Today we finish the book of Numbers or B’Midbar by reading two portions of scripture. In these readings we will see many things that still speak to us today. In Masa’ei we read about the setting of boundaries for each tribe. G-d laid out exactly where each tribe would settle and told them they were responsible to cleanse to the land of its former inhabitants. They were told to destroy the idols and high places of the former inhabitants.
Torah Portion: B’shallach (And It Came to Pass) Exodus (Sh’mot) 13:17-17:16
Haftorah Reading: Judges 4:4-5:31
This Torah portion begins with the actual Exodus from Egypt that will not end until we get through the last book of Torah. It begins with verse 13:17 where we read that G-d took them the long way around rather than the more direct route by way of the Philistines. The question arises why did He choose the long way rather than a direct path? What do you think? Keep in mind also that before this portion ends we read of the people fighting and winning a battle with the Amalekites. So, there must be a deeper reason other than the fear of war.
One reason may be hinted at in the Hebrew word for Egypt. This word is Mitzryim. In Hebrew it means limits or restrictions. Remember these people lived for 400 years in a place that had strict limits on their lives. You can take a slave out of Egypt but it takes time to take slavery out of the slave. I think this time in the wilderness was to give them time to learn new boundaries for their lives, more G-dly boundaries. For the first time they had to make choices on their own and deal with the results of those choices.
Torah Portion: Pinchas B’midbar (Numbers) 25:10-30:1
HafTorah: I Kings 18:46-19:21
Tonight we read the Torah portion Pinchas. The incident which began last week ends in the opening verses of this week’s portion. We read where Pinchas is rewarded for his actions with a covenant of peace and an everlasting priesthood. All of this brings up questions. How would you describe Pinchas? Fanatic might come to mind. How do we normally look at fanatics? We don’t think positively of them especially when they are religious fanatics. We have all heard or been taught that religious fanaticism is to blame for much of the evil in the world today, and is the underlying cause of many or even every conflict around the globe. Think of ISIS, Boko HaRam, Al Quida to name but a few. And yet here we see it rewarded. How do we reconcile the two? Now think for a bit about Zimri and Kosbi. They may not seem all that strange today. We live in a time when boundaries are being constantly re-examined and changed, sometimes publicly. In the 60’s we had free love, today marriage is fast becoming old fashion or no longer needed.