For the week of July 19, 2003 / 19 Tammuz 5763
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 25:10 - 30:1
Haftarah: Jeremiah 1:1 - 2:3

Get Involved

The LORD said to Moses, "Pinhas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them. Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites" (Bemidbar / Numbers 25:10-13).

At the end of last week's Torah portion, we read about how the violent actions of Pinhas (English: Phinehas) turned away God's wrath from the people of Israel. This week's portion begins with the words just quoted. The Torah is filled with many incidences that the Torah itself does not comment on. This incident is not only commented on, but the comments are directly from God himself.

Those who follow the weekly Torah readings would have had a whole week to think about Pinhas' actions. Did he do the right thing? It appears that he did, because the plague ceased immediately following. Thankfully we are not left with just the circumstances to help us understand this incident. We have God's comments.

From what God says we learn that Pinhas shared with God, God's zeal for his own honor. This single action was what brought an end to the devastating plague.

This is another one of those stories in the Torah that I find disturbing. But as I have written on other occasions, my discomfort with these types of stories doesn't change the fact that they happened. I am better off learning what I can from these things, than spending my time philosophizing over them.

One of the things that I am challenged by through what Pinhas did, is that he was willing to do the necessary thing to resolve the disaster. It was abrupt. It was violent. Yet it was effective.

This is no justification or an excuse for bad or irresponsible behavior on our part in the name of doing what we think is necessary. As it turned out Pinhas did the right thing in that situation. We need wisdom to know what do to in the situations we face.

But the main thing is that something had to be done and Pinhas did it.

The people who get things done in this world are the ones who get things done. That's not very profound, but it's true. How many things happen around us each day, where we wish someone out there "would do something about it"? At some point we need to realize that that someone is us.

We also need to see that getting involved is not just about being busy. Pinhas could have done many things with his time at that moment. What made the difference for the whole nation and set apart his descendants after him was that he did what was needed to be done.

So let's get involved.

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