What Does God Want From Me?: a Parshat Pinchas Torah Study by OneShul.org
Presented by Patrick Aleph
Premise: the Bible often has conflicting moral messages. Our goal as Jews is to figure out what the message is, so that we can live the moral message correctly.
PaRDeS Method: P’shat (literal), Remez (metaphorical), Drush (contextual), Sod (secret/esoteric)
Numbers 25:10 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 11 ’Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned My wrath away from the children of Israel, in that he was very jealous for My sake among them, so that I consumed not the children of Israel in My jealousy. 12 Wherefore say: Behold, I give unto him My covenant of peace; 13 and it shall be unto him, and to his seed after him, the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was jealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.’ 14 Now the name of the man of Israel that was slain, who was slain with the Midianitish woman, was Zimri, the son of Salu, a prince of a fathers’ house among the Simeonites. 15 And the name of the Midianitish woman that was slain was Cozbi, the daughter of Zur; he was head of the people of a fathers’ house in Midian.
Literal Message: it is correct to kill our enemies and even our own people in the event of potential idolatry, military campaigning
Metaphorical Message: to serve God, we are required to go beyond our boundaries (in this case, fighting Midianites), and sometimes go against the community (Zimri, the prince)
Contextual Message: the collective Israel must defend itself against the temptation to stop serving God (later, we learn how to serve God through holidays and sacrifices, also latter mention of Korach)
Secret Message: the letter “yod” in Phinehas’s name is drawn smaller. This small “yod” shows that when we commit violence, even for the sake of good, something inside us diminishes (Etz Chaim, pg. 918)
Number 27:1 Then drew near the daughters of Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Tirzah. 2 And they stood before Moses, and before Eleazar the priest, and before the princes and all the congregation, at the door of the tent of meeting, saying: 3 ’Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not among the company of them that gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah, but he died in his own sin; and he had no sons. 4 Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he had no son? Give unto us a possession among the brethren of our father.’ 5 And Moses brought their cause before the LORD. 6 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 7 ’The daughters of Zelophehad speak right: thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father’s brethren; and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them. 8 And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying: If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter. 9 And if he have no daughter, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his brethren. 10 And if he have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his father’s brethren. 11 And if his father have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his kinsman that is next to him of his family, and he shall possess it.
Literal Message: Women can inherit property
Metaphorical Message: God is flexible to human needs. Law can change over time. God’s morality is rooted in justice.
Contextual Message: Rabbi Akiva explains that Zelophehad was the man who was executed for violating Shabbat (Num. 15:32). His daughters; however, never took part in the Midianite behavior and thus were righteous (Etz Chaim, pg. 926).
Secret Message: in the messianic era (olam ha’ba) there will be no distinctions in status between men and women ( Reb. Zalman – http://www.rzlp.org/wordpress/?p=406)
What does God want from us? God wants our commentary. Through the commentary and analysis, we will eventually arrive at the right answer, which may be different over time.