The portion for this week, Pinchas, tells a variety of different tales. Pinchas (in Numbers 25) turns back God’s wrath against the Israelites after another display of disloyalty by the masses. The portion also contains a famous story about the “daughters of Zelophedad” (Numbers 27) in which Moses argues for the granting of inheritance to daughters as their father had no male issue. And there is also a very powerful section at the end of Numbers 27 that speaks to the transfer of power from Moses to Joshua. As significant as these stories may be, I wanted to remind us of the famous scene that occurs in this week’s Haftorah section.
We are introduced in I Kings 19 to a powerful scene between the Prophet Elijah and God. Elijah is fleeing from the current queen, Jezebel. He runs, as so many biblical figures do, to the wilderness. He is distraught and prays that his life be taken. Eventually an angel from God comes and feeds him (of course) and Elijah walks for 40 days and nights into the wilderness to Mt Horeb. There, in a cave, he laments his position, rails aginst the Israelites who have foresaken God and fears for his life. He is then called to stand on the mountain where a mighty wind comes by, followed by an earthquake and fire. Elijah, does not find God in any of this. He, as we often do, search for God in the world outside of our self and soul. Finally, after the fire came a “kol dimamah dakah” which is often translated as a “still small voice”.
Elijah “hears” the voice of God in this still small voice, as if we are told that we can find this “voice” inside our own self. I believe that this is a powerful message for us. We have lived so much of our life focusing on affirmation from outside of self. We worry about what people think, feel and act as it relates to us. Yet, as we get a little older, we hope that we can come to listen more closely to that small voice within our soul. Instinct? Experience? The true self? Or, a voice of something sacred that tells us the truth about a situation a person, a relationship or our own self.
That “still small voice” has always been there. It just takes some time to understand that this voice is based on our soul and, if we are truthful, is usually right. Often we need to go into our own psychic wilderness to understand that this voice speaks to us every day. Perhaps it is one of those miracles of daily life that we so often ignore but feel blessed when we acknowledge its reality. Whose to say?
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.