Extra reading Jeremiah 1.1-2.3
Pinchas performed a heroic deed of which we read last week: he killed two people who were about to commit a crime. The passion and zeal of Pinchas is one thing, but his deed of execution is by no means an example for our days. We have our national political laws by which we have to and want to abide. In the middle of a faith crisis through which 24 thousand people had died Pinchas killed an Israelite who had fallen in love with a Midianite woman. The Midianites were known for their idol worship of Baal-Peor and this was the reason the Israeli should not have connected himself with this woman. But he did. And while the two lovers stepped into their tent of love Pinchas raised his spear and pierced them both through their bellies as pieces of meat on a skewer. Result: the plague of death stopped immediately.
Fact is that a unique result of his act takes place in this week’s parasha. Pinchas got rewarded by becoming a priest. Hashem saw his highly spiritual behavior. New priesthood which started with judgment by capital punishment! It became an eternal covenant of peace, eternal priesthood. The same eternal covenant would be made with Israel as a people as we read in Isaiah 61:8. Pinchas was the grandson of Aharon and only Aharon himself and his sons had become priests. And only the newborn sons would be priests, not the grandsons who live at the time of the emergence of the new priesthood.
The priesthood of Pinchas shows that Hashem can appoint people to priesthood outside of the Kohanim. This is an important fact for understanding the priesthood of another person outside of the Kohanim: Yeshua, high priest in the order of Melchitzedek. And this gives also room for ordinary people like you and me to be called priests, at least in our homes.
After this the land is divided the conclusion of which we read in 26:52 ff. The division of land is the personified claiming of G-d’s promises which were given to Israel as a people. It is remarkable that only after this new priesthood the land gets divided. This looks like the reclaiming of Jerusalem in the time of Ezra and Nechemya (Nehemiah). First they rebuilt the Temple – parallel to Pinchas’ priesthood – and then the walls of the city are restored. It looks like this is a heavenly pattern: as top priority first we seek the Kingdom of Heaven and only then restoration will take place. This pattern can be followed also in the lives of people where restoration is needed.
Women were not included in the division of the land. The daughters of Tselofchad complained to Moshe that their father had died in the wilderness and that he had no sons. No land would be given to these women. Their name would not be kept as part of Israel’s list of names. Hashem gave a new law specifically for this situation, see 27:8-11. Inheritance of land and name is carried by men.
It is still so that someone is halachically Jewish because of the Jewish mother. And the name of the family and of the tribe is given by the father. But here we learn that Israel’s inheritance is too important to just let go, simply because of a lack of a man. Men and women are equally important and this is shown in special situations. So let us join the eternal priesthood because of our desire to live righteous lives like Pinchas. Let us first seek Malchut HaElohim, G-d’s Kingdom. The important other matters will consequently follow.
Lion Erwteman, Rosh Kehilla of Beth Yeshua