Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Pinchas - 5773

My friends,

This Shabbat we read the portion of Pinchas. We read about him in the last few verses of last week's Parasha:

The daughters of the Midianites and the Moabites, on the advise of Balam to the King of Moab, came into the camp of the Israelites to seduce the men. This led to immoral sex acts and idol worshipping. This caused a plague among the Israelites resulting in the death of 24,000 men. One of the Israelites, a respected leader of the tribe of Shimon, brought a Midianite woman and was having sex with her in front of the entire congregation. The people stood around shocked at what they were seeing and cried by their tents. Pinchas, the son of Elazar, the son of Aaron, took a javelin and killed the man and the woman with one strike. This week's Parasha begins by G-d sanctioning Pinchas' act, and promising Pinchas the reward of the covenant of peace.

The discussions in the Talmud center on whether Pinchas did the right thing, considering that he killed a man without a trial. The conclusions are that by killing this man he stopped the plague and thus saved many lives. It's like if you see a suicide bomber running into a crowd, you would be a hero if you can stop him from pulling the cord, even if you have to kill him, because you are saving so many innocent lives. Being a zealot or a fanatic is not encouraged in the Talmud. Using violence is looked down upon, even in the service of G-d.

We live at a time where we see so much violence caused by religious fanaticism. That is not the Jewish way.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram