Published Date: June 29, 2018
In this Shabbat’s weekly Torah portion Pinchas Numbers 25:10 – 30:1, Aaron’s grandson Pinchas is rewarded for his act of zealotry in killing the Simeonite prince Zimri and the Midianite princess who was his paramour: God grants him a covenant of peace and the priesthood.
A census of the people counts 601,730 men between the ages of twenty and sixty. Moses is instructed on how the Land is to be divided by lottery among the tribes and families of Israel. The five daughters of Tzelafchad petition Moses that they be granted the portion of the land belonging to their father, who died without sons; God accepts their claim and incorporates it into the Torah’s laws of inheritance.
In this week’s Haftara Prophets reading I Kings 18:46 – 19:21, the prophet Elijah is the main protagonist. According to tradition, Elijah shared the same soul as Pinchas, the hero of this week’s Torah portion. They also both zealously fought on God’s behalf, while disregarding the dangers involved.
Following the showdown with the Baal prophets at Mount Carmel, which led to the execution of the Baal priests, the evil Queen Jezebel issued a death sentence for Elijah. Elijah fled to the Judean desert and asked God to take his life. While he slept, an angel awoke him and provided him with food and drink. Reenergized, Elijah went for forty days until he arrived at Mount Horeb (Sinai), and he slept in a cave on the mountain. And the word of God came to him and asked him for the purpose of his visit. “And [Elijah] said: ‘I have been zealous for God, the Lord of Hosts, for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant. They have torn down Your altars and they have killed Your prophets by the sword, and I have remained alone, and they seek my life to take it.”