TORAH READING FOR 24 TAMUZ 5782 SHMITAH Jul 22-23, 2022
From ReformJudaism.org https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/pinchas
Pinchas (פִּינְחָס – Hebrew for “Phinehas”, a name) – Numbers 25:10−30:1
The Eternal One spoke to Moses, saying, “Phinehas, son of Eleazar son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the Israelites by displaying among them his passion for Me, so that I did not wipe out the Israelite people in My passion.” – Numbers 25:10-11
- Pinchas is rewarded for killing the Israelite and the Midianite woman who cursed God. (25:10–15)
- Israel fights a war against the Midianites. (25:16-18)
- A second census is taken. (26:1–65)
- The daughters of Zelophehad force a change in the laws of property inheritance. (27:1–11)
- Joshua is chosen to be Moses’ successor. (27:15–23)
- The sacrificial ritual for all festival occasions is described in detail. (28:1–30:1)
From ReformJudaism.org https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/pinchas
Transitions of Leadership: A ‘How to’ Guide from Parashat Pinchas
By: Beth Ellen Young
STRUGGLING WITH TORAH and REFLECTION
You can read this week’s Torah Portion at https://www.sefaria.org/Numbers.25.10-30.1
From “The Torah / A Women’s Commentary” edited by Dr. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss, Ph.D.
פינחס Pinchas – Numbers 25:10–30:1
Legacy of Law, Leadership, and Land by Tamara Cohn Eskenazi, pp. 961-2
AS THEIR FORTY YEARS’ JOURNEY in the wilderness is coming to an end, the Israelites’ focus shifts to final preparations for entering the Promised Land. It is a time of uncertainty in the face of transition. Parashat Pinchas (named after the priest known in English as Phinehas) describes actions and instructions for securing stability and continuity, with special attention to division of the land among the Israelite tribes. The setting is the plains of Moab, on the eastern side of the Jordan near Jericho (25:43), within view of the Promised Land. The opening verses conclude the disturbing incident of Baal-peor (25:1–9), After a census and the appointment of Moses’ successor, the parashah ends with a lengthy account of the sacrificial offerings for various sacred occasions. The final words of the Torah portion affirm that Moses instructed Israel according to God’s commands (30:1).
Five daring sisters–Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah, also known as Zelophehad’s daughters–loom large in this Torah portion, and again later in Numbers 36 (and also Joshua 17). They brilliantly challenge the inheritance system (which has disenfranchised them) when they request a share in the land (27:1–11). They are so important that each of their names appears in every episode about them. In this episode these sisters succeed in securing a legacy for themselves, so that they, rather than their father’s male relatives, will inherit his portion. But they do even more than that, something unique and extraordinary: they initiate a Torah law, a legal precept that becomes a legacy for future generations because what they ask for themselves becomes a law sanctioned by God. This case is important in showing (among other things) women who challenge community practices and who thereby bring significant modifications to existing legislation in order to meet changing social needs.
The resolution of their case is that brotherless daughters can inherit parental property. Thus, this new law preserves the integrity of family property in case only daughters are born to an Israelite couple. It also provides economic security to daughters who otherwise would depend on male relatives for sustenance.
A striking aspect of these stories about Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah concerns archeological information about territorial holdings in Israel during the monarchy. Two of these names–Noah and Hoglah–appear on ostraca (ancient clay fragments). The names seems to refer to areas of considerable size in northern Israel (see at 27:1–2).
Other fascinating women make cameo appearances as mother (Jochebed, 26:59), sister (Miriam, 26:59), or daughter; yet they are remembered mainly in relation to an important man. We find also the “dangerous” foreign woman (Cozbi; 25:15–18) and the mysterious Serah, who is named only to disappear without a story (26:46).
Another View – by Tikva Frymer-Kensky, pp. 982-3
THIS PARASHAH STARTS in a significant place: in the aftermath of the momentous events at Peor. One would think that the reward of Phinehas should have concluded the last parashah instead of starting a new one. But this new parashah is about the future; specifically, changes God makes for the future, changes that affect the priesthood, the government, and the women of Israel.
Concerning Phinehas. A more literal translation of v. 11 may make it easier to understand why Phinehas is rewarded for his violent act. Phinehas “was zealous for יהוה’s zeal.” Kinah (“zeal” or “jealousy”) is the furious sense of righteous indignation that one may feel when one has been betrayed by someone who owed one allegiance and fidelity.
A husband may feel “a fit of jealousy” (5:14), and Israel is warned many times that God is a “jealous God” (Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; 5:9; Joshua 24:19) and that this “jealousy” may make God utterly destroy Israel if they abandon God (Deuteronomy 6:14–15). Now God’s wrath has been kindled and a plague is raging within the Israelite camp when Phinehas steps in to prevent God from wiping out all of Israel. Like Elijah, who is also “zealous for יהוה” (I Kings 19:10), Phinehas empathizes with God’s rage and acts it out. He acts with violence to stop violence, like setting a backfire to stop a wildfire.
Phinehas’s action works. But in the new world that this parashah is setting up, God does not want to perpetuate the cycle of violence. And so, even in the act of rewarding Phinehas, God establishes a new order by granting him a “covenant of peace” (shalom, not “friendship”) in 25:12. The eternal priesthood will create peace and reconciliation, not by killing evildoers but by the sacrificial system. Their violence is limited to killing an animal–the bloodshed confined to dashing the blood on the altar. Once again, a careful translation brings out the meaning: “he and his seed will have a covenant of eternal priesthood because he was zealous for his God, and he will make atonement of the Children of Israel” (25:13).
Phinehas has been much discussed in our tradition. Psalm 106:30 states only that Phinehas stood in prayer and thus stopped the plague. During the Maccabean period, Phinehas was the model for Mattathias, who also acted with zeal for God (I Maccabees 2:26, 50–64). Eventually, the Rabbis became uncomfortable with the idea of people taking the law into their own hands, and they transformed even the image of Phinehas into a calm presenter of legal argument. In their assessment of this parashah, although recognizing Phinehas’s pure motives, they frame his act as part of the past–never to be repeated–but rather to be replaced by the ordinary actions of priest.
In this parashah the priests figure also in the new role for the leader. Moses appoints Joshua his successor, but with a difference: Joshua will not have all of Moses’ powers. Instead, Joshua is a temporal ruler, neither priest nor prophet. But the priests, using the Urim and Thummim, will channel God’s commands (27:21).
Concerning the Daughters of Zelophehad. Part of this new world order involves the right of brotherless women to inherit their father’s land. This decision is similar to the ancient Greek rule of the epi-klara, who also inherits her father’s land and must marry her kin. Often we assume that this makes the women just a “place marker,” holding the empty place in the paternal succession; but the story of the Shunammite in II Kings 4 and 8 shows how important it is to a woman to hold land. The wealthy Shunammite becomes the prophet Elisha’s benefactor; when he offers a reward, she responds, “I live among my own kin” (II Kings 4:13). Unusually, she has not left her kin to live with her husband’s family. Alone among the childless women of the Bible, she is not actively seeking a child. (However, once she gives birth, she is fiercely protective of her son.) Later, Elisha warns her of famine; she leaves the land and returns seven years later to petition the king to give her back her property. She comes to cry for “her land and her field,” and the king instructs, “Return to her all that is hers.” In a comparable situation elsewhere in the Bible, the land Naomi seeks to sell is carefully called “the portion of field that belonged to our brother Elimelech” (Ruth 4:3), and the property is called “all that was Elimelech’s” (Ruth 4:8). The fact that the Shunammite’s land is hers and that she lives among her people suggests that she is a later-day daughter of Zelophehad: she lives among her own kin, and her land belongs to her. And what a difference this makes: she is independent in her actions and not worried about her lack of children. The economic security of owning her own land gives her independence from her husband; she neither asks his permission to be Elisha’s patron nor to seek the prophet as a client. The Shunammite may be an example of how women act when the economic constraints of patriarchy are removed. This is why she is identified by place rather than by name or as “Mrs. Somebody.” Shunem is her village–the village of her father’s household and the village where she lives as an adult woman, the locale of the land that she owns. She is a woman of place and–by contrast–she shows how significant the lack of such place is to most women’s history.
The limitation of women’s property rights is the economic linchpin of patriarchal structure. The basic fact that women did not normally own land in ancient Israel made them economically dependent on men–first on their fathers, then on their husbands, and ultimately on their sons. But the daughters of Zelophehad–and the rule that they initiated–let some women escape this dependence.
ROSH CHODESH AV
Begins at sundown on Thursday, July 28 and ends at sundown Friday, July 29, 2022. Av is the fifth month of the Hebrew calendar and has 30 days. Tish’a B’Av, the Ninth of Av, a fast day commemorating the destruction of both the First and Second Temples as well as the Expulsion from Spain, takes place on Saturday, August 6 and ends at nightfall on Sunday, August 7, 2022.
From “Mishkan T’filah / A Reform Siddur”:
ROSH CHODESH – FOR THE NEW MONTH p.519
Our God and God of our ancestors, may the new month bring us goodness and blessing. May we have long life, peace, prosperity, a life exalted by love of Torah and reverence for the divine; a life in which the longings of our hearts are fulfilled for good.
FOR OUR COUNTRY p.516
THUS SAYS ADONAI, This is what I desire: to unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of lawlessness; to let the oppressed go free, to break off every yoke. Share your bread with the hungry, and take the wretched poor into your home. When you see the naked, give clothing, and do not ignore your own kin.
O GUARDIAN of life and liberty, may our nation always merit Your protection. Teach us to give thanks for what we have by sharing it with those who are in need. Keep our eyes open to the wonders of creation, and alert to the care of the earth. May we never be lazy in the work of peace; may we honor those who have [served, suffered or] died in defense of our ideals. Grant our leaders wisdom and forbearance. May they govern with justice and compassion. Help us all to appreciate one another, and to respect the many ways that we may serve You. May our homes be safe from affliction and strife, and our country be sound in body and spirit. Amen.
We recite MI SHEBËRACH for the victims of abuse, brutality, conflicts, fear, natural disasters, pandemics, tragedies, violence of all kinds especially directed at individuals and specific communities including us, and war; for all those at home alone or lonely; for all those in need of physical, emotional, and mental healing. “R’fuah sh’lëmah” – a complete recovery!
We say KADDISH YATOM for those of our friends and families who have died and been buried this last week; those in the period of Sh’loshim (30 days since burial); those who have died in the last year; and those whose Yahrzeits/Anyos occur at this time; as well as the victims of brutality, conflict, disease, natural disasters, pandemics, tragedies, violence of all kinds, and war.
This coming week, 24 Tamuz through 1 Av, we lovingly remember:
TKH Memorial Board and father of Pam Elder
Husband of Susie Morss
Those victims of the Sho’ah (Holocaust) who died at this time of year.
“ZICHRONAM LIV’RACHAH” – MAY THEIR MEMORIES BE FOR BLESSING.
TORAH STUDY AND SHAZOOM
We will meet as usual at the regular times for Torah Study and Shazoom this evening, Friday, July 22, 2022.
Zoom regularly updates its security and performance features. Making sure you have the latest version of Zoom, please join us online this evening with wine/grape juice for Kiddush and Challah for Motzi.
Topic: Torah Study – Pinchas (triennial part) Num. 28:16-30:1
Time: Jul 22, 2022 06:00 PM Arizona
Shazoom – Erev Shabbat Service
Time: Jul 22, 2022 07:30 PM Arizona
To join Torah Study and/or Shazoom click on the following link [you may need to copy it into your browser]: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/72510500854?pwd=Z3VQZWF4U1BBZytNYmh3aHFTWkFDZz09
Meeting ID: 725 1050 0854
Hint: The last character of the password is the number zero.
Shabbat Shalom – Buen Shabbat!