Parashat Pinhas 5783

July 6, 2023

Rabbi Steven Altarescu ('14)

The way we respond to very difficult stories in the Torah can teach us a lot about the complexities of being human. Two common reactions to the stories that shock us, maybe even disgust us, might be to reject the whole Torah and its jealous and angry God or to simply not pay attention to the parts of the Torah we don’t like and only learn from its ethical teachings and uplifting stories. I would like to suggest a third approach, one that begins with seeing the Torah as the beginning of a conversation and not as the end of one. This means not only acknowledging the compassionate and loving side of being human but our more shadowy characteristics as well, such as the desire to murder, rid ourselves of people who we see as harmful to us, and obsessive sexual desires. Just as these are all in the Torah as well as inside each of us, I believe the way we choose to...

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Parashat Pinhas 5782

July 22, 2022

Click HERE for an audio recording of this D’var Torah A D’var Torah for Parashat Pinhas by Rabbi Jeffrey Segelman   In Parashat Pinhas, the formal ceremony of leadership succession takes place. Upon being reminded (as if he needed to be reminded) that he would not enter the land, Moses calls upon God to appoint a new leader. By appealing to God as the “Elohei HaRuhot” – the God of all spirits – the rabbis explain that Moses wants to make sure that God understands that the new leader must be able to tolerate the different opinions and personalities of the people. (See Rashi to Numbers 27:16) God informs Moses that Joshua will succeed him and that he should make a public display of this by standing before the people and placing his hand(s) on Joshua. (Sounds like our semikha, and it is indeed the source.) Through this ceremony, some of the glory of...

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Parashat Pinhas 5781

July 2, 2021

Click HERE for an audio recording of this D’var Torah A D’var Torah for Parashat Pinhas By Rabbi Ariann Weitzman (’11) Parashat Pinhas’ eponymous lead character is an unusual one, with his very brief story spanning two parashiyot. Last week in parashat Balak, we read about Pinhas’ zealotry in killing two people, whose names are later revealed to be Cozbi and Zimri, who he believed to be part of a mass Israelite descent into Moabite idolatry and away from God, spurred on by sexually immoral behavior between Israelite men and Moabite and Midianite women. In response to his act, God abruptly ends a plague which had been terrorizing the Israelite encampment, purportedly as a punishment for this idolatry. Thus ends last week’s parasha. While perhaps we’re used to overzealous or even violent acts coming to good ends in Torah, the beginning of this week’s parasha might still surprise us. Pinhas’...

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Parashat Pinhas 5780

July 10, 2020

A D’var Torah for Parashat Pinhas By Rabbi Jill Hammer In Parashat Pinhas, five daughters, the daughters of one man, Tzelofhad, appear before Moshe, bringing a case. Their father has died. Each Israelite family is to be allotted land in Canaan when the people enter the land. However, because Tzelofhad has no son, he has not been allotted land. The women present the case that their father deserves a portion in the land: “Let not our father’s name be lost to his clan because he had no son! Give us a holding among our father’s kinsmen!” (Num. 27:4) Moshe brings this case before YHWH, and YHWH declares that “the plea of Tzelofhad’s daughters is just” and rules that if a man has no sons, his daughters may inherit, provided they marry men from within their own tribe (Num. 27:7-11). This caveat about the daughters’ marriage is put in place so that, when the women have...

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Parashat Pinhas 5779

July 25, 2019

Pinhas: Hero or vigilante? A D’var Torah for Parashat Pinhas By Rabbi Irwin Huberman (’10) It may be strongly argued that within Judaism, there is no room or tolerance for committing murder in God’s name. We view with distain fanatical groups such as ISIS or Boko Haran killing others for failing to adhere to a specific type of religious practice. Teenage girls have been kidnapped or enslaved for the perceived crime of receiving an education. Within Judaism, we have witnessed in recent years numerous examples of religious zealotry – including the murder of Muslims in Hebron in 1995, or the stabbings at the 2005 Jerusalem gay pride parade, or the assassination in 1995 of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. All of this has been universally condemned by the modern Jewish world. So then, how can we embrace the text to be read this Saturday in synagogues throughout the world – named...

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