Weekly Torah Reading – Parashat Pinchas

Parashat Pinchas / פרשת פינחס (Numbers 25:10 – 30:1; 1 Kings 18:46 – 19:21)

Mosheh and Elazar, at YHWH’s command, took a census of all able-bodied men above the age of twenty – the total being 601,730. The Promised Land was to be divided by lot among the family-divisions of the tribes, proportionately according to their number. The tribe of Levi, although it was to have no inheritance, was also counted. And among all the Israelites numbered, only Calen ben Yephuneh and Yehoshua ben Nun remained from from the first census taken in the wilderness of Sinai by Mosheh and Aharon.

The five daughters of Zelaphchad, of the tribe of Manasseh, came to Mosheh and stated that they had no brothers, and they wanted to know if they would be given a portion in the land of Yisrael. YHWH then revealed the law of inheritance. Then YHWH repeated to Mosheh His decision that Mosheh could not enter the Promised Land – and at Mosheh’s unselfish request that a worthy leader be appointed to carry on after his death, Yehoshua was designated.

The Torah reading concludes with a description of the various offerings – for ever day, for Shabbat, for New Moons, for Pesach, Shavuoth, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succoth, Sh’Mini Atzeret – in addition to special offerings for a vow, as well as free-will offerings, for a burnt-offering; meal-offering, drink offering, and peace-offering.

“The sons of Korach did not die.” That simple sentence, included in the census of the tribe of Reuben, holds a vital significance for us. In The Ten Commandments we are told that YHWH “visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children,” and is reiterated in other passages of our Torah. How can this be reconciled with the statement “Fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor shall children be put to death for the fathers: a man shall be put to death for his own sin”? Our Holy Tradition tells us that if the children persevere in the sin of their parents, then they suffer. Only if the children continue the evil practices of their parents in transgressing the laws of Torah are they subject to punishment; if they see the error of their ways, they are pardoned.

The sons of Korach, as we are informed traditionally, did not following their father’s footsteps. They made repentance, and in fact they praised Yahweh for the justice He meted out to the evil-doers.

Our Holy Tehillim (Psalms) contain songs composed by the sons of Korach – one of which, in some communities, is recited seven times on Rosh Hashanah, prior to the blowing of the shofar which is supposed to arouse Yisrael to the realization of our shortcomings – to caution us to remember our duties to Elohim and our fellow-men – and to repent sincerely and wholeheartedly.

“The sons of Korach did not die.” And the sons of Yisrael will not die – our children will live to carry on after us – if we show them, through instruction and through exemplary action on our own part, how Torah Covenant Judaism is to be observed. We cannot emphasize too strongly the part we must play in giving our children the desire and the urge to be good Israelites. Our children naturally look to us for guidance and inspiration. Can we afford to disillusion them – can we attempt to raise them to be real Israelites if we ourselves are not worthy of being termed real Israelites? Can we hold our youth with us – can we honestly expect them to remain in our houses of worship and learning, and live the kind of life our Torah provides for us – unless we actually adhere to these teachings ourselves?

Our children are the true builders of our faith – they build the future not only of the family, but also of K’lal Yisrael (all of Israel).

(Adapted by Rabbi Saul Katz from You That Thirst, Torah Commentaries 1940)

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