Thursday, Tammuz 22, 5776 / July 28, 2016 - Hakhel year
From the Egyptian Exodus until the end of the forty years which the Jewish people spent in the Sinai desert, we find the amount of the Jewish people recorded in the Torah four times.
The first time was when they left Egypt. The Torah tells us, “And the children of Israel journeyed from Ramesses to Sukot, about six hundred thousand men on foot, except for children.”
The second time we find the number of Jews was about a half a year later, after they sinned with the Golden Calf. G-d commands Moshe to take a count of the Jewish people. In that count there were 603,550 men over the age of twenty, besides women and children.
The next count was over a half year later, just one year after the Exodus. In this count there were exactly the same amount as in the last count; 603,550.
The fourth count was in this week’s Parsha, Pinchas. This count took place 38 years after the previous count. At this time they were getting ready to go into the Promised Land of Israel and G-d told Moshe to count the people.
The counting of this Parsha was a new generation. These were the children of the people who were counted previously. Not one who was in the previous counts was alive now. They all died in the desert during the forty years, because of their refusal to go into Israel 38 years earlier.
Q.What was the purpose of these countings?
A.The first count at the time of the Exodus was so that we know how many people came out of Egypt. This was to substantiate G-d’s promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that their children will multiply and be a great nation. Thus, from seventy people who came to Egypt with Jacob, two hundred years earlier, emerged so many descendents.
The second count was after their sin of the Golden Calf. G-d sent a plague which killed many of the people. Thus, that counting was to know how many were still around.
The third counting, which took place only a half year after the second one, was to show G-d’s love for the Jewish people, that even after their sin with the Golden Calf He cherished them and that each one of them was very important.
The fourth counting, in this week’s Parsha, Pinchas, was for two reasons. First, there was a plague in which many Jews died as a result of their immoral behavior and G-d wanted Moshe to know how many were spared. Also, because Moshe was about to die he had the responsibility to give over his flock (the children of Israel) to the next leader, Joshua. G-d gave them to Moshe with a count, and Moshe also handed them over to Joshua with a count. It was a message to both great leaders that true leadership is when every individual counts.
HAVE A VERY GOOD, HAPPY, HEALTHY AND SUCCESSFUL DAY
Tuesday, Tammuz 20, 5776 / July 26, 2016 - Hakhel year
This week’s Parsha (in the Diaspora) is Pinchas. It is one of only a few Parshiot in the Torah which are named after a person. Pinchas was the grandson of Aaron the High Priest.
The Parsha begins, G-d spoke to Moshe saying, “Pinchas the son of Elazar the son of Aaron the priest, has turned My anger away from the children of Israel by zealously avenging My vengeance and as a result I did not destroy the children of Israel because of MY anger. Therefore say to him, I am hereby giving him My covenant of peace. This covenant will be an eternal covenant of the priesthood for him and for his descendants after him.”
At the end of last week’s Parsha, Balak, the Torah tells how the people of Israel became involved with the Midyonite women and committed immoral acts, which resulted in G-d sending a plague upon the people. One of the heads of the tribe of Shimon brought a Midyonite woman before Moshe and the congregation and performed an immoral act with her. Moshe was standing and crying not knowing what to do. Pinchas, rose and killed them both.
With his action Pinchas stopped a plague which killed 24,000 people. He made peace between G-d and the Jewish people. As a reward and show of approval, G-d gave the covenant of peace and priesthood to him and to his descendants.
Q.What connection is there between the priesthood (kohen) and peace?
A.The world is made up of two parts; physical and spiritual. There is heaven above (spiritual) and the earth below (physical).
In the Aleinu prayer, which we recite three times daily, we say, “Know this day and take unto your heart that G-d is G-d, in the heavens above and upon the earth below there is nothing else.”
Heavens represents spiritual worlds and earth identifies physical matter. The role of the kohen (priest) was to serve in the Temple, which was the holiest place on earth. His role was to elevate the physical matter which was brought to the Temple, through sacrificing it on the holy altar. Thus, the kohen’s role is to make peace between physical and spiritual, by connecting the physical and the spiritual.
Q.The priesthood (kohen) is passed down through paternal lineage. G-d appointed Aaron and his sons as kohanim, 38 years earlier, when the Mishkan was erected. Pinchas, being a descendant of Aaron, should have already been a kohen. Why did he become a kohen only now?
A.When Aaron and his children were anointed to be kohanim it was for them and their children who will be born after that time. Pinchas was already born then. Thus, he wasn’t included. He gained it on his own as a reward for his act of saving the Jewish people from the deadly plague.
HAVE A VERY GOOD, HAPPY, HEALTHY AND SUCCESSFUL DAY