D’var Torah for Friday July 2, 2021

This week we will be reading from parashat Pinchas. It is actually a continuation of the very last section of the previous Torah portion where an Israelite notable defiantly flaunted a Midianite woman in front of Moses and the whole community. Pinchas, the grandson of Aaron, took a spear in his hand and stabbed both the notable and the Midianite woman, killing them both. It was an act of religious zealotry. 

In this week’s parasha, the story picks up with Pinchas being rewarded with a Brit Shalom, a covenant of peace. The Israelite (Zimri) and Midianite woman (Cozbi) were also named, and Pinchas was rewarded, along with his descendants a pact of priesthood for all time. 

All that being said, this was a very disturbing incident in the Torah. It was the first time in the history of the Israelites that they had to deal themselves with such a religious and moral emergency. Up until this incident, God took care of all transgressions, and now it was in the hands of the Israelites. Perhaps it is an extreme example demonstrating how one needs to be careful in how one conducts themselves.

As Pinchas reminds us, in uncertain times, it can be difficult to determine how one should act. There is the impulse to act quickly and rashly, and sometimes that can work out. However, the rabbis later argue the reason why Moses was not allowed to enter into the Holy Land was because he did not respond, and instead left it up to Pinchas.

I mention this because it is only in hindsight do we really know whether or not we made the correct decision or acted in the proper manner. Tonight, we will be reopening for our first in-person, in the building gathering since March 2020. A lot has gone into the decisions and policies for reopening. Underlying all these decisions, like with Pinchas, is the drive to keep our community as safe as possible, while at the same time, enabling us to once again, be an in-person community. It has been no easy task. As we move forward, we will continue to wrestle and grapple with the best ways to continue to reopen, some of which I wrote about last week.

We continue to thank you for your patience and understanding as we strive to continue to move ever forward. And we thank you for understanding that not all of our policies and procedures may be in line with state and national regulations as we truly do want to go above and beyond in our ability to keep everyone as safe as possible.

We look forward to seeing you tonight either in person or virtually. If you are joining us in-person, please plan on wearing your masks and practicing physical distancing. We can’t wait to see you.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjamin A. Sharff