Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1 )
GOOD MORNING! There are many things the nations of the world have called the Jewish people over the millennium. However, even those who disparage us, recognize that there is something unique about us. During W.W.II, the Germans put pressure on the Japanese to take care of their "Jewish problem." There was a community of Jews in Kobe who had escaped the clutches of the Nazis. When the Japanese asked, "What problem?" the Nazis responded (I paraphrase the original conversation), "They are a nefarious, ambitious and aggressive people who build businesses and industries and dominate the professions!" The Japanese responded, "Wow! Just what we need to build up Manchuria!" (See The Fugu Plan by Tokayer).
Though the nations of the world have their negative appellations for us, we have our own analysis of the Jewish essence -- traits that are inherited from our forefathers -- Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and our matriarchs -- Sara, Rivka, Rachel and Leah – and imprinted upon the Jewish soul. The Talmud tells us that "There are three characteristics which distinguish the Jewish People — they are merciful, they are bashful (morally sensitive) and they do acts of kindness" (Yevamos 79a).
We are also “ma'aminim, b'nei ma'aminim” – believers, the children of believers. When Moses doubted if the Jewish people would believe that God had sent him to lead them out of Egypt, the Midrash Bamidbar Rabbah (Naso 7:5) tells us that God responded, “They are believers, the sons of believers ...”. No matter how far a Jew sees himself from his heritage or belief in God, but when "push comes to shove” – underneath it all, the Jew believes in the Almighty.
Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, loved to illustrate this point with the following story: Many years ago, a 15 year old yeshiva boy sits in an Israeli hospital waiting room while his mother is having an operation. As is customary amongst Jews throughout history, he recites Tehillim (Psalms) as a source of merit for his mother and to give calm to his own worried soul.
In walks an old kibbutznik (a member of pioneering, largely anti-religious, collectives which helped settle and conquer the Land of Israel) – wearing his kova tembel (kibbutz hat), blue shirt, work shorts, sandals – and a sun wrinkled face adorned by a big bushy handlebar mustache.
The kibbutznik walks straight to the yeshiva boy and asks accusingly, “What are you doing?” The yeshiva boy is shocked and scared … and answers, “I am saying Tehillim – my mother is having an operation.”
The kibbutznik then berates the boy, “Tehillim? Is that why we fought for this country? So that a young fellow like you could continue these medieval practices? You need to get rid of your superstitions! Live in the real world. Take that book and throw it out the window!”
The boy is stunned. Finally, he decides to change the focus of the conversation and asks, “What are you doing here?”
The kibbutznik replies, “I've come to take home the body of my son. The doctors are operating, but they have no hope. He's going to die!”
The boy is incredulous, “Are you crazy? Take this Tehillim! Pray!” And the kibbutznik responds, “Keep that superstitious, medieval book away from me!” and then went to the far end of the room to sit by himself.
An hour later, the doctor comes out of the operating room and says to the kibbutznik, “The operation was a success. Your son will live!”
What does the old kibbutznik do? He stands up, reaches his hands towards heaven and cries out, “Shema Yisroel, A-donoy E-loheinu, A-donoy Echad!” – “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One!”
What possibly possessed the kibbutznik to cry out the watchword of the Jewish people, the proclamation of the Jewish people's belief in God from the time of our patriarchs? We know the answer – “ma'aminim, b'nei ma'aminim” – believers, the children of believers.
You can take the Jew out of the Torah ... but you can't take the belief in God out of the Jew!
Pinchas, Numbers 25:10 - 30:1
In last week's Torah portion, Pinchas acted to stop a public display of immorality. He thus stemmed the plague of retribution which was killing the multitudes. He is rewarded by being made a Cohen -- by Divine decree.
The Almighty commands Moshe to attack the Midianites in retribution for the licentious plot the Midianites perpetrated upon the Israelites. A new census is taken of the Jewish people revealing that there are 601,730 men available for army duty. God directs the division of the Land of Israel amongst the tribes. The Levites are tallied. The daughters of Tzelafchad come forward to petition Moshe regarding their right of inheritance. Moshe inquires of the Almighty Who answers in their favor.
Moshe asks the Almighty to appoint a successor and the Almighty directs Moshe to designate Yehoshua (Joshua). The Torah portion concludes with the various offerings -- daily, Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh and holidays.
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adapted from Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.
The Torah states, “Korach, the leader of the rebellion against Moses, and his co-conspirators were swallowed up by an earthquake, but the children of Korach did not die” (Numbers 26:11). How is it possible that a parent -- Korach -- could jeopardize the future and lives of his children?
Korach was a very learned person. He sincerely believed that he was right in challenging Moses, and he convinced many of the elders to join him. The Midrash states that Korach's children were in a quandary. On one hand, they did not wish to challenge Moses, but on the other hand, how could they defy their father? Initially they supported their father, but at the last moment, they deserted him and supported Moses and were spared from death.
The Midrash asks, inasmuch as Korach was so highly learned and was one of the select few to carry the Holy Ark, how could he be so foolish as to challenge Moses? The Midrash answers that Korach's prophetic vision showed him the greatness of his descendants. He reasoned that he must be right, because if he were wrong in opposing Moses, he could not possibly merit having such great offspring. His mistake was that he did not consider that his children might do teshuvah – repent – and achieve greatness in their own right.
Korach's failure to consider that his children might do teshuvah caused him to expose his children to death. This was not because he did not love his children, but because he was incalcitrant and would not consider that he may be wrong.
This strikes a familiar note. Some parents do not give their children a basic Jewish education. “We don't want them to be influenced. Let them make up their own minds when they grow up.” How distorted an argument! A secular education is not a neutral education which will allow them to freely choose their way of life. A secular education today essentially rejects any absolute moral standards. Neglecting Torah education and practices puts the child at risk of being torn from the Jewish nation. Parents should realize that to lose one's identity as a Jew is not in their best interest nor in the best interest of their child.
Korach's self-righteousness nearly proved fatal for his children. Parents should avoid this tragic error.
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