Aliya-by-Aliya Parashat Pinchas 5760

Numbers in [square brackets] are the mitzva-count of the Sefer HaChinuch.

KOHEN – First Aliya – 13 p’sukim (25:10-26:4)

When Pinchas killed Zimri and Kosbi, a tremendous controversy erupted among the people as to whether his actions were correct or murderous. This week’s sedra begins with G-d “testifying” to the correctness of what Pinchas did. First, because of what Pinchas did, the plague that had broken out, stopped. Second, the Torah repeatedly identifies Pinchas as the grandson of Aharon HaKohen.

Third, G-d places His stamp of approval upon Pinchas by giving him “the covenant of the eternal kehuna” and the “covenant of peace”.

[sdt] Most scribes write the VAV in the word SHALOM with a split. Peace that results from violence, even required violence, is defective.

The Midrash says that 80 kohanim in the first Beit HaMikdash and 300 in the second Beit HaMikdash descended from Pinchas. He is given the covenant of SHALOM. The broken VAV renders it YUD-like, producing the G’matriya of this special version of the word Shalom as 380.

Clarification… Aharon and his four sons were anointed as kohanim. All their descendants are kohanim from birth. Pinchas was not born to a kohen, since he was born before Elazar was anointed. He was originally not included in the Kehuna of his grandfather, father, and uncles. Pinchas became a kohen in the unique way – by G-d’s decree. In other words, there are three ways to be a kohen. Five people were anointed as kohanim by G-d’s command. One was given the kehuna by G-d. All other kohanim that ever existed or ever will exist are kohanim because they were born to a kohen.

(It is possible to be born of a kohen and not be a kohen – the son, for example, of a kohen and a divorcee is NOT a kohen, but it is impossible to be a kohen not having been born to one – except for Aharon, Nadav, Avihu, Elazar, Itamar, and Pinchas.)

Observation… The Torah names Zimri and Kosbi when it recounts the episode in the beginning of Parshat Pinchas. They are anonymous at the end of Balak when the episode actually occurs.

Next, G-d tells Moshe to go to war against Midyan in revenge for their seduction of Israel to the worship of Baal Peor. (The battle does not take place until next sedra, the rest of Pinchas is a digression of sorts.)

[sdt] Moav was the partner of Midyan and should have been included in this avenging war. Some explain that Moav was spared this battle in the merit of Ruth. (Note that G-d can “give credit” not only for past deeds but for that which is only in the future.) Some commentaries explain that there was a significant difference between Moav and Midyan. Moav was afraid of Israel. They feared that their land would be conquered by them. That is why they wanted to fight against us. Midyan agreed to help Moav because of their desire to destroy the Jewish People. They went as far as using their women to seduce the Israelites to immorality and pagan practices. G-d’s command of revenge is directed at the latter type of enemy.

LEVI – Second Aliya – 47 p’sukim (26:5-51)

This is the longest 2nd-Aliya in the Torah, tied with Ki Tisa. Only 2 other Aliyot are longer.

In preparation for conscripting an army to fight Midyan, a new census is taken. The Torah lists each of the tribes, their family sub-units, and the number of males of military age.

In addition to this information, it is interesting to note the “extra” material mentioned in this portion, as follows:

Under Reuven, the Torah tells us about Datan and Aviram who, with Korach, were swallowed up by the ground. The Torah then makes a point of telling us that Korach’s sons did not die. Korach was from Levi. The inclusion of the sons of Korach at this point is not of census value, but does teach us the power of T’shuva. Korach’s sons did not follow in their father’s ways. They were righteous.

Shimon: note the relatively small number. Members of the tribe of Shimon were the main victims of the plague that followed the Zimri (one of the leaders of Shimon) affair.

Yissachar: One of his sons is identified as Yishuv. Commentaries say that he is Yov, as recorded in Vayigash. Yov was an inappropriate name (it is an idolatrous name). The extra SHIN that was added to his name is symbolically taken from his father’s name – spelled with two S(H)INs but pronounced as if there is only one.

Notice that the sons of Yosef are listed as Menashe and Ephraim – in that order. Also note the great increase in the population of Menashe, and the decrease in the population of Ephraim. The increase in Menashe is considered to be related to the fact that their tribe was given land on both sides of the Jordan. They were not the ones who asked to settle on the east side of the Jordan – that was Reuven and Gad. Menashe was sent along, so to speak, to keep an eye on the other two tribes. It would be unfair to give them a smaller portion of Eretz Yisrael (west side of the Jordan). Their increase in population got them a “regular” share on the west side in addition to their territory on the east side of the river.

Menashe: here we are introduced to the five daughters of Zelafchad. We will hear more from them shortly.

Binyamin and Dan: Note that Binyamin’s ten sons produced a smaller tribe than the one son of Dan. This is considered as a lesson that we cannot second-guess G-d. He has an agenda, we do what we have to do, but He “calls the shots”.

Asher: Note the rare inclusion of a daughter – Serach bat Asher. Great longevity is attributed to her, and she is considered the bridge between Yaakov and his sons on the one hand, and the new nation of Israel which emerged from Egyptian slavery. Serach was alive throughout the entire Egyptian experience, and then some.

One more observation back at the beginning of the Aliya. Reuven is called B’CHOR YISRAEL. This is noteworthy in light of the fact that Reuven “lost” the status of first born to three younger brothers. The Kehuna went to Levi, the kingship was destined to go the Yehuda, and the double portion of the B’chor went to Yosef. Yet the Torah calls Reuven the B’chor of Yisrael.

SHLISHI – Third Aliya – 19 p’sukim (26:52-27:5)

It is to these people that the Land will be apportioned. The actual distribution of land will be done by (Divine) lottery and will involve this census and the one that followed the Exodus.

The Torah next details the family tree of Levi (whose Tribe does not receive land). Specific attention is paid to Amram’s family – namely, his wife (Levi’s daughter) Yocheved, Moshe, Aharon and his sons, and Miriam.

No one in this national census was in the previous census except for Kalev and Yehoshua.

The daughters of Zelofchad (identified here as 6th generation from Yosef, an unusually long ancestry to record) approach Moshe, Elazar HaKohen, the leaders of the Tribes, and the People, and petition for property in the Land of Israel for themselves because their father had no sons. They emphasize that their father was not part of Korach’s rebellion but died for his own sins (Zelofchad was probably the “wood-gatherer” who was executed for Shabbat desecration).

Moshe appeals to G-d for a decision in their case. (Commentaries say that the details of the laws of inheritance momentarily escapes Moshe’s memory, either as punishment for an inappropriate comment he had made, or to give honor to these “lovers of the Land” – Zelofchad’s daughters – by having the laws of inheritance presented “to them”, or both.)

R’VI’I – Fourth Aliya – 18 p’sukim (27:6-23)

G-d’s answer to the daughters of Zelofchad is in the affirmative – they will acquire both their father’s share and part of their grandfather’s share (specifically a double portion of Chefer’s allotment, Zelafchad was Chefer’s firstborn. Note that both Chefer and Zelafchad were among those who left Egypt).

Furthermore, the laws of inheritance [400] are hereby set down as follows:

A man’s son(s) inherit from him. If there are no sons, his daughters inherit. (When a man has both sons and daughters, his sons inherit and are responsible to provide for the daughters, even if it means begging door-to-door.) A man without children is inherited by his brothers, and if there are no brothers, by the closest relatives along paternal lines on the family tree.

[Rambam and the Chinuch lump all aspects of inheritance into this one positive mitzva; other mitzva counters separate some aspects such as B'chor]

G-d next tells Moshe to ascend Har HaAvarim and view the Land into which he (Moshe) will not go. Moshe is then to prepare for his death.

Having just been commanded to divide the Land according to the censuses and lottery, Moshe might have thought that the decree against his entry to the Land was being rescinded. Therefore, his being told to view the Land and prepare to die comes as a poignant reminder that the decree stands.

“And Moshe spoke to G-d saying.” This unique variation of the most common pasuk in the Torah, creates a dramatic and suspenseful mood as we wait to see what he is about to ask of G-d. Will he ask for his life? Will he ask to be permitted even a brief excursion into the beloved Land of Israel? Moshe Rabeinu asks that a suitable leader be appointed to take his place. The true leader of the People is concerned first and foremost with his charges. This is part of the great legacy of Moshe Rabeinu.

G-d’s response to Moshe’s request is immediate. Yehoshua is to be presented to the People as Moshe’s successor and Moshe is to transfer to him some of his “majesty”. Elazar has already taken over from Aharon, and it will be Yehoshua and Elazar who will bring the People into the Land.

CHAMISHI – Fifth Aliya – 15 p’sukim (28:1-15)

This entire Aliya constitutes the Torah reading of Rosh Chodesh on a weekday. The first part contains the mitzva of the Daily Sacrifices [401], one in the morning and one before evening. (All other korbanot – except Korban Pesach – were brought between the two “T’midim”.)

Next the Torah speaks of the “Musaf Offerings” for Shabbat – two lambs [402]. Correspondingly, we daven Musaf on Shabbat. The Musaf of Rosh Chodesh [403] consists of two bulls, one ram, and seven lambs. In addition to these “Olot”, a goat was to be offered as a “Sin Offering”. Korbanot were accompanied by wine for libation (in varying amounts for the different animals) and fine flour & oil mixtures, known as M’NACHOT.

SHISHI – Sixth Aliya – 27 p’sukim (28:16-29:11)

Next the Torah presents the Musafim of the Holidays, beginning with Pesach. Note that each day of Pesach is a “carbon-copy” of the first day (as opposed to Sukkot). Then, Shavuot – here referred to as Yom HaBikurim. The Musaf of Shavuot is counted as a mitzva here [404] – that of Pesach has been counted already from Parshat Emor. Next comes Rosh HaShana, called here Yom T’rua. Its Musaf has also been counted as a mitzva previously (Emor), but the mitzva of blowing Shofar is counted here [405]. Since Rosh HaShana is also Rosh Chodesh Tishrei, double musafim are brought.

The Torah does not say: THOU SHALT BLOW THE SHOFAR. It tells us that we should have a Yom T’ru’a on the first of Tishrei. The Gemara teaches us what that means, using a G’zeira Shava to Yovel. Shofar is one of several mitzvot that the Torah commands in an indirect way.

Next comes Yom Kippur’s Musaf. All the Chagim are presented here and previously in Emor (aside from other references).

SH’VI’I – Seventh Aliya – 29 p’sukim (29:12-30:1)

Lastly, the musafim of Sukkot and Shmini Atzeret. The numbers of animals on Sukkot vary day-to-day, with the bulls totalling 70, a symbolic universal number. These musaf passages for Chagim are the respective Maftirs of the Holidays.

The sedra concludes with references to other korbanot in the Mikdash. And finally, a summary/divider pasuk – And Moshe told the people all that HaShem had commanded. The last 6 p’sukim are reread for the Maftir.

Haftara – 22 p’sukim – Yirmiyahu 1:1-2:3

Parshat Pinchas has two haftaras, one for when it falls before the Three Weeks and one for when it is after the 17th of Tammuz. In the majority of years, Pinchas is the first of the three HAFTARAS OF TRAGEDY, and we read the first chapter of Yirmiyahu as the haftara.

The haftara consists of the opening words of the book of Yirmiyahu, where we read of G-d’s first prophecies to him. Aside from the personal exchange between G-d and Yirmiyahu, we are told of his vision of the “boiling pot” which represents the enemy from the north who will come to destroy Yerushalayim. This prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem because of idolatry and turning away from G-d, sets the tone for the Three Week mourning period for Churban Beit HaMikdash and for the main part of the book of Yirmiyahu. The concluding pasuk of the haftara tell of the promise that G-d will punish those who rise against Israel, for Israel – despite its iniquities – is holy and special to HaShem.