The portion Pinchas (Numbers 25:12ff) offers us a variety of issues. We begin with the hero, Pinches, who quells a plague brought on by idolatry. We read of laws of inheritance that allow for the daughters of a man named Zelophechad, who died without male heirs, to inherit his estate. We examine the beginning of the transfer of power from Moses to Joshua. We also read of another census. It is a portion that challenges us to mine meaning from a variety of sources.
In the very beginning of the portion, we read that Pinchas turned back the wrath of God (God was exacting revenge on people who fell into idolatry) because of his “passion”. Pinchas is rewarded with “b’riti shalom” (Numbers 25:12) One translation has this a “pact of my friendship” (Plaut. 1194) and others use a more literal “covenant of peace”. This reward is for, as one comment notes, “in return for meritorious deeds” (Plaut 1194).
I think that this little insight speaks to us and our generation. So many Boomers are arriving at a place in our lives where we wish to “give back” to society in some small way. It is a way of bringing meaning to life. In a real sense we seek to establish what the portion is speaking to: the creation for our own self of a “covenant” that establishes, by our deeds, a sense of peace. And, as many of you know, that word in Hebrew carries with the sense of “wholeness” or completeness.
One of the messages, then, of Pinchas, for us and our generation may be the reality that by our deeds we will enable this personal covenant of peace to be created. The covenant, as we know, is a pact between two parties, a spiritual contract between us and that which is beyond us. The tradition is the covenant between Israel and God, which is easily understood to represent the covenant that we establish with our soul and the mystery that is the sacred. We “earn” this covenant of peace not through prayer, rather it is afforded to us by what we choose to do with our life. And, no matter what our age, it is never too early or too late to seek that relationship that leads to that sense of wholeness, completeness and peace.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.