The previous portion, Balak, ends with the beginning of a story that continues in this week’s portion, Pinchas. It tells us about the circumstances in which “Pinchas the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron (…)” (Numbers 25:11) slew Zimri, the prince of the tribe of Shimon and Cozbi, daughter of one of the princes of Midian.
A lesson to learn from this parshah is about loyalty and fidelity to our Creator. It is evident that the Israelite with this higher awareness of such qualities inherent to God’s love, which requests us to become one with Him, is Pinchas. The present tense is used here to honor our common belief that Pinchas is Elijah the Prophet who is still alive.
As Pinchas and as Elijah, this unique Israelite characterized himself for his profound attachment to our Creator, a bond that transcends material illusions in all levels of consciousness. We have mentioned that the proverbial “jealousy” and “zeal” of God are emotional expressions to indicate the exclusive and non-compromising loyalty and fidelity He has for us, and also demands them from us in order to be always connected to Him.
24 thousand Israelites died as a consequence of cohabiting with idolatrous women and bowing to their idols. Lust, wrath, pride, envy and negative thoughts, emotions, feelings and passions are described as idols by our sages. As long as we are engaged with them, we separate from God’s ways and attributes.
In this context we can understand zeal and jealousy as necessary traits to enforce the eternal vigilance of the loyalty and fidelity that God’s love demands from us as the essence of our true identity.
If we are an emanation of God’s love, which is also our sustaining essence, the source with which we enjoy and experience the goodness of life, should we choose ego’s fantasies and illusions as the false idols that lead us to materialism? We should know better because we learn from experience.
Common sense, trial and error, useful vs. useless and dualism challenge our free will every moment to teach us right from wrong. The dilemma about making the right choice seems to depend more on stubbornness than on common sense.
Mindfulness makes us aware of the choices we make, and this awareness is about knowing that love is the natural guide that maintains the harmonic balance of all levels of consciousness.
This balance is the reward for keeping love in charge of our consciousness, and this is what God’s covenant of peace is about.
Rashi and other sages explain that this covenant of peace is inherent to the office of high priest, which represents the highest level of consciousness and the awareness of our permanent connection the Creator. As long as we keep love’s ways and attributes in all aspects of life, peace will always be present.
The portion continues with a new counting of the children of Israel, and the distribution of the promised land according to their tribes. In this part of the story the feminine presence in the land is recognized as an essential element in Israel’s mission to be the light of the nations, and to created a place for God to dwell in this world.
Zelophehad’s daughters stood up to claim their inheritance (27:1-11), and they teach us not only to acknowledge women’s equal rights but also the value of their contributions to the Israelite identity. Historically, Jewish women have excelled in their commitment, loyalty and devotion to the Creator far better than their male counterparts.
The Torah and the Hebrew scriptures abound on this fact which invites us to reflect on how much we have neglected the feminine principle of creation. This is an essential aspect of our consciousness in the quest to fulfill the mission that we are commanded by divine will.
The text later tells us the transfer of leadership from Moses to Yehoshua.
“You shall bestow some of your majesty upon him so that all the congregation of the children of Israel will take heed. (…) He laid his hands upon him and commanded him, in accordance with what the Lord had spoken to Moses.” (27:20, 23)
And immediately refers to sacrificial offerings. The context in which these sacrifices are mentioned is quite clear. We have to maintain the strength of our connection with God constantly.
This is why the daily offerings and the additional sacrifices for special occasions such as the Shabbath, the new moon (Rosh Hodesh) and high holidays are emphasized. We have mentioned in previous commentaries on the book of Leviticus that sacrifices represent our awareness of being and doing what is sacred to our Creator.
“(…) offerings made by fire, of a sweet savor onto Me.” (28:2, 6, 8, 13, 24, 27; 29:2, 6, 13, 36)
We also said that fire represents love as the catalyst that transforms darkness into light, thus proclaiming God’s presence in the material aspect of creation. His presence, His manifest Glory, as “the sweet savor” for Him. The phrase is repeated ten times to remark that the offerings must be made constantly.
We remind ourselves about this with our daily prayers, by wearing tzitzit, putting tefilin, and covering the top of our heads. They are good reminders and this mindfulness keeps our eternal vigilance always aware of our connection with God’s ways and attributes in what we are and do. When we are aware of this connection, His covenant of peace is with us.