And even if two consenting adults don't yet have the right to consent to ultimate public intimacy - are we that far away?

    Our permissive age has lost all perspective of the impact of immorality. Not just on ourselves. Not just on each other and our families. On the creation itself.

    What Man does echoes throughout all space and time. Immorality doesn't just destroy lives. It destroys the world. That's Jewish Ecology. My actions affect nature. My actions echo in the farthest reaches of the cosmos. The era of Noach was filled perversion to the extent that man started to be intimate with animals. G-d brought a flood to wash away that corruption from the earth.

    How can we be so insensitive to what is going on around us?

    We are living in a period of history know as the ikvata d'mashicha - the birth-pangs of mashiach. We are witnessing a world sinking to a level from which it cannot descend further. Depravity can go just so far before it devours itself; it will rot like a seed until nothing is left.

    But from that putrefaction will spring forth a shoot of untainted and un-taintable purity.

    Ikvata is an Aramaic word. It has the same root as the word for "heel." Why should the coming of the redemption be connected to the "heel"?

    Every generation corresponds to a part of the body. We are the generation of the "heel." The heel is the lowest and the least sensitive part of the human body. You can stick a needle in the fleshy part of the heel and not even feel pain.

    If we really knew what was going on in these last generations, we would literally not be able to stand. G-d in his infinite mercy has given us an insensitivity to events so that we can carry on.

    In Israel, we are sitting on a volcano. And life goes on. Almost every day people die in violent and tragic circumstances. And life goes on. We don't feel it. We just carry on.

    Very soon, G-d will bring the final curtain down on world history. It will be clear why every little thing had to happen in the way that it happened. We will laugh at what we thought was tragedy. Our mouths will be full with the laughter of recognition.

    And then G-d will take our hearts of stone and replace them with hearts of flesh and blood.

    Sources:
    Rabbi Elchanon Wasserman and others

     




    Haftara

    Yirmiyahu 1:1- 23

    Contents


    "Divrei Yirmiyahu" is the first haftara of the "Three-of-Affliction" trilogy read between 17 Tammuz and 9 Av. It contains Jeremiah's ominous vision of Israel's ruin and first exile at the hand of Babylon's King Nebuchadnezzar.
    Yirmiyahu's vision of a menacing, almond-wood rod indicates that the time of Israel's punishment is ripening, like the hasty ripening of an almond. His vision of a cauldron with its north lip a-boil warns of Israel's northern neighbor, Babylon, wielding that rod. If they repent, however, G-d will remember their "youthful kindness" when, as a fledgling nation, they forsook a familiar Egypt and like a starry-eyed bride followed G-d into a frightening wasteland.

    SUPER VISION

    In his introduction to the Book of Yirmiyahu, Malbim notes that this book contains more "irregularities" in spelling and grammar than any other book of Tanach. This, explains Malbim, is due to the exalted nature of Yirmiyahu's vision, which can almost be compared to that of Moshe's. Just as the Five Books of Moses contain untold layers of meaning, many of them hinted through oddities of spelling and grammar, so too, the book of Yirmiyahu reaches beyond the normal bounds of expression due to Yirmiyahu's lofty grasp, above that of most other prophets.

    The Sages sum up the Book of Yirmiyahu as "entirely destruction." Even in English, a "jeremiah" is any predictor of gloom and doom. Why, indeed, did G-d specifically invest such a great prophet, one of the very greatest, with the vision of Israel's destruction and exile?

    "All G-d does is for the good," say our Sages. Perhaps Yirmiyahu's exalted perception was the very reason he was chosen to bring word of the exile: From his lofty vantage point, he - like no other in his generation - could perceive the joy hidden in the tears.




    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Michael Treblow

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