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56http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2011/07/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog---07_15_2011
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 07_15_2011
07/12/2011 09:30 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
July 15, 2011

 

Phineas or Pinchas is the name of this week’s Torah portion. You might recognize it as the Hebrew name of your father, grandfather or great-grandfather. I recall long ago men who went by the name, Pinky. I used to think that Pinky was an unusual name until I became familiar with his namesake in Torah.

                Pinchas is a Biblical personality who was known for his remarkable passion to serve God. In Numbers 25, we learn how Pinchas drove a spear through the bellies of an Israelite man and a Midianite woman who violated God’s covenant. For his zealotry, Pinchas was granted God’s “pact of friendship” or “Brit Shalom”. In addition, Pinchas and his descendants enjoyed a pact of priesthood for all time.

                In general, zealotry in Judaism is not prized. As biblical events often do, this one inspires us to value Pinchas’ role in securing the faithfulness of the Israelite people against false gods and idol worship. But, zealotry is reserved for biblical stories and extraordinary circumstances. How do we know? The word that describes Pinchas’ passion here is the same word used to describe God’s passion in Exodus 20. In the Ten Commandments, God is called “an impassioned God (a jealous God)”, “El kanah”. Here Pinchas “took impassioned action for God”, “Kinei l’Eiloha’v”. K-N-H is the Hebrew root that means impassioned. Pinchas acted on a level we can only find in the Bible. Furthermore, it is passion that should only be found in the Bible.

                Today, we observe zealotry in the world in the hands of fanatics. Such zealotry is singular in its purpose. It is frightfully dangerous. It preserves one people and annihilates another. Pinchas was motivated in a singular way to destroy forever the relationship between Israel and Baal-Peor, the foreign god. His reward was priesthood for all time. Does it sound familiar, like a reward that might motivate passionate people to act passionately (fanatically)? Every religion has them: Christian crusaders, Islamic jihaadists, etc. In our day, we aim not to live with a singular purpose that places value on some but not on others. These are not biblical times.

                Yet, Pinchas is not irrelevant. He still teaches us a lesson about our efforts to preserve the Jewish people. Look around. In every community, by an extraordinary majority, only Jews support Jews. I am not discounting the role of CUFI, for those who know what it is, but by and large, the passion of our past still lives today in the ways we maintain our Jewish institutions and way of life. Who else but Jewish families support Seven Acres Home for the Jewish Aged? Who else but Jewish families make annual pledges to Houston Jewish Federation to sustain the well-being of Judaism here, nationally and overseas? Who else but Jewish families maintain our magnificent synagogues and preserve the legacy of a congregation like Beth Israel, organized in 1854? Who else but Jewish parents and those who are raising Jewish children insist on a quality Jewish education through real study and participation? Tell me all of this doesn’t take passion. It does take passion. We should all be moved by our duty to serve our Jewish community.

                Pinchas was biblically passionate. How else was he going to make a point in Torah? You and I can just be passionate. It would do us well. As Shabbat comes, consider the role that you can play and the contributions you can make. Together, let’s be sure that in our world of many peoples and ideas, there will be a place for Jews and Judaism, and a “Brit Shalom” for all time.

                From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

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