Strange Lineage: Torah Portion Pinchas

The week before we read the story of Pinchas began with the Fast of Tammuz, the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem by the besieging Romans. Midweek was the celebration of America’s Independence Day. All week, the whole world watched as 12 schoolboy soccer players and their coach remained trapped in a waterbound cave in Thailand. And on the Sabbath was the tale of the reward of Pinchas for spearing the Shimonite prince in flagrante with his Midianite lover. The demise of the two lovers stopped the Shimonite death toll at twenty four thousand, the turning of the generational clock. Moses passes his mojo to Joshua, never to see his promised land. The cycle of sacrifices is completed — daily, lunar and annual. Something dies and something lives on.

The death of Moses at 120 years, a life taken in completion, the most a human may be granted. Every thousand years or so another civilization falls and another raises its flag. In the interim, the scramble for power, for recognition, for fairness, all under one flag. The pitiless sky in saturated azure stares down at it all with equal indifference. Let them work it out, the humans, in lots of one hundred twenty years at most, a lifetime, or in millenia, the span of the most massive of human endeavors. Or maybe shift to geologic scale, the lifespan of Pangaea, the confederation of continents formed 300 million years ago, its hegemony fissuring after less than half that time. Now we humans may give the widening distances between continents a little shove as oceans rise to dissolve the narrow bands tethering one landmass to another.

O continuity, O incontinence. Most are the children of immigrants, bands of humans moved across oceans and land barriers. Few can claim birth directly from the soil upon which they live. No proof of ultimate lineage. Heredity makes fools of us all, as do time and love. Possession comes by chance and by habit, and departs much the same. There is no sinecure in the sky. Boldness serves the pursuit of justice, acceptance the precondition of mercy. Foreground and background, the tapestry weaves and unweaves itself, affording brief glimpses of heartbreaking beauty and terrifying symmetry before the edge is raveled once more. When to speak? When to act? When to sit and marvel? Best not be overly fascinated by the raveled sleeve. It is your garment, your life.

Longing, that silvery feeling stretched and worked into a filigree that holds its adherents together. The fine skein of belonging. The following week is the week of tribes and journeys, of wars waged, property distributed, boundaries set, the establishment of cities of refuge for the inadvertent murderer. The constant repetition of the story is in and of itself the remedy, remembering the lost, shoring up those that survive. The boys were saved, one by one, as humanity’s heart touched them with the hands of an international band of skilled divers, of whom one gave his own life to save the stranded children. And let us say, amen.

About the Author
Michael Diamond’s day job is as a psychiatrist and doctor of medical qigong in the Washington, DC area. He has published occasional verse, fiction and translation in Andrei Codrescu’s journal, The Exquisite Corpse; in the journal Shirim courtesy of Dryad Press; in the online journal for Akashic Press; and in The Journal of the American Medical Association. He lives in the suburbs with his wife, an artist and illuminator of Hebrew manuscripts, their dog, one cat, a cockatiel named Peaches and a tank of hyperactive fish. He has had a strong interest in Torah since first exposed to traditional stories as a child. Over the course of his life he has run the gamut of spiritual exploration of many world traditions of meditation and mythology. For the last several decades he has landed squarely in the traditional Jewish world. His writing is informed by all of this experience, by his curiosity about today's world and by his desire to mine the Jewish experience for its hidden and revealed wisdom. Torah Obscura, as in camera obscura, from Latin, meaning "dark room", also referred to as pinhole image, the optical phenomenon that occurs when an image of a scene at the other side of a screen is projected through a small hole in that screen into the chamber provided. A glimpse of an otherwise invisible world afforded by a small aperture for light. All materials herein copyright © 2018 Michael S. Diamond. All rights reserved.
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