PARASHAH: Pinchas (Phinehas)

ADDRESS: B'midbar (Numbers) 25:10-30:1(29:40)

READING DATE: Shabbat, July 22, 2000

AUTHOR: Torah Teacher Ariel ben-Lyman HaNaviy

(Note: all quotations are taken from the Complete Jewish Bible, translation by David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., unless otherwise noted)

Let’s begin with the opening blessing for the Torah:

"Baruch atah YHVH, Eloheynu, Melech ha-‘Olam,

asher bachar banu m’kol ha-amim,

v’natan lanu eht Torah-to.

Baruch atah YHVH, noteyn ha-Torah.

Ameyn."

(Blessed are you, O’ LORD, our God, King of the Universe,

you have selected us from among all the peoples,

and has given us your Torah.

Blessed are you, LORD, giver of the Torah.

Ameyn.)

Pinchas was a priest. He was a man of holiness. He was the grandson of Aharon, Moshe's late brother, so that also made him direct family. What was going through his mind as he watched the recent turn of events surrounding the people of Ba'al-P'or?

We have to imagine that growing up in a family such as his, that during his childhood he was given the opportunity to "soak up" holiness. Consistently, day in and day out, he was given a glimpse into the supernatural world of the awesome blessings of the God of all humanity! The Holy One had delivered the people from Egypt, from the clutches of slavery and bondage to themselves, never again to return! How then could he sit back and watch this blatant act of rebellion against the Torah of HaShem and not burn with righteous indignation on the inside?

He took action.

His spear became his instrument of justice, and in what I like to think of as a "moment of the Ruach HaKodesh" he stepped boldly into the office that was his. He interceded on the LORD's behalf by stopping the plague, which was sure to consume the people in HaShem's fury! For this, ADONAI rewarded him with a blessing!

"'I am giving him my covenant of shalom, making him a covenant with him and his descendants after him that the office of cohen will be theirs forever.' This is because he was zealous on behalf of his God and made atonement for the people of Isra'el." (B'midbar 25:12, 13)

What is meant by this gracious display of gratitude and blessing from the Father of all Fathers? I believe that a similar blessing was granted unto another great father, which is directly related to the incident that sparked Pinchas' actions in the first place. Remember, it was the greedy Bil'am who counseled the people into wickedness with the tribes of Ba'al-P'or (read Parashat Balak from last week).

In that incident, Bil'am tried on several occasion to "curse" the offspring of Avraham even after HaShem told him directly that they are a blessed people and cannot be cursed! This other great father is the one who I'm referring to, the man Avraham. Let's briefly go back and look at the blessings that became his in B'resheet (Genesis) chapter twelve. I will be drawing from my commentary to Parashat Lekh L'kha.

The Torah says in chapter 12, verses 1-3,

"Vayomer ADONAI el-Avram "Lekh l’kha me'artsecha u’mimo-ladetecha umibeyt avicha el-ha'arets asher ar'eka. Ve'e'escha legoy-gadol va'avarechecha va'agadelah shemecha veheyeh berachah. Va'avarechah mevarachecha umekalelecha a'or venivrechu vecha kol mishpechot ha'adamah."

(Now ADONAI said to Avram, "Get yourself out of your country, away from your kinsmen and away from your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, I will bless you, and I will make your name great; and you are to be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, but I will curse anyone who curses you; and by you all the families of the earth will be blessed.")

The opening monologue from HaShem, containing both directives and promises, is packed with some very important facts, which affect every man, woman, and child who will be born form here on out! To be sure, it still affects everyone today! How so? Allow me to conduct a word study.

We have been taught many times over (hopefully), that verse three is referring to the ultimate blessing that Avram would be, once his ultimate righteous heir was born. The Torah makes it perfectly clear that this righteous heir is non other than Yeshua (ben-Yosef) ben-Dahvid, ben-Avraham (see Matthew chapter one)! But our usual sermons focus on the latter part of that verse. I want to call our attention to the first part of verse three.

"I will bless those who bless you, but I will curse anyone who curses you; and by you all the families of the earth will be blessed."

Here HaShem promises to "bless" those who "bless" Avram. The Hebrew wording used both times for "bless" is "the root word "barakh", and it literally means to bow the knee. This promise is understood to be extending to his offspring as well, the Jewish People. Moreover, we have seen that many peoples of the world, symbolically and physically, have blessed Avram. To be sure, we don’t hear of many individuals actually "cursing" Avram or his offspring, the Jews (a few unmentioned exceptions do exist). From HaShem’s perspective, he has set up a divine sort of "cause and effect" here: if you (a non-Jew) bless Avram, or his offspring, then in return, I will bless you.

But the really interesting fact is found in the Hebrew word translated as "curse". In the first instance, the word translated "curse" (in our above translation of the CJB by David H. Stern) comes from the root Hebrew word "arar". Here is what Strong’s Lexicon and Concordance have to say about this word:

                    0779 ‘arar {aw-rar’}: a primitive root - curse 62, bitterly 1; (total usage: 63)

to curse…. cursed be he (participle used as in curses)…. to be cursed, cursed…. lay under a curse, put a curse on…. to be made a curse, be cursed (adaptation mine)
This is some heavy language! Especially when we realize that this is the Sovereign Creator of the Universe speaking this promise here! But the second word translated as "curse" is surprisingly not the same as the first! The original word this time is taken from the root word "kalal". In fact, in our current parashah (portion), chapter 16:4 translates this word as "contempt", when referring to the attitude that Sarai (Avram’s wife) had towards her handmaid Hagar. Here is what Strong’s Lexicon and Concordance have to say about that word:
07043 ‘qalal {kaw-lal’}: a primitive root - curse 39, swifter 5, light thing 5, vile 4, lighter 4, despise 3, abated 2, ease 2, light 2, lighten 2, slightly 2, misc 12; (total usage: 82)

be slight, be swift, be trifling, be of little account, be light…. be abated (of water)…. to be trifling, to be swift, show oneself swift…. to appear trifling, be too trifling, be insignificant…. to be lightly esteemed…. to make despicable…. to curse…. to be cursed…. to make light, lighten…. to treat with contempt, bring contempt or dishonour…. to shake…. to whet…. to shake oneself, be moved to and fro" (adaptation mine)

I hope that this list is a shocker. We usually find ourselves thinking, "As a believer in Messiah Yeshua, I would never meaningfully curse Avram or his offspring, the Jews! I understand that my spiritual heritage is forever bound up in their lineage!" I, as a rabbi, hope that this is similar to what every well-meaning Christian might say. But the shocker is that according to the word used for "curse", many well-meaning believers are unknowingly "cursing" Avram and his offspring! If I were to translate this verse along its literal lines, it would read something like this:

"I will [bless] those who [bless] you, but I will [curse] anyone who [despises, makes of little account, lightly esteems, thinks insignificant of] you; and by you all the families of the earth will be blessed."

Wow! That seems to explain the verse in a whole different light! And so it should! For that is what the verse is alluding to. Allow me to elaborate.

In the fourth century, when the organized Church decided to divorce herself from her spiritual mother, Judaism, she unwittingly planted the seeds of anti-Judaism. Anti-Judaism is not to be confused with Anti-Semitism. The former is the dislike or disinterest of Jewishness and Judaism specifically; the latter is the dislike or disinterest in the Semitic race altogether. By the way, both falls into the category of violating the verse in examination and both are disrespectful to Father Avram and displeasing to HaShem! Over the centuries, this seedbed has blossomed into a full-grown weed called Replacement Theology. This heretical belief fosters the mistaken idea that "HaShem gave up on the Jews when they corporately rejected his Son Yeshua, and instead, adopted the newborn Gentile Church as his chosen people. The unfortunate Jews were left to face the curses of the Torah, and the Wrath of an angry Father, while the Church inherited (spiritually of course) most of the blessings and promises to the Jews, as pronounced in the Torah." Fortunately, this theological framework is neither blatantly taught to Christians, openly favored by the same, nor even endorsed by HaShem!

But the damage has been done. Bad habits are hard to change. Our Christian community today is lacking of real spiritual depth, many so-called believers have a superficial relationship with Yeshua, and we owe a significant part of all of this to the teachings that have been passed down from one anti-Jewish generation to the next. Consequently, many Christians are either, passive and ignorant, when it comes to the Jewish people and communal support, or they are outright opposed to it! The Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings (TaNaKH) have been relegated to the status of "Old Testament", while the Gospel enjoys the status of "New Testament". This has a way of causing the Jews to appear to be "old", "outdated", and "replaced", while the Church is defined as "new", "fresh", and "current". Is this not the prevalent attitude of many non-Jews within the Body today? "Your people prove difficult to positively influence, with regards to the Good News and Jesus", many quip. As a result, Jewish evangelism is weak, understaffed, or (in the few cases where churches have tried) eventually abandoned. Even if not intentional, this type of spiritual ignorance still feeds the Replacement Theological bias, in that, no one is made aware enough to put an end to it. In other words, this ignorance has gone on for far too long.

What can be done to undo some of the damage, and help repair the split between Avram’s offspring and the Church? Well, more information than I can post in this format is available to anyone who is serious in answering this timely and important question. I will only provide you with some groundwork: begin to pray about getting actively involved in the current move of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), to bring about a genuine, heartfelt love for Avram’s offspring, from the Church. Ask HaShem to reveal to you your heart, and to forgive you if you have unknowingly harbored these types of thoughts towards Avram’s offspring. God is still in the business of forgiveness! What my brothers according to the flesh need is to experience the mercy of HaShem, displayed through your honest concern and support! Ask HaShem to begin to reveal to you your spiritual heritage traced through faithful Avram and continuing through to his offspring, the Jewish People. You will find that according to Romans chapter 11 (just to name a good starting point), you also have some obligations to the "root that supports you".

I realize that some of what I said above is going to be hard to swallow. I also imagine that I have stepped on some toes. But I want to thank you for allowing me to take the time to address this very serious issue facing the Church and the synagogue. Even after this genuine call for restoration, some people will yet refuse to change their conventional way of thinking. To be sure, I don’t expect Gentiles to begin flooding my e-mail with letters asking me to forgive them for "lightly esteeming my people, the Jews". No, this type of heartfelt change is not accomplished overnight, and it can only make a difference if the Ruach HaKodesh is genuinely involved. As a rabbi, I expect that it will take some time for human nature to readjust its mindset, and line up with what HaShem wants us to be. After all, which one of us is perfect? Only the man Yeshua from Natzeret was. Please feel free to drop me a line, in care of this web site, if you still have questions or comments in this area. You may also e-mail me personally, my address is always provided at the end of this teaching.

In our modern day, we need to become like Pinchas and put a stop to the injustice which has risen up as a result of the post mortem victory of history's would-be Bil'ams! We need not play the part of the greedy prophet and curse (think lowly of) the offspring of Father Avraham! Indeed, they cannot be "cursed"! Instead, we need to take our lead from one of Judaism's greatest and gifted rabbis: Sha'ul of Tarsus.

In his letter to the congregation at Rome, he addressed this issue of Jew and Gentile head on in chapter 11. His resulting commentary there would later become known as "Olive Tree theology, owing to the fact that he graphically points out that the objects of jealousy and "cursing" are actually the root which is supporting the tree in the first place! On this note, he cautions the existing branches not to become proud or boastful against the root that is supporting them! In our haste, sometimes we arrogantly think that we have come this far by our faith in Yeshua alone, and that we don’t need further support.

How foolish this mindset is, in that it runs counter to the plans of HaShem! He has predetermined in his gracious foreknowledge that Avraham's offspring would forever be the recipient of the covenant blessing of HaShem, and that try as they would, anyone playing the part of Bil'am would forever meet with disappointment and failure! The actions of Pinchas demonstrates for us those who hearts are spiritually in tune with the purposes of HaShem, in ridding the community of the effects of this world's Bil'ams.

The gross effect of the jealousy and greed of history's Bil'ams, and their attempts at cursing, are still noticeable today. Our community is rife with ignorance concerning thinking lowly of Avraham's seed. Yet, thanks be unto our God, we have seen our share of Pinchases as well. Don’t be a source of the ill-fated cursing when it comes to God's chosen. Come into the knowledge of the covenant, and instead become a source of blessing!

The closing blessing is as follows:

"Baruch atah YHVH, Eloheynu, Melech ha-‘Olam,

asher natan lanu Toraht-emet,

v’chay-yeh o’lam nata-b’tochenu.

Baruch atah YHVH, noteyn ha-Torah.

Ameyn."

(Blessed are you O’ LORD, our God, King of the Universe,

you have given us your Torah of truth,

and has planted everlasting life within our midst.

Blessed are you, LORD, giver of the Torah.

Ameyn.)

Shabbat Shalom!"

Torah Teacher Ariel ben-Lyman HaNaviy