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Being Zealous for God

Num. 25:10-30:1 is called Parashat Pinchas, named for the grandson of Aaron. Without a court decree, he kills an Israelite prince and a Midianite princess for copulating in public, simultaneously slaying the couple with a single plunge of a spear. Instantly, a plague that had taken 24,000 Israelites is stopped. God bestows an eternal priesthood on Pinchas. Is God condoning vigilantism? No. Technically, there would have to be a court proceeding to determine if the couple should have been executed. However, there were literally thousands of witnesses and there was a plague rapidly spreading through the camp. It also appears that this outrageous behavior of Zimri, a prince from the tribe of Shimon and Cozbi bat Zur was a blatant act of war as decreed by Balak, the Midianite. The couple's act is a vivid example of hilhul Hashem, the desecration of G-d's name. The Talmud, in Yoma 86a, emphasizes the severity of this sin, so severe stating that atonement is difficult to achieve. It is considered a sin that affects the entire community.

After being counseled by Bilaam, the king dispatched his own daughter, as well as the nation’s daughters to subvert Israel through sexual idol worship. Pinchas knew treason when he saw it while Israel’s leaders stood by in shock as the couple copulated in front of them. If no one had acted, the nation would have ceased to exist. Pinchas possessed a blameless character and total purity of heart, otherwise God would not have honored him. Purity and the Will to act for Torah is what God expects from a Nation of Priests.

Later, there is a census of the people yielding a count of 601,730 men between the ages of twenty and sixty.

Moses begins the division of the Land, via a lottery. The five daughters of Tzelafchad ask Moses to be awarded the portion of the land belonging to their father, who died without sons; HaShem their claim and becomes part of the Torah's laws of inheritance.

In preparation for entry into the Land, Moses begins the process of turning over the leadership to Joshua and does so by laying on his hands in a symbolic sharing of his spirit. The Oral Tradition tells us that Moses and Joshua had a long-standing association that began while they were still in Egypt. Midrash Tanchuma (Shemot 1:12) even suggests Joshua may have indeed grown up in Pharaoh's palace! The Midrash states that when Moses was placed in the Nile River, Pharaoh's daughter, Bityah, found him and raised him as her own son. According to this tradition, Joshua, who was born around the same time as Moses, was also taken in by Bityah and grew up alongside Moses in the palace.

The parsha concludes with the specifics of the offerings brought before HaShem, including those brought during the annual festivals. Significantly, at the head of this list is the Tamid—the Daily Offering of two lambs (considered a “whole” offering)representing the Pesach lamb. The fire of the Daily Tamid and its altar represents Mount Sinai and the awesome consuming holy blaze witnessed by the multitudes. Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch wrote that the Tamid Offering, “Symbolizes the everlasting daily renewal of the vow, ‘We will do and we will hear’. The Tamid fire is a daily call to the Jewish People to restore the Temple, to restore its offerings and its national commitment to live a life of Torah, and their role as Light to the nations

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