This week our parasha is Pinchas, which covers Numbers 25:10-30:1. Parasha Pinchas teaches us that we should have great boldness in standing up for what is right and that boldness comes in many different forms.
Our parasha starts with Pinchas, the grandson of Aaron, praised by the Lord for his actions at Peor. At Peor, many of the Jewish men had relations with pagan women and worshipped their false gods. Pinchas saw a Jewish leader openly taking a pagan woman into his tent while the other leaders were mourning our people’s sins. So Pinchas grabbed a spear and entered the tent while the leader was having relations with this woman. Pinchas killed them instantly by driving his spear through them both.
The Lord commended Pinchas for his actions because he acted with the Lord’s righteous anger at such sin. Pinchas’s actions also ended the deadly plague of the Lord. Adonai made a covenant with Pinchas that he and his descendants would be priests forever.
Some characterize Pinchas as “hot-headed” or an example of violently responding to all sin. But we should remember that Pinchas acted under Adonai’s will. In every situation we should try to be like Pinchas, boldly following the Lord’s teaching.
Pinchas stands as a powerful example of boldly responding to sinful actions within God’s community. Pinchas had a deep passion and drive which lead him to act and not stand idly by. Just like Pinchas, we cannot become complacent to sin. Regardless of our age or our status, we have a responsibility to speak out against the sin we see around us within our community. As a leader of Shema, I appreciate it when people bring situations to my attention, especially before they become more serious from inaction.
Numbers 26 contains a census of the new generation in preparation for entering the land of Israel. The census breaks down each tribe and their clans in detail, but the formula departs with the naming of the daughters of Zelophehad. These women are discussed more in Numbers 27.
Zelophehad was a man who had only daughters before dying. Because of how land inheritance worked, these daughters would not inherit their father’s land, ending his name and legacy. To solve this problem, the daughters went before Moses to ask for their father’s land. Moses asked the Lord for guidance and Adonai decided that they should inherit their father’s land. The Lord commanded that if there were no sons to claim a family inheritance it could be transferred to the daughters.
From our modern perspective, this may seem like a minor incident. But this was a very serious matter. Without their father’s land, these women would have been left bankrupt and their family line would end. We can only imagine how difficult it was to go before Moses, and by extension the Lord, to ask for their family’s land. These daughters acted with great boldness.
In the Rabbinic tradition, the daughters of Zelophehad are remembered with great respect as examples of Godly women. The rabbis note that while many of the men of Israel committed serious sins such as at Peor or Korah’s rebellion, the women of Israel are not recorded as having sinned in the same way. These women also went boldly before Moses to petition for their inheritance. Their names are recorded twice in this parasha showing that their names were preserved along with their families.
The parasha continues and details that Moses would not enter the Promised Land because of his sin. So, the Lord instructed Moses to lay his hands on Joshua and bless him as the new leader of our people. Moses went and did as the Lord commanded and showed our people that the Lord had chosen Joshua to succeed him.
Like Pinchas and the daughters of Zelophehad, Joshua was also very bold. He trusted in the Lord deeply and acted boldly through His faith. We should remember the powerful report he gave when returning from the Land. We also see how he boldly acted through quiet trust in waiting for Moses to return from Mount Sinai. Being bold does not always mean dramatic or loud actions. Throughout his life, Joshua demonstrated the depth of his faithfulness showing he was a great leader.
Numbers 28 and 29 contain instructions for the daily offerings as well as the offerings for all the Biblical holidays. Numbers 30 discusses vows for men and women who are married and unmarried.
One lesson of parasha Pinchas is what Godly boldness looks like. The godly men and women recorded in this parasha serve as examples of how we should live our lives boldly, through seeking after the Lord and following His will. Boldness can be dramatic, like Pinchas with his spear. Boldness can also be difficult, like the daughters going to those in power to advocate for what is right. Boldness can also be quiet, like Joshua patiently trusting and waiting for Moses to return. In the many situations in our lives, we must act rightly and boldly, both of which we can do through the teaching and empowering of our wonderful creator.
May each one of us learn from the examples of Pinchas, Joshua, and the daughters of Zelophehad. May we all have great boldness and passion for the Lord. May we all faithfully follow in the footsteps of the righteous men and women who have come before us.