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Pinchas – A thought for the week by Mike Lewis

Pinchas, mainly remembered for zealotry and terrible actions in the Parasha last week, receives a Covenant of Peace. What may have been necessary in the wilderness is not appropriate for a future in a settled land.  Years later we read in the Book of Joshua that when Reuben, Gad and Menashe return to the east of the Jordan they try to set up an alternative altar. Pinchas, goes to them because he understood that dialogue and tolerance are needed.

Even before the land is conquered, there is a census and division of what was expected in the Promised Land. The daughters of Zelophedad claim an inheritance, not for their own rights as individuals but in their father’s name. (The resulting judgement limited their rights to marry outside the clan. This rule was only abrogated at the time of the classical Rabbis).

Aaron was to be given a dynasty, the priesthood, as an inheritance.

Before the setting out of the sacrifices for the festivals Moses is told:

Go up to this mount Abarim and look at the land that I have given to the children of Israel and when you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, just as Aaron your brother was gathered

So what is the inheritance for Moses? What about his children, Gershon and Eliezer?

We know nothing about Gershon but his son, Jonathan, becomes a priest worshipping an idol. Eliezer’s son and grandsons, members of the tribe of Levi, did serve as some sort of religious functionaries once the Israelites settled in Canaan.

Moses asks God to appoint a man to lead the people and that man was Joshua. He is told:

lay your hand upon him

The word used is סָֽמַכְתָּ֥ (“samachta”) the same root as the word “semicha” used to ordain a Rabbi.

Although the word prophet is sometimes used for Moses, we know him as “Moshe Rabbenu”, “our Rabbi”, “our teacher”.

That is his inheritance as it is ours; to teach the generations to come.

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