Pinchas Batmitzvah

D'var Torah

by Leonie

Shabbat Shalom

 

In this week`s Sidra of Pinchas we learn that the Land of Israel was to be divided among the 12 Tribes of Israel and their families, through the male line. In a family where there are only daughters, the land passes on to the daughters.

 

This rule of inheritance appears to be straight forward, yet if we look into the sidra we find that the daughters of a man called Tzelofchad, had to approach Moses and ask for their rights to the family land. This is how the Torah phrases their request: ' Our father has died in the desert... Why should the name of our father be omitted from among his family because he had no sons? Give us a possession among our father`s brothers.'

 

Why was it necessary for the daughters to ask in order for a law to be stated? What does the Torah teach us by giving them the "credit" for this law?

 

Why does the Torah trace their genealogy firstly back to Menasseh and then to Joseph, Menasseh's father?

 

One final question in the verse prior to their claim, Moses concludes a census of the children of Israel, and the Torah states that not a single man had remained from the previous census, with the exceptions of Joshua and Caleb. All the rest of the people had perished as a result of the punishment following the sin of the spies. Joshua and Caleb were the only two spies who were positive about their tour to the land of Israel.

 

Why does the Torah emphasise the word "man"? Rashi, a medieval commentator quoting Midrash, explains that the word "man" is emphasised because the women had not rejected the land and were therefore not punished. The men said " Let us appoint a new leader and return to Egypt" where as the women had said " Give us a possession "!

This may explain why the Torah recounted the story of the daughters of Tzelofchad at this point ; to compare the women's virtues with the men's failings.

 

The reason why the Torah extends their genealogy back to Joseph, is because he also had a great love for the Land of Israel. While Joseph was still the Viceroy of Egypt, and unable to leave the country, he asked that his remains should be taken out of Egypt at the time of the Exodus, and bury them in Israel. It seems that the daughters of Tzelofchad had too a love for the Land of Israel. Pinchas, on whose name the Sidra is called, was a grandson of Aaron, The High Priest, whose character was to promote peace and harmony.

 

The Torah emphasises that Aaron had a great love to his fellow men going out of his way to bring "Shalom Bayit", a peaceful home and respectful relationship between people. Pinchas in one action turned his back on the teachings and character of his family. What gave him the authority to reject his family values and kill a Prince of Israel?

 

Pinchas was rewarded with the status of priesthood, a position that would not allow him to become defiled by a dead person and certainly not murder them. What possible connection could there be with the reward he received and the action he took with Zimri? He committed murder and brought upon himself the anger of the people, making himself spiritually impure.

 

The Chafetz Chayim, last century commentator explains that leaders must never be afraid to get their hands dirty through standing for the truth.

 

At times we may be in a situation that will necessitate actions that may be entirely against our nature.

 

We have a responsibility to preserve the honour of G-d. Pinchas was witnessing a desecration of our moral code of behaviour. He felt the desire to remove the insulting characters by actions that were totally in contradiction to his up bringing and family values. His only motive was to show true leadership at a time when everyone just stood and watched. His reward was that his true nature of Priesthood, where he would serve the community in a loving way would now be a position granted to him by G-d. This was a testimony of true leadership in a time of trial.

 

As I have just read, Pinchas was rewarded with Priesthood for his zealous act of killing two people who had sinned publically. By his quick reaction it is seen that Pinchas is acting on G-d’s behalf. G-d rewarded Pinchas with a Covenant of Peace, Brit Shalom. Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, Chief Rabbi of Moravia and other German communities, explains that a Covenant of Peace would be given to the one who understood how to actually bring about and maintain peace. In Rabbi Hirsch’s opinion, the peace we are talking about is both between man and man, Ben Adam Lachavero, and between men and G-d, Ben Adam Lamacom.

 

From this we infer, that in fact true peace between men depends on Peace with G-d. As a consequence of this idea, an individual who on the face of it would be acting against the peace could actually be working to bring it about. We learn from Pinchas that standing up for true principals is not easy for any leader. It is always easier to remain silent. But peace is not just between people, it is also dependent on standards and values.

 

We have twinned my batmitzvah with a Jewish girl living in Belarus, in the community of Bobruisk.

Her name is Dana. In Belarus it is very difficult for jewish children to express their religion and have their bar/batmitzvah celebrations. Our sponsorship will ensure that Dana will get the opportunity to have a Batmitzvah celebration and mark this important stage in her life in some way.

 

These programs make the Jewish community feel a real part of worldwide Jewry, which they have been denied for so long.

 

It is thought that Jews lived in parts of Belarus as early as the 8th century. The largest wave of Jewish immigration to the area took place during the 12th century.

 

By 1495, Jews were expelled and allowed to return in 1503.

Today Bobruisk is a city with around 1350 Jewish people. There is a Chabad Centre which runs a Jewish day school. Bobruisk's historic synagogue, built in the early 19th century, was restored 3 years ago.

 

I've been associated with Woodside Park Synagogue all my life going through Yavneh nursery, children services, Brownies and Cheder.

 

I have a lot of interests and among them are playing golf, photography, cooking, looking after my pet rabbit and going to the gym. I also enjoy art and drawing, as this is a good way to express myself.

 

Even though I am only child, I have a large family of uncles, aunts and cousins living around Britain in places such as Leeds, Manchester and London, and also The United States. My family is important to me and I always look forward to family events where we can all get together.

 

I would like to thank my parents for everything they've done for me and all the opportunities they've given me over the years.

 

I would also like to thank Mrs Cohen for all her help and support in preparing my Devar torah, Miss Sassi for teaching me my jewish studies at chedar this year, and to all of my family and friends who have made a special effort to come and celebrate this special day with me.

 

Thank you for listening to my Devar Torah

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