Pride, prejudice and a blesssing

Then an Israelite man came and brought the Midianite woman to his brethren, before the eyes of Moses and before the eyes of the entire congregation of the children of Israel, while they were weeping at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.
Pinchas the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron the kohen saw this, arose from the congregation, and took a spear in his hand.
He went after the Israelite man into the chamber and drove [it through] both of them; the Israelite man, and the woman through her stomach, and the plague ceased from the children of Israel.
Those that died in the plague numbered twenty four thousand.
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
Pinchas the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron the kohen has turned My anger away from the children of Israel by his zealously avenging Me among them, so that I did not destroy the children of Israel because of My zeal.
Therefore, say, “I hereby give him My covenant of peace.
(BaMidbar chapter 25)

The above verses of the Torah are from the end of last week’s Parsha, Balak, and the beginning of this week’s Parsha, Pinchas (1) see footnote. Ironically, this year the Jerusalem Gay Parade is taking place just before the Shabbat of Parshat Pinchas. The parade, to my dismay, is also being held in the shadow of last year’s events and the foul murder of Shira Banki IY”D. Banki’s murderer viewed himself as a modern day Pinchas, a zealot against behaviour many think is taboo. To be clear, the murderer was no Pinchas.

I almost went to stand on the side lines for the last parade. Not to protest but rather to support our son who was part of the parade. Part of me really wanted to be there and yet I held back. Since then our son has moved to Tel Aviv and has openly embraced his identity as part of the LGBT community. Slowly, we are trying to adapt, trying not only to embrace our son, but also his choice and his lifestyle.

Being part of the Religious Zionist community in Judea and Shomron and being the parents of a child who proudly belongs to the LGBT community is not always easy. We may not be alone (and indeed , even in Shiloh we are not alone) but we are at times a bit lost. We do not rush out and talk about our son’s private life, certainly not about our son’s friend, though we have met him. The problem, it should be clearly stated, is ours. We have to learn to accept our son as he is with no apologies. But even if we learn to accept the LGBT community, our own community, the one in Judea and Shomron, still has a long ways to go.

“Deviants” . That is what Rabbi Yigal Levinstein , the dean of the Bnei David pre-army academy used to label homosexuals. ((2) youtube of the lecture)  Not once, but several times in his lecture at a recent symposium. I listened to the recording and each time I heard the word, I cringed. Our son is not “deviant”. He is our flesh and blood and we love him. In his entirety. We have always loved him and he has always been different.

If I were to speak to Rabbi Levinstein, I would direct him to a wonderful exposition on Parshat Pinchas by Rabbi Nahum Eliezer Rabinowitz (Head of the Yeshivat Hesder Birkat Moshe in Maale Adumim). The (3) drasha starts with a discussion from Midrash Tanchuma Pinchas about the blessing one makes when seeing unusual or different people (people from different ethnic backgrounds, short or tall people , etc). The blessing is : Blessed be He Who created diversity in His Creation. On the other hand, if one sees someone who has been blinded, crippled or disfigured, the blessing is: Blessed be He Who created diversity in His Creation, the eternal Judge, unless the person one is viewing was born blind or crippled , which then the former is the correct blessing. The Midrash continues:

הרואה בריות טובות, ואילנות טובות, אומר ברוך אתה ה’ אלהינו מלך העולם שככה ברא לו בעולמו. אבל אם ראה אוכלוסין של בני אדם, אומר ברוך חכם הרזים – כשם שאין פרצופותיהן שוין זה לזה, כך אין דעתן שוה, אלא כל אחד ואחד יש לו דעה בפני עצמו, וכן הוא אומר לעשות לרוח משקל (איוב כח כה). משקל של כל אחד ואחד. תדע לך שהוא כן, שכן משה מבקש מן הקדוש ברוך הוא בשעת מיתה, ואומר לפניו: רבונו של עולם גלוי לפניך דעתו של כל אחד ואחד מהם, ואין דעתו של זה דומה לדעתו של זה, ובשעה שאני מסתלק מהם בבקשה ממך אם ביקשת למנות עליהם מנהיג, מנה עליהם אדם שיהא סובל כל  אחד ואחד לפי דעתו, מנין? ממה שקראו בענין: יפקוד [ה’] אלהי הרוחות לכל בשר וגו’ במדבר כז טז.

“If one sees parts of the creation or trees that are enticing, the blessing is : Blessed be the Lord, King of the universe, Who created such beauty in His World . If one sees a crowd of people, the blessing is : Blessed be He Who created wisdom in its diversity, for in the same way that no two faces are alike, neither are all personalities the same, each being a distinct person……When Moshe nears the end of his life, he requests from the Lord : Creator of the universe, Who knows the personality of each one of us, and that each of us is different, may it be that when I die that You appoint a leader that will be tolerant of each person according to his being, as it is written, the Lord appointed a spirit to each flesh.” (my translation) (4)

Of course the question is, what does this midrash have to do with Pinchas and his act of zealotry?

The answer is that Pinchas was no mindless zealot. He was not intolerant of the people for he realized that each person is different and has different views and needs. His act was against the leadership of the Ben Zimri who flagrantly and in hypocrisy went against Moshe. Ben Zimri, who was one of the leaders of the tribe of Shimon knew he was acting wrongly against the Torah, so Pinchas , remembering the Halacha, acted quickly and stopped the plague from spreading.

The lesson here is that sometimes our children are different. Each of us is created in holiness by G-d and each of us is entitled to his or her share of happiness (within limits of course). Those who attack our children in the Gay Pride Parade are putting themselves above the Torah, ignoring and violating precepts in the Torah in order to elevate the four or five places in the Torah where homosexual relations are banned. (I do not suggest that we can ignore what we do not like in the Torah rather that no one has the right to hurt someone else in the name of the Torah, certainly not without fully understanding the Torah.) We have no right to act as Ben Zimri and claim the rewards of Pinchas.

So this year, perhaps I will go observe the parade. I already have a blessing ready.

(1) An interesting opinion on why the parshiot are divided this way 

(2) I truly respect the Rabbenim Yigal Levenstein and Eli Sadan and of course I have only admiration for the Bnei David pre army academy. It is important to hear what Rav Levenstein says and to understand that the objectionable part is only a small fraction of what he is saying. The subject of the talk, roughly stated is complaint against the current efforts within the army to marginalize  rabbis and religious Jews.
(3) a beautiful drasha that deserves to be read several times to fully understand it.  Living Torah.  In Hebrew.
(4)  Sorry, couldn’t find a translation.

About the Author
Shlomo Toren has been a resident of Israel since 1980, and a transportation planner for the last 25 years. He has done demand modeling for the Jerusalem Light Rail and Road 6. He is married to Neera and lives in Shiloh.
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