Of Travels and Tribulationss
July 10, 2020
Dear Holy Friends,
I hope this correspondence finds you doing well and in good health. I also hope that you are getting out to walk and exercise, given the glorious summer weather, although perhaps not today!
In this weeks Torah portion of Pincheas, which comes from the Book of Numbers, we read about the ongoing travels of the Jewish people and their preparations for entry into the Holy Land. Many of the chapters of the Book of Numbers are filled with trials and tribulations, complaining, rejoicing, and managing the day-to-day activities of perpetual travel.
I often compare these stories to the experience of riding with young children on a lengthy summer car trip. Who has not heard the following: Are we there yet? I am hungry. I am thirsty. These quotes actually have their roots in the impatience and crankiness of our ancestors, during their lengthy travels and throughout their experience in the desert with Moshe.
Past experiences tell us that on long car rides and other journeys, we will likely meet people, communities, and cultures that we have not before encountered. The same is true of the People of Israel, however, in the Bible, they are told not to accept the practices of these foreign communities, lest they meet the wrath of God.
Later in Parashat Pincheas, we read that the people begin to interact intimately with the foreign nation of Moab. While this itself upsets God, the people go on to pray to the new, exotic Gods that the Moabites worshiped. This crosses a line for Pincheas.
Pincheas proceeds to impale an Israelite chieftain and Moabite woman, who have profaned Gods name by engaging in relations in front of the Tent of Meeting. In one fell swoop, Pincheas picks up a sword and thrashes it through the two of them. Ironically, Pincheas is then given the blessing of Shalom (peace) by God.
Many of the Commentators ask the question of how the actions of Pincheas merit the blessing of peace. First, we are told that Pincheas acted not out of his own personal impulse, but rather because he felt that he was protecting the sanctity of Gods name. Thus, his actions, while questionable, emanated from an appropriate mindset. Second, we are taught that Pincheas was left with extreme emotional unrest after this incident, so God blesses him by delivering him the blessing of peace.
Like the early people of Israel and Pincheas, we are likely in a state of emotional distress today. We are cranky from being stuck at home and likely frustrated by our inability to travel and do many of the things we are accustomed to doing. Hopefully, this frustration is no where near the level that Pincheas felt, but we should always remember that if we allow ourselves to be open to Gods support, the Master of The Universe is completely capable of allowing our souls, minds, and bodies to be comforted with a sense of peace.
Let us pray that this coming week Adonai will bless us, our loved ones, our country, and the world with a sense of Divine protection and a calming atmosphere of internal Peace.
Please join us for Zoom services this Shabbat!
Rabbi Eric L. Wasser, EdD