(Torah Portion Pinchos) Personalities

There is something eye-catching in this week’s portion. It incorporates many names of leaders and personalities. We will take a look into some of them and attempt to gain understanding, insight, inspiration and a personal application.

The title of this week’s portion is Pinchos, who was a grandson of Aaron the high priest. However, he was not included in the priesthood when his father Elozar and uncle Itamar were inducted into the priesthood.
Although Pinchos could have taken issue for being excluded from the prestigious priesthood, he did not complain and accepted G-d’s decision. Pinchos’ conduct paid off. The Torah relates that Zimri, a prince of the Tribe of Shimon, was publically intimate with Cuzbi, a non-Jewish princess. Pinchos acted zealously and killed Zimri, and G-d awarded Pinchos with the priesthood.

Commentators explain: A Kohain who kills in any situation becomes disqualified from the priesthood. Had Pinchos been originally appointed as a priest before he killed Zimri, even though he acted 100% correctly, and even though he saved the Jewish people from G-d’s wrath, still, the act of killing would have disqualified Pinchos from performing his full duties as a Kohain. G-d in His infinite wisdom and knowledge of the future, waited to induct Pinchos into the priesthood until after his heroic deed, so that he would remain a full-fledged Kohain forever.

Pinchos’ conduct was in contrast to Korach, Dasan and Aviram, who led a revolt against Moshe and Aaron because Korach felt slighted that he was passed up on a prestigious position. We can only speculate; perhaps if Korach had kept quiet as Pinchos did, G-d may have had something greater in store for him.

A good segment of this portion speaks of a census taken of the Jewish nation before they entered the Land of Israel. Besides determining the number of people, this census was used for apportioning the size of one’s familial inheritance of the land of Israel. The count was divided into the twelve tribes, and the Torah mentions the names of the tribe’s immediate children.

What is striking is that there is an added letter Hey at the beginning of their names and an added letter Yud at the end of their names. Why? The Talmud relates that G-d took two of the letters of His Name (Yud and Hey) and added it to the names of the children of the tribes who lived and raised their children in Egypt, testifying that during the entire 210 years the Jews were among the immoral and decadent Egyptians, never was there an incident of intermarriage or inter-intimacy with the Jews and the Egyptians!

As a side note: within the count of the Tribe of Asher, the name Serach the daughter of Asher is mentioned. This woman was well over 250 years old at the time and was there to give living testimony about her grandfather Yaacov.

After the census and the laws of inheritance were given, the Torah relates that the five daughters of the deceased Tzalafchad asked Moshe a question. Since the laws of inheritance are directed to the males, are we, who have no brothers, entitled to our father’s inheritance? Moshe didn’t have an immediate answer and he asked G-d. G-d responded that in a case where there are only female children in the family, the inheritance goes to them.

The Talmud relates that the motivating force behind the daughters of Tzalafchad’s quest was not gender equality; rather, it was their deep desire and love for the land of Israel.

After G-d gave over the laws of inheritance, Moshe, knowing that he was forbidden to enter into the Land of Israel, asked G-d if his children, Gershom and Eliezer could take over his position as leader of the nation. G-d told him that the position of leadership was not for his sons, rather, for Moshe’s devoted student Yehoshua ben Nun.

Moshe, the devoted and dedicated servant of G-d did not take personal issue that his children were excluded from leadership; rather, he full heartedly gave over his position to Yehoshua with an abundance of love and enthusiasm.

An example of this is that Moshe was instructed by G-d to lay his hand onto Yehoshua’s head thereby performing Semicha – leadership appointment onto him. The Torah relates that Moshe actually laid both his hand on Yehoshua displaying that he was not only giving over what was basically required to pass on, but he gave even more.

What bonus could he have given to Yehoshua? Rashi points out that Moshe even transferred to Yehoshua the shining spiritual aura that emanated from his face. This was another way of securing that the transmission of Torah through Yehoshua would be effective.

Indeed Moshe’s handing over was a success – for we are here to attest to and confirm it!

Wishing you a restful, peaceful and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks