Excerpt Browser

This page displays the full text of excerpts.  When viewing a single excerpt, its “Share,” “Switch Article,” and “Comment” functions are accessible.

NUMBERS — 24:16 spirits

NUM300 The Midrash... asks why God initiated the human species by creating only one man. One reason, the Mishnah suggests, is to impress upon us the greatness of the Holy One, Blessed be He, for when human beings mint coins, they all come out the same, but God made one mold (Adam) and no one of us is exactly like another. This physical pluralism is matched by an intellectual pluralism for which, the Rabbis say, God is to be blessed: “When one sees a crowd of people, he is to say, ‘Blessed is the Master of mysteries,’ for just as their faces are not alike, so are their thoughts not alike.” The Midrash supports this further when it says that when Moses was about to die, he said to the Lord: “Master of the universe, You know the opinions of everyone, and that there are no two among Your children who think alike. I beg of You that after I die, when You appoint a leader for them, appoint one who will bear with [accept, sovel] each one of them as he thinks [on his own terms, lefi da’ato].” We know that Moses said this, the Rabbi said, because Moses describes God as “God of the ruhot (“spirits” [in the plural])” of all flesh.” (Numbers 24:16) It is even the case that righteous non-Jews have a portion in the world to come, for it is only “the nations who ignored God” and who will be denied that -- again, a theological consideration. [M. Sanhedrin 4:5; B. Berachot 58a; Midrash Tanhuma on Numbers 24:16; T. Sanhedrin 13:2 based on Psalms 9:18] Thus God wants pluralism so that people will constantly be reminded of His grandeur. (Continued at [[LEV727]] Leviticus 19:18 yourself DORFFRAG 53).


NUMBERS — 25:11 jealous

NUM314 Only someone with Ahavas Yisroel can be a kanoi (zealous for God's honor). The Torah traces Pinchos' lineage to Aharon, his grandfather. This is to teach us an important lesson. Only someone who is a true lover of the Jewish people, such as Aharon who loved peace and pursued it, can react with zealousness. Because Zimri brazenly committed an immoral act with a Midianite in public, Pinchos killed him. Pinchos' reaction might appear cruel, and could conceivably have been motivated by a tendency toward violence or by personal hatred. If one is a true Ohaiv Yisroel, however, as Pinchos was, we can be sure that he is motivated solely by his great love for the Almighty which transcends all other loves. (Rabbi Chayim Shmuelevitz). Rabbi Chayim of Brisk once said about zealousness: "Both the owner of a house and a cat want to destroy mice. The sole difference lies in their attitudes. The owner really wants to be rid of them. But the cat wants to have mice to attack. The same applies to protests against misdeeds. One must sincerely not want the misdeeds. One should not just use the misdeed as an opportunity to engage in protesting. (Bayos Hazman, p. 58)


NUMBERS — 25:12 covenant

NUM317 In verse after verse, God tells us that revenge is to be left only to God. Even though normally Jews are supposed to imitate the ways of God (Deuteronomy 28:9, Nachmanides commentary on Deuteronomy 11:1), the realm of revenge is God's alone. Thus, it states in Psalms that vengeance and revenge belong only to God (Psalms 94:1). ... There is one place in the Torah where God does command the Jews to take revenge, and perhaps this exception proves the rule. When that Midianites confronted the Jewish people in the desert, it is the only time in the Torah when the Jews were attacked spiritually and not physically. God's name was publicly shamed. Therefore, it is possible that this is why only here God asked the Jews to avenge these actions and take revenge upon the Midianites (Numbers 31:1-2). In a related incident, Pinchas took revenge against the Midianite woman and Jewish man who were publicly fornicating as a religious act before the Ba'al Pe'or idol. Pinchas' action caused the plague that killed "only" 24,000 Jews to cease. God immediately praises this act of revenge by Pinchas, and rewards him with the covenant of peace (Numbers 25:7-12). But why is Pinchas praised for taking revenge, if revenge is the exclusive domain of God? The Talmud explains that, indeed, Pinchas was viewed by the Rabbis as wrong and sinful for taking revenge and for doing this act without receiving legal Rabbinic permission (Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 48b). It is for this reason that God had to "step in" and publicly declare Pinchas as a hero in this specific situation, before the Rabbis put him to death for his actions. But why did God praise Pinchas' action if revenge is not generally considered "Jewish" or in the domain of human beings? Once again, this exception proves the rule. Because in this instance God's name was being desecrated by the idol worship and people were dying as a result, Pinchas was correct to "take the law into his own hands" and avenge this sin against God. But in general, revenge is forbidden by Jews or by human beings.


NUMBERS — 25:12 friendship

NUM319 Hillel and Shammai received the tradition from them [Sh'mayah and Avtalyon]. Hillel said: Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and drawing them near to the Torah. Pirkei Avot, Perek I, mishnah 12. We translate the Mishnah's words rodef shalom as "pursuing peace." But the verb rodef is often understood to denote pursuing with intent to destroy; in other words, persecution. In this vein, then, the passage would mean, "Love peace and persecute peace." Yet this is not at all paradoxical. Often times those who love peace may, for the sake of the Torah, have to be the ones who temporarily disrupt the peace. When one of the leaders of Israel defied Moses and publicly desecrated the name of God by committing gross immorality, Pinchas, a grandson of Aaron, was jealous for the Lord and destroyed the evildoers. He certainly did not uphold peace in its conventional sense. He committed violence and bloodshed. Pinchas did not hesitate to disrupt the "peace" of compromise and appeasement. He refused to be tolerant of evil. Yet the Almighty's award to Pinchas was "Behold, I give him My covenant of peace" [this verse]. Without any hesitation Pinchas destroyed an unreal superficial peace to achieve a genuine peace: a harmonious relationship between God and Israel. This was "a war to end war." We find such occasions in life and in history. We must pray to the Almighty to give us the wisdom to recognize and judge these occasions correctly!


NUMBERS — 25:13 impassioned

NUM322 The word zealous is defined in the dictionary as "filled with or inspired by intense enthusiasm or zeal; ardent; fervent." But the term zealot is also somewhat negatively defined as "fanatical or extreme adherence to a cause, especially a religious one." In The Biblical Hebrew, the same word is used for both jealousy and zealotry (Kana). In fact, the Greek origin for both words jealous and zealous is "Zelotes," which connotes "emulation, admirer, or follower." Are these two concepts connected? And if so, how? One commentary explains that zealousness is another form of positive jealousy -- jealousy for God, in which the zealot will defend God's name and honor whenever it is threatened (Pele Yo'etz on "Jealousy"). Pinchas is called a zealot by God (Numbers 11-13), as he is praised by the Almighty for killing two people who publicly worship idols, thereby desecrating God's name. Their actions brought about a plague upon the followers of the idol worship, while Pinchas' deed stopped the plague after 24,000 people were killed, and he is rewarded by God. Elijah is also called a zealot when he confronted the idol worshipers in his time (I Kings 19:10-14). Moses, too, was called a zealot by the sages, when he gathered the Levites to smite the three thousand idol worshipers of the Golden Calf (Midrash, Pesikta Rabbati 4:3). Like the jealousy describing God, it seems that zealotry on behalf of [God] in the Bible relates exclusively to idol worship. However, we also see that the commentators did not wholeheartedly support the notion of zealotry. Elijah seems to be castigated by God for being "too" jealous. In addition to the perpetual priesthood for all his descendants, Pinchas is given the gift of "Brit Shalom-Covenant of Peace." One modern commentary explains what this reward actually was and suggests that the quality of zealousness for God by Pinchas was appropriate in that particular instance, but only as a one-time act (Ha'aek Davar on Numbers 25:12). God was afraid that Pinchas might become emboldened by this action and use zealotry again in subsequent activities. God, therefore, changed the personality of Pinchas to make him a peaceful man (Covenant of Peace), never to use the trait of zealousness again. Thus, while zealousness and zealotry maybe appropriate in certain situations, it is not positive if it is an ongoing character trait. Later on in the Torah, when God commands the Jewish people to utterly destroy a city whose Jewish population was worshiping idols (Deuteronomy 13:13-17) -- an act of zealotry on behalf of God--the "reward" these destroyers received was the gift of mercy and peace from God, to ensure that this would be a one-time action only (Deuteronomy 13:18).


Back To Top