Pinchas 5763

June 23, 2009

7 min read


Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1 )

If you would like to support the
Shabbat Shalom Weekly, please click on the button:

GOOD MORNING!  Thank you to everyone who contributed to help Argentinean and Uruguayan Jews. We raised about $9,000! If you would like to give, you may go to .

Recently, I shared with you the quote, "Never rely on your friends for money, or on your money for friends." The author is Dr. Mardy Grothe, who has a fascinating website for lovers of chiastic quotes,

Also, for those of us who find food a means of dealing with stress, last week it was pointed out to me that "stressed" spelled backwards is "desserts." And speaking of stress, we are once again entering the period known as "The Three Weeks" - the three weeks between the fast of the 17th of Tammuz (Thursday, July 17) and the fast of the 9th of Av (the evening of August 6). The three most inauspicious weeks of the Jewish calendar!

This is a period when many tragedies happened to the Jewish people. Why do we mourn the loss of the Temple after so many years? What did it and does it mean to us?

The Temple was a central focal point of the Jewish people. Three times a year - Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot - the Jews living in the Land of Israel came to worship and celebrate at the Temple. It offered us the ultimate opportunity to come close to the Almighty, to elevate ourselves spiritually. It represented the purpose of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel - to be a holy people united with the Almighty in our own land ... a truly Jewish state. That is what we seek to regain. That is why we mourn remembering our loss.

The Temple in Jerusalem is still a focal point for us - in the three daily prayer services, we pray that it be rebuilt. Wherever we are in the world, we face towards the Temple when we pray. If we are in North America, we pray facing east; if we are in Hong Kong or Singapore, we pray facing west. If we are in the north of Israel, we pray facing south and if we are in the south of Israel, we pray facing north.

In Jewish cosmology, the Three Weeks are considered to be such an inauspicious time period that one is not allowed to get married. From the 1st of Av (July 30), one is even advised to push off court cases until after the 10th of Av (after August 8th). We refrain from hair-cutting, purchasing or wearing new clothing, listening to music and pleasure trips. It is a time for self-reflection and improvement.

On the 17th of Tamuz, five calamitous events occurred in our history:

  1. Moshe broke the first Tablets of the Ten Commandments when he descended from Mt. Sinai and saw the worshipping of the Golden Calf.

  2. The Daily Sacrificial Offerings ceased in the First Temple due to lack of sheep

  3. The walls of Jerusalem were breached during the siege of the Second Temple.

  4. Apustumus-the-Wicked burned a Sefer Torah

  5. An idol was placed in the Sanctuary of the Second Temple.

The 17th of Tamuz is a fast day. The fast begins approximately an hour before sunrise and continuing until about an hour after sunset. The purpose of the fast is to awaken our hearts to repentance through recalling our forefathers' misdeeds which led to tragedies and our repetition of those mistakes. The fasting is a preparation for repentance - to break the body's dominance over a person's spiritual side. One should engage in self-examination and undertake to correct mistakes in his relationship with God, his fellow man and with himself.

It is interesting to note that Saddam Hussein is/was a student of Jewish history. He named the nuclear reactor (from which he planned to create a bomb to drop on Israel) - you guessed it, Tamuz 17! (Want the source? Two Minutes Over Baghdad by Amos Perlmutter.)

For more history and understanding of the holidays, read Book of Our Heritage by Eliyahu Kitov (available in bookstores or by calling toll-free: 877-758-3242). I also highly recommend . There are many excellent articles and insights on our website.

What can one read to understand who the Jewish people are and what we are about? Certainly, reading the Five Books of Moses is the place to start. I recommend the Artscroll Stone Edition. Nineteen Letters by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch will give a tremendous understanding of the Jewish purpose. Nine Questions and Why the Jews? by co-authors Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin address central issues of the Jewish people. And then there is Judaism in a Nutshell: God by Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf for people who are long on curiosity, but short on time. All are available from your local Jewish book store or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242.

Torah Portion of the Week

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.


Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"Therefore say: I am giving him My covenant of peace." (Numbers 25:12)

Why did the Almighty give Pinchas His covenant of peace after Pinchas did such a violent act?

Rabbi Naftoli Tzvi Berlin comments: Pinchas did a zealous act that could cause someone to become aggressive even when it would not be appropriate. Therefore, the Almighty blessed him with a covenant of peace. In all other areas of his life he should be a man of peace.

Our usual state should be one of peace. There are times when it is proper and even necessary to be aggressive. Since this trait is so destructive one must be very careful that it does not become part of one's nature. We become molded by our behavior. If we keep acting a certain way, it becomes part of our usual personality.

There is a danger that a trait which is frequently negative and sometimes positive depending on the circumstances will be used negatively if it becomes a part of our character. To prevent this from happening with the trait of aggression, someone who has to be aggressive on occasion should go out of his way to be extremely kind and compassionate in other instances.


"Who is wise? He who learns from all people. As it is said, 'From all of my teachers I grew wise' (Psalms 119:99).
Who is mighty? He who conquers his desires. As it is said, 'Better is he who is slow to anger than a strong man' (Proverbs 16:22)."
    --  Ben Zoma

(or go to

Jerusalem  7:08
Guatemala 6:15  Hong Kong 6:51  Honolulu 6:56
J'Burg 5:16  London 8:48  Los Angeles 7:45
Melbourne 5:00  Miami 7:54  Moscow 8:41

New York 8:05  Singapore  6:59


Experience is a harsh teacher;
first comes the test and then the lesson.

In Honor of
All of God's Beloved People
in the Whole World

Peter Körkel

Next Steps