TEEmail_July 2013_Leventhal

This Week In Torah

Parsha Pinchas: From Spears and Sex to Numbers, Reward and Punishment…Something for All of Us and an Opportunity to Celebrate with Cantor Rick Lawrence

This week’s parsha covers a lot of ground and provides intricate detail, beginning with

G-d rewarding Pinchas for the zealousness and bravery he exhibited at the end of last week’s parsha.  A plague was killing many Jews because they were acting immorally.  Pinchas ends the plague by summarily throwing a spear through a Jewish leader and the Midianite woman he is having sex with, killing them both.  For gallantly taking justice into his own hands and taking up G-d’s cause, G-d rewards Pinchas with a covenant of peace and eternal priesthood to him and his descendants.  While the details of being caught in an act of unfaithfulness should make everyone think twice, the stark contrast between Pinchas’s zealotry and the peaceful reward he received has been the subject of much commentary that I leave to others.  

The majority of the rest of the parsha continues with Moses and Eleazar following G-d’s instruction to take a census by clan, along paternal lines, counting every man over the age of 20, similar to the census Moses had conducted when the Israelites left Egypt.  Each tribe’s lineage, generation upon generation, is detailed by name; the census is to be used to allocate the land of Israel, using a lottery.  Zelophehad, one of Joseph’s great, great, great grandsons, died leaving behind only daughters.  The daughters approach Moses and ask that they receive their father’s portion of land and Moses relays their request to G-d, who consents.  On first glance, feminists can rejoice in women being given inheritance rights, unheard of until then.  Yet to keep the land, the daughters had to marry within their clan, while men had no such restrictions. Perhaps just the fact that the daughters are listed by name shows the importance of that step of appealing for equal treatment.

Then comes a very short interlude that caught my attention.  Knowing that the end of his life is near, parsha Pinchas continues with Moses looking to the future and asking

G-d to appoint a successor who will lead the Israelites into the new land. (Much earlier in the Torah, Moses questioned G-d while the Israelites were in the desert.  His punishment for not having faith was being denied entrance into the promised land.)  In contrast to the zealous leadership Pinchas showed earlier, G-d picks Joshua, “a man of spirit”, and has Eleazar the priest anoint him before the entire Israelite community.  From this there is much we can learn.

The true leadership that Moses exemplifies – looking to the future, planning for transition, moving slowly and sowing seeds that he knows he will not reap – sets an example that is relevant today for both synagogue and political leadership.  Moses provides a farsighted, selfless gesture. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks comments that, “if you do not challenge people, you are not a leader.  But if you challenge them too far, too fast, disaster happens.  When times are normal, change can come slowly.  but there are situations in which leadership involves getting people to change, and that is something they resist, especially when they experience change as a form of loss.  Great leaders see the need for change, but not everyone else does.” 

The Securing our Home Campaign asks for personal leadership from each of us – asking every family to make a commitment to ensure Temple Emanu El’s ability to make mortgage payments and thereby ensure a spiritual home for our children and their children.  The initial results and generosity of members has made a tremendous difference in enabling a very talented group of Temple members versed in finances to negotiate a very favorable mortgage, lowering both the amount owed and the interest rate.  While the payments have been reduced from over $30,000 per month to $20,000 per month, we now need to raise the funds to continue the monthly payments.  As a thank you to those who have already made a pledge, we invite you to a concert and dessert reception with Cantor Rick Lawrence on Sunday, July 20.  There’s still time to follow Moses’ lead and help plan for the next generation.  To discuss a pledge, contact Laura Leventhal, VP of Development, at 216-219-3398 or Renee Higer at 216-454-1209.

If you have already received an invitation,thank you for RSVP’ing your attendance plans.

Shabbat Shalom!

Laura Leventhal