This week's teaching comes from Numbers 25:10 through 30:1 and is called Pinchas, the name of the man about whom the portion opens. The name Pinchas is the same as Phineas, because of some strange ways in Hebrew pronunciation. Even in my Stone Edition Cumash, which is the ultimate authority on Hebrew text of the Tenach (the Hebrew scripture) both words are used interchangeably.
Actually, the story of Pinchas opened at the end of last week's portion, but I ignored it in favor of this week's lesson. So, we should actually go back to Numbers 25:6 to find the first mention of our hero. And hero is the best description of this brave soldier of G-d.
Numbers 25:6-13 tells the story completely: "Then behold, one of the sons of Israel came and brought to his relatives a Midianite woman, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, while they were weeping at the doorway of the tent of meeting. When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he arose from the midst of the congregation and took a spear in his hand, 8 and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and pierced both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman, through the body. So the plague on the sons of Israel was checked. Those who died by the plague were 24,000. Then the L-rd spoke to Moses, saying, " Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy. "Therefore say, 'Behold, I give him My covenant of peace; and it shall be for him and his descendants after him, a covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his G-d and made atonement for the sons of Israel.' "Now the name of the slain man of Israel who was slain with the Midianite woman, was Zimri the son of Salu, a leader of a father's household among the Simeonites. The name of the Midianite woman who was slain was Cozbi the daughter of Zur, who was head of the people of a father's household in Midian."
First, let's address a minor point found in the closing remarks of this passage. Notice that the name of the Midianite woman's father was Zur. Those of you familiar with the Holy Anointing Oil that I blend may recognize this as the Hebrew word often translated as "layman." it's meaning contains this phrase, according to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance "to commit adultery." This woman was already cursed by the name of her father as an adulterer. And so she was trying to lead the Israelites away from their faithful relationship with their bridegroom, the G-d of Israel.
So, Phineas took a long spear and with it he pinned both Zimri and Cozbi to the ground. Zimri was a leader of his father's house and among the leaders of the clan of Simeon. This man among men, this leader among his people was to have been an example to them and it was he who was openly consorting with a foreign woman. The rabbis teach us that the Midianite women were sent among the Israelites because of the failure of Balak to persuade Baalim to curse Israel. Balak, the Midianite king sent women into the camp to entice them and to weaken them so that Midian could prevail over them in war. They tell us that the plague that befell Israel was a venereal disease that quickly felled 24,000 man.
Phineas alone stood against this plot and with determination, he rid the camp of this plague. For this, G-d appointed him as a priest before Him forever. Only two men were so named by G-d. Phineas because he cleansed the camp of evil and Aaron because he always sought unity for the purpose of Torah. So too are we declared to be priests before G-d. Our responsibility are as was theirs. First, we must remove evil from amongst our camp. No accusation must alight upon our own heads or our own households and then we must remove every bit of evil from before the Presence of G-d who is Holy, Holy, Holy.
Then, as Aaron, we must seek unity among all members of the community. Not for the sake of "getting along" or "playing nice." We must seek this unity for the purpose of Torah; so that all men and women will seek the instruction of G-d and will obey His will to the fullest. That is our obligation. The idea of the priesthood of the Believers has been twisted to give us license to approach G-d in any way we want, at any time we want. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. G-d is a jealous G-d and He has given us detailed instruction about who may do approach Him and about how we are to do so.
Only the priest who had first cleansed himself and had made sacrifice on behalf of himself and his family could enter into the Presence of the Holy One. Then, he would first have to bring incense that would fill the room. Only then could he actually go into the Most Holy Place. Incense represents prayer and the Most Holy Place is the place where the Presence of G-d resides, in our very heart. How did the priest enter to take this incense? Remember the architecture of the Tabernacle and of the Temple, the Holy of Holies was closed with a veil that some believe was several feet thick. It had no seam or way to "pull it back" to allow him to walk in; He had to enter on his face. Although the veil was torn at the death of the Messiah, access still requires our humility. Only when we have bathed the Presence in prayer may we enter and only after we have made ourselves clean. Yes, we are the priests of the L-rd, so it is high time we started living like the priest was required to live.
The other significant lesson found in this portion is in chapter 27, from verse 1 through 11. Here, a family of only daughters remained after the death of their father. Under the law, the inheritance of the land passed to the oldest son first, then to his brothers. So was the land of Promise to be divided. These sisters went before Moses and asked him to include them in this division of land. Moses inquired of the Father and the L-rd replied that women were to be treated as were men in this instance. This was consistent with the way that Y'shua lived his life. At the end of John 7, everyone goes home except Y'shua who goes to pray. Then, the next morning, He ws teaching in the Temple when some Pharisees brought him a woman caught in adultery. Now, the Temple was a big place and often teachers would bring their disciples there to instruct them. They would find a place in the Court of Israel or even sometimes in the Court of the Gentiles, depending on their lesson and their openness. But Jesus was in a very peculiar place for a rabbi. The Pharisee would only bring a woman into one place in the Temple and that place almost never was used for rabbinic teaching. he had to be in the Court of the Women! Y'shua, who only did what He saw the Father doing, was treating women as equal to men. As the Father had instructed Moses to do, so His Son was doing. And so should we all, do what we see the Father doing and what His Son did.