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   by Jacob Solomon

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QUESTIONS ON THE TEXT AND COMMENTARIES OF PARASHAT PINCHAS - 5764


1. In recognition of Pinchas having killed Zimri, G-d extended him His 'Covenant of Peace'. What does this expression mean (a) according to Rashi, and (b) according to Ibn Ezra?

2. Following the sin of Baal Peor, G-d gave to command to 'harass the Midianites' (25:17). What does that actually mean, (a) according to Rashi and (b) according to the Ohr Hachayim?

3. 'To these (tribes and families) the Land shall be divided' (26:53). How was the Holy Land divided up amongst the tribes and individual families, according to (a) Rashi and (b) the Ramban?

4. Following the successful application of the daughters of Zelophchad, as sole survivors, to inherit what would have gone to their deceased father in the Holy Land, the Torah brings the laws of inheritance. These laws are described as 'chukat mishpat' (27:11) - a 'decree of justice'. What is the force of that expression according to Rabbeinu Bachya?

5. In selecting Joshua as Moses' successor, G-d told Moses to place 'some of your majesty upon him' (27:20). What does that expression mean, according to Rashi?

6. What lesson in relationships with other people may be learnt from the day to day reduction of the number of bulls brought for the communal offering on Sukkot, according to Rashi?

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ON THE TEXT AND COMMENTARIES OF PARASHAT PINCHAS

1. G-d's 'Covenant of Peace' in recognition of Pinchas for having killed Zimri is not his elevation to the priesthood - that is stated in the next verse. According to (a) Rashi, it is an expression of G-d's gratitude and good will towards Pinchas. According to (b) Ibn Ezra, it was a pledge that Pinchas would be protected from the vengeance of Zimri's supporters.

2. G-d's command to 'harass the Midianites', who enticed the Israelites into the sin of Baal Peor (24:6,18), means that they should regard the Midianites as enemies - as an ongoing state of mind, as well as an object of harassment. The Ohr Hachayim explains that the deeper purpose of this commandment was not simply revenge. For under the leadership of Midian, a lust for immoral pleasure and idol worship began to inculcate itself into the Israelites. Such desires, once there, are very hard to eradicate. Thus this commandment was to impress on the Israelites that what looked like a tempting pleasure was in fact a destructive spiritual enemy. That could only be fought by a constant feeling of enmity towards the Midianites.

3. The Torah states that the Holy Land was to be divided up by lottery according to the tribes: but the meaning of 'for the numerous one you shall increase its inheritance, and for the fewer one you shall reduce its inheritance' (26:54) is disputed between Rashi and the Ramban. Both base themselves on their respective derivations of these verses in the Torah. According to Rashi, the lottery was Divinely-guided to ensure that those tribes with larger populations got more value in land, and those with smaller populations got less value in land, and the land was to be divided so that all eligible - no matter what tribe - got equal shares in value of real estate. The Ramban holds that each tribe received equal portions of land, which were then subdivided among its members. Large and small tribes had equal shares, but the individual member of a large tribe would receive less than an individual member of a small tribe.

4. According to Rabbeinu Bachya, the expression 'chukat mishpat' - a 'decree of justice' means that a father may not alter the Torah's procedure of inheritance. Although he may make gifts of property in his lifetime, he may not arrange his will so that property in his name at the time of his death will be distributed in any way other to that stipulated by the Torah.

5. Rashi notes that the Moses was to place 'some' but not 'all' his majesty on Joshua. That implies that Joshua was to be a reflection of Moses' qualities, but not an equal to him. Moses is compared to the sun; Joshua is compared to sun's (Moses') reflection - the moon.

6. The reduction in the number of bulls brought for the communal offering on Sukkot, according to Rashi, is to teach that in general a guest should not overburden his host by outstaying his welcome. The reduced number of bulls brought as the festival progresses symbolizes that, as Rashi quotes from the Tanhuma, 'on the first day he may given the guest fattened meat, the next, fish, the next meat, the next beans and pulses, and the next, vegetables'. (As I understand it, it is not teaching inhospitality, but it means that the host has the right to give such a hint to a guest who is obviously using and taking advantage of him.)

ADDITIONAL ISSUE TO CONSIDER FOR PARASHAT PINCHAS

The public korbanot (offerings) for Succot appear to be out of rhythm with the korbanot for the other Festivals. All Festivals including Rosh Chodesh feature bulls, rams, and lambs. However the numbers are much fewer - a maximum of two bulls, one ram, and seven lambs. The first day of Sukkot, by contrast, involves seven times as many bulls, and twice the number of rams and lambs. In addition, unlike Pesach, the number of bulls does not remain the same, but goes down by one for each day of the Festival, until the last day of Sukkot where the number of bulls has been reduced to only seven. Why therefore do the korbanot for Sukkot differ from the others in these two ways?

The Talmud (Sukkah 55b) answers that these bulls (which total seventy) were offered to solicit G-d's protection for the seventy gentile nations (enumerated in Gen. 10). As the R. Yochanan puts it:

Woe to the Nations who lost and did not know what they lost! While the Temple was standing, the altar atoned for them. Now, who will atone for them?

Indeed a well-known Midrash (would a kind reader help me to locate the reference?) states that if the Nations had realized how much they benefited from those offerings, they would have sent legions to surround Jerusalem and guard it from attack.

This explanation raises several points of interest:

1. What is special about Sukkot that it should be the occasion in the year that involves advancing the welfare of the Gentile nations?

2. Why is it of importance that the Nations should join with the Israelites at all? Yet the Prophet Zechariah states that even after they have fought against us in the days preceding the Redemption, their survivors will have to make an annual Sukkot pilgrimage to Jerusalem - with drastic consequences if they fail to attend…

*Please note - My own attempts to deal with the above may be found in the archives of Shema Yisrael - on Parashat Pinchas for 5761

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: jacobsol@netvision.net.il for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Also by Jacob Solomon:
Between the Fish and the Soup

From the Prophets on the Haftara

e-mail: jacobsol@netvision.net.il

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