Friday, July 14, 2006

blog roundup for parshat Pinchas

AlanLaz analyses a midrash which lists several who merited the reward of the entire generation, and lists the daughters of Tzelofchad among them. He suggests that this is because while the entire generation desired to return to Egypt at signs of trouble, Tzelofchad's daughters wished to inherit the land despite the difficulties it would entail. He then relates it to the current difficult situation in Israel.

As always, I like when people actually cite the midrash inside, so while he does not, I will provide it here. It is from Sifrei Zuta:

ותקרבנה בנות צלפחד וכו' הוא כל אדם כשר שעומד בתוך דור רשע זוכה ליטול שכר כולו. נח עמד בדור המבול זכה ליטול שכר כולו, אברהם עמד בדור הפלגה זכה ליטול שכר כולו, לוט עמד בדור סדום זכה ליטול שכר כולו, אל (=בנות צלפחד) עמדו בדור המדבר זכו ליטול שכר כולו.

Choshvei Shemo also relates parshat Pinchas to the current situation in Israel. He suggests that the way to succeed is to oppose immorality, and thus brings in the opposition to the WorldPride event in Jerusalem (though not in any violent way).

Similarly, Rabbi Pinchos Lipshutz draws inspiration from Pinchas in light of current events in Israel to encourage fidelity to Torah and halacha.

Purim Hero discusses how some pervert the lesson of parshat Pinchas to encourage violence, in light of the news story about the flyer encouraging use of firebombs against participants in the WorldPride event in Jerusalem. (Though I am not convinced that it was not a prankster or an agent provocateur who created these fliers -- there is precedent for both.) (Also relevant to this issue is my post from last year - Did Pinchas Act on His Own Initiative?)

Rafi G. at Torah Thoughts expands on a Rashi about Moshe appointing a successor, about great leaders taking care of the community up to the point of their own deaths, to ensure a smooth transition. In another post, he suggests that the lineage of Pinchas, traced to Aharon, is not to stop those of his generation from criticizing him, but rather is directed towards us -- so that we should know that "the intentions of Pinchas were honest and done with integrity."

Once again, I wish people would also cite the source before discussing it. It may well be a good explanation. However, in terms of intentions and integrity, I am not so sure. A citation from Sanhedrin 82. Ignoring the portion about the ministering angels:
The tribes now began abusing him: 'See ye this son of Puti [= Putiel] whose maternal grandfather fattened [pittem] cattle for idols, and who has now slain the prince of a tribe of Israel!' Therefore Scripture detailed his ancestry: Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the Priest.
It seems that the complaint is about ancestry. "Who is this schnook? Look at who he comes from. A nobody! And he has slain a prince of Israel." Thus, we are told the Pinchas was no schnook, but had princely yichus of his own.

By the way, I would assume that a large part of the midrashic spark of this is that this lineage of Pinchas begins God's command to Moshe, in pasuk 11, and juxtaposed, immediately following, is:
יד וְשֵׁם אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל הַמֻּכֶּה, אֲשֶׁר הֻכָּה אֶת-הַמִּדְיָנִית--זִמְרִי, בֶּן-סָלוּא: נְשִׂיא בֵית-אָב, לַשִּׁמְעֹנִי. 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.
טו וְשֵׁם הָאִשָּׁה הַמֻּכָּה הַמִּדְיָנִית, כָּזְבִּי בַת-צוּר: רֹאשׁ אֻמּוֹת בֵּית-אָב בְּמִדְיָן, הוּא. {פ} 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.

And so the midrash read this as a response.

Relevant to a post of mine about the curiosity of only Menashe being listed as part of shevet Yosef in the list of the spies, ADDeRabbi discusses how the Torah traces the ancestry of the daughters of Tzelofchad back to Yosef, and how "the daughters of Tzelophchad ... re-asserted the Josephite relationship with the land."

Sedra Shorts has an analysis piece, showing how Yehoshua took on Moshe's role in several ways.

Reb Barry also has a takeoff on the Zimri-Pinchas thing and the leaflets offering a reward for killing a gay participant in the WorldPride event. I disagree with him in terms of analysis of the meaning of the Zimri event. Further, he repeats the famous claim:
Yes, the Torah forbids male homosexuality. Calls it a "toevah," an abomination. But before you jump to conclusions and think it might in some way be OK to kill Jews who do something abominable to God, remember that eating non-kosher food is also called a "toevah." Why don't these modern day Pinchas's run out to the nearest non-kosher restaurant and start killing people eating BLTs?
Actually, it uses the term sheketz. See Vayikra 11 and Vayikra 20.

Update: Actually, I stand corrected - there is one instance in which toeva substitutes as a synonym for sheketz. See the comments. There still are some obvious distinctions between the two - the most obvious being the difference between noun and verb, but also between the punishment explicitly related to each, among others)


Rafi G. said...

when you write "Once again, I wish people would also cite the source before discussing it." are you referring to me?

I mention Rashi and I mention the chapter/verse so people can look it up if they want they exact text. Sometimes I will translate the text under discussion. typing in Hebrew is very slow for me, so I am reluctant to actually quote the actual text. is there a good source I can easily copy/past from in the future?

AlanLaz said...

Best place to C and P from is from Bar Ilan. Go to and you can get an online version very affordably.

joshwaxman said...

not really directed at you - more directed at others, who cite things which often don't say what they think it means - but since I had opportunity to cite the actual text, I used at as a change to issue my general encouragement.
not for this particular midrash, but there are some nice sources for cutting and pasting out there - mechon-mamre, snunit, etc. I don't know of an online source with the midrash in question (except of course for that website with the excerpt I found)
Kol Tuv.

Thanks, I'll check it out as well. (my bar ilan has a dongle which doesn't work with my present computer, and anyway it is good to have remote access to it.)

Anonymous said...

Eating non-Kosher food IS called a toevah: see Devarim 14:3--"lo tochal kol toevah," do not eat any abomination, and the Torah then proceeds to describe the difference between kosher and non-kosher animals.

Reb Barry

joshwaxman said...

thanks. I stand corrected.
the implication of the two are still not the same, though, but rather one describes an action, while this describes a noun - the equivalent of the more common (that is, except for this one instance) sheketz.

and there are other obvious distinctions between the acts described and this one instance of the noun toeva which people consume - in the latter instances, death penalty is explicity written, while here there is ritual impurity written regarding them, such that the question "Why don't these modern day Pinchas's run out to the nearest non-kosher restaurant and start killing people eating BLTs" is just silly.


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