In our desire to provide you with the teaching of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, we provide in-depth teachings of the weekly Torah portions throughout the year. Below are various perspectives from various teachers and staff members from Netivyah Bible Instruction ministry.

Joseph Shulam: For Such a Time as This? [2022]

This week’s Torah portion is one of my favorites, because it reveals something very important about the very nature of God, and the way God sees us as humans vis-a-vis the written law of God, the very Torah that He gave us from Mount Sinai.

First, let us line up what the reading of this week will be in Jerusalem. Pinchas (Phinehas) is the reading from Numbers 25:10-29:40. It is a long reading of nearly four chapters.

The Haftarah (the reading from the prophets) is from 1 Kings 18:46-19:21. Another great reading from God’s Word, the story of the aftermath of the events on top of Mount Carmel with Elijah and the prophets of Baal.

From the New Testament we will be reading from John 2:13-25.

The portion of Phinehas can’t be understood without the background from the previous Torah portion of Balak (the reading from Numbers 22:2-25:9). The story of Balak is really the story of Balaam, that famous sorcerer with a famous international reputation.

He was commissioned by Balak the king of Moab to provide a curse against the children of Israel. He had a conversation with the Lord and was forbidden to curse Israel. However, Balaam didn’t want to lose the reward that Balak offered him for cursing Israel.

The angel of the Lord appears to Balaam on the way, and Balaam didn’t see him. Balaam’s donkey saw the angel and tried to warn the old magician, but Balaam ignored the warnings of the donkey, until the donkey started to talk to Balaam in human language.

When Balaam couldn’t curse Israel, he gave Balak advice that would be foolproof to bring Israel down. Balaam’s advice was to send the beautiful Moabite women to entice the Israelite men with their bodies and sex.

This is where this Shabbat’s Torah portion begins. Our reading starts with these words:

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal.’” — Numbers 25:10,11 [NKJV]

What is the Lord speaking about? In the end of the last Torah portion we read about this horrible event that ensued as a result of Balaam’s advice to Balak the King of Moab.

Zimri the prince of the tribe of Simeon was having sex in public with Cozbi – the princess of Midian. Not only did this couple have sex in public, but the whole thing happened at the very entrance to the Tabernacle of the Lord, in the holiest place in the middle of the camp of Israel.

Here is what the leadership of Israel, including Moses himself, were doing while watching Zimri and Cozbi having sex in the entrance of the Tabernacle of meeting, as an affront to the Lord God of Israel Himself.

Moses and the leadership of Israel were in shock and just stood there watching what Zimri and Cozbi were doing, having no idea what to do to stop this shameful behavior. The leadership of Israel was just standing there impotent, crying and doing nothing to stop this public abominable sin.

Here comes Pinchas (Phinehas), a young man without a specific job, without authority from Moses or from anyone else. Phinehas sees the helplessness of the older leadership and takes the law in his own hands:

“Now when Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose from among the congregation and took a javelin in his hand; and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body. So the plague was stopped among the children of Israel.” — Numbers 25:7,8 [NKJV]

Phinehas took the law in his own hands and killed Zimri and Cozbi, in public, before the eyes of Moses and the elders of Israel. He pinned the pornographic couple of abominable sinners to the ground, through and through, and killed them both with one stroke.

If such a thing would happen in the Israeli army today, and a soldier would kill a terrorist without permission from his superior officer, he would very likely end up in jail.

In this very clear case of Phinehas taking the law in his own hands, and killing both Zimri the prince of the tribe of Simeon, and Cozbi the daughter of the king of Midian, God doesn’t punish Phinehas for taking the law in his own hands. On the contrary, God rewards him and makes Phinehas the chief of Israel’s army.

This is why I like this Torah portion so much. It is not a Torah portion from which Christian preachers preach very much.

This Torah portion encourages men of courage and wisdom to take action and take the law in their own hands when the so-called elected leadership and authorities are not sure or unable to take action.

When it is time to think outside the box. When time is at a premium, and action is necessary immediately. When there are old leaders who are honored and respected, but young and unseasoned leaders have to take action first, and be willing to bear the consequences later.

Yes, it is true that this Torah portion encourages men of God to take action when the leadership and those in authority are lost, and have no courage or vision to do what is needed, because it is not written in the books of the law!

We and our world are still not over the consequences of the coronavirus and we have seen the leadership of our countries and of the world at a loss of what to do in order stop the pandemic, and the damage to the people, and the economies and industries of countries and continents.

The spiritual situation of the world has also been affected, as the old and traditional churches and synagogues have all been affected and damaged by the events of the coronavirus.

Our world is still in the middle of the adjustments and changes that this pandemic has created in the lives of billions of people across the whole world. To bury our heads in the sand and act like all is well, and sing songs in church, taking communion, getting especially dressed to go to church on Sunday, is all right and good and wonderful, but as Robert Zimmerman (Bob Dylan) said in his song, “the times, they are a-changin’”.

(Did you know that Bob Dylan became a disciple of Jesus, and was baptized by Keith Green, a Jewish disciple of Jesus and a great evangelist and musician?)

We might not be in the place of Moses or Aaron. We might not be in the top leadership of our countries, but we can make changes in our small circles.

We can and must break out of the box that is called “church” and step up to do what we can do as individuals. We can step out of the normal church behavior and challenge the status quo.

And when we see that something needs to be done, don’t ask, just do it. When you see that a brother or a sister is in need of food, don’t ask permission from the pastor, or from one of the elders. When you see a needy person, remember you are the good Samaritan, God had mercy on you and gave you an opportunity to do good in His name.

We can take personal initiative and look at every opportunity to do what is right and good because God knows that you can do it. We can be like the priests or the Levites and just on walk on by and say, “this is not my job”, or we can be like Phinehas, and take the moment as an opportunity to do what our leaders don’t do.

Take the opportunity that God gives you, and do what is right and good and righteous for the moment. The changes can be small, and local.

You, We, are called to be the leaven in the lump of dough. We are commanded to be the light of the world. We are commanded to share the bread of life. We are commanded to be the light in the darkness of our world.

The easiest are the social changes inside our community. There should never be a lonely old sister or a brother who is in need of social interaction that has to go to another church or club to find friendships and fellowship.

Take care of the widows and the orphans, and if you don’t have orphans or widows, take care of the lonely and old, and do small things that have a big effect on your surroundings.

Increase the the family of God’s children. Because the times, they a-changin’!

Joseph Shulam: Brad TV Video Teaching – Pinchas [2022]

Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam.

Shalom, my name is Joseph Shulam and together with Brad TV we are partnering to go through the whole five books of Moses, the whole Torah. Every week, we are talking about the portion of the week in Hebrews, the Parashah, that all the synagogues in the world study, read publicly in the synagogues on Saturday morning when they meet to worship.

So we are now arrived to a portion it’s called Pinchas. In English, they pronounce it Pinechas, but in Hebrew it’s Pinchas. And it’s one of my favorite portions in the whole book of Numbers. But in order to be able to get into it I need to do some background to this portion.

The previous portion was called Balak and it was the story of the king of Moab, Balak, that invited Bil’am- Bil’am, the sorcerer to come from Mesopotamia to Transjordan in order to curse the Israelites that are about to enter into his land, to pass through it, and to cross the Jordan to the land of Canaan. King of Moab Balak, understood three things that our enemies today haven’t understood yet.

One is, God is on the side of Israel and he will keep his promises to Israel. Sooner or later, even in our day, all the promises of God to Israel which includes the resurrection of the dry bones. We are already seeing it, but not all the way through. And the return of the Jewish people from all the world back to the land of Israel, and the settlement of the land, and the prosperity of the land, and subjugation of our enemies and peace with our enemies.

All these things that are promised in the scripture will happen and are happening actually already. But in the last portion, in the portion of Balak, where Balak invited Bil’am– Balaam in English, who’s mentioned in the Bible several times even in the book of Revelation in chapter two, chapter three of the book of Revelation, Balaam is one of the arch villains of the- of the whole Bible, and Balaam is a strange character.

On the one hand, he has communication with the almighty God of Israel, And he’s obedient; when God says don’t do that, he doesn’t do it. He tells Balak I can’t do it. I have to do what God tells me to do, but he wants the gold and the silver that Balak promised him, so he gave advice to Balak. He said, you know, if you want to win over the Jews, over the Israelites, there’s only one men, send them beautiful women. Let the beautiful women of the Moabites entice the men of Israel. They’ll fall. They’ll sin. God will turn against them, and then you’ll be able to have victory over the Israelites.

Balak listens and he sends all the beautiful Moabite girls to entice the men of Israel and they succeed. In fact, the princess of the- the daughter of the king of Moab, of Balak himself. Her name is Cozbi, entices one of the presidents, the princes of Israel. The prince of the Tribe of Simeon, Zimri.

And in order to put their finger in the eyes of Israel they have open sex at the very entrance to the Tabernacle of God in front of everybody in the daytime. And Moses is then standing there and the Levites, And the priests and the elders of Israel are standing there and they’re watching, and Moses is ringing his hand. Well, what can I do? God!

A young man that was not appointed by the law took the law into his own hands. His name was Pinchas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron. He is a priest. I’m reading from Numbers 25:10 on- the portion stops in Numbers 29:40. The text from the prophet that was being read in conjunction is from first Kings 18:46-19:21 And from the new Testament, John 2:13 to the end of the chapter.

So, Pinchas sees that the leadership of Israel is impotent, doing nothing, wringing their hand and crying to God, And there is nothing happening. Cozbi and Zimri are having sex, and in front of the tabernacle of the Lord. So this Pinchas, takes his javelin, goes over there and he nails Zimri and Cozbi all the way through and the spear sticks in the land, in the ground, in the mud.

So Pinchas spears Cozbi, the princess of Moab and the president of the Tribe of Simeon, Zimri, through and through. Nails them dead to the ground.

Now what he did was against the law. He wasn’t the law. He was not authorized by anybody to take somebody else’s life. He was not appointed by Moses to do anything. He took the law in his own hands.

You would think today, if he did that in Israel, he would go to jail. We have soldiers that killed Arab terrorists that were endangering other soldiers after they already killed Israeli soldiers, and they were still endangering other soldiers, and when a soldier killed them without permission from his officer, he was put in jail, tried in trial, in court and put in jail.

Other country, when- when Arab kills Jews, he gets reward. Even if he dies, his family gets a pension for the rest of their life. Not in Israel today, but God sees what Pinchas did, and now we’re entering our portion. Chapter 25 of Numbers from verse 11: “Pinchas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, turned my anger-” That’s what God says. He drew back My anger at Israel and the leadership of Israel that showed such impotence.

But this young man Pinchas, didn’t show impotence, his zeal saved Israel, changed My mind. I was angry with the children of Israel because of their impotence, but Pinchas changed everything. He saved Israel from shame, from allowing a prince, a president of Israel, Zimri, the son of Palu, the head of the Tribe of Simeon to have sex with a Moabite princess at the entrance to the Tabernacle of God, where the the spirit of God hovers by day in the cloud and by night, the pillar of fire is there. In that place, to have public sex in defiance of Israel and defiance of God Himself, no.

Pinchas is not getting punished by God, He’s getting rewarded by God. Before Moses punishes him for breaking the law, from taking the law in his own hands, he gets blessed by God. God says in verse 12, I’m giving him a covenant of Shalom, a covenant of peace, to this young man. Instead of punishing him for taking the law into his own hands.

God says, I am giving him a special covenant of peace. And that will be for him a mighty power in his hand a covenant of priesthood that is eternal. Why? Because he had zeal and his zeal atoned for the sin, for the weakness, of Israel.

And our portion told us now in verse 14, the names of the people that Pinchas nailed to the ground with his spear. Zimri the son of Salu, president of the Tribe of Simeon and why- the woman that was killed by Pinchas, the Midianite princess, Cozbi, the daughter of Zur, the daughter of “rock”. Petra was the capital of Moab. Very interesting place to visit, even now.

And God now turns to Moses in verse 16. God tells Moses in verse 17. You need to command Israel to despise the Midianites, to attack them and to slay them. Now, the thing that I didn’t mention earlier, that the- that what happened is when- when all these women from Moab came to Israel and- and enticed the men of Israel, a plague, a plague hit Israel, and it’s called the plague of the deeds of Peor.

The debate amongst scholars, What does it mean the deeds of Peor? But Peor one of the gods of the Midianites and the way they worship that God is by having sex, open sex, public sex in the temples. We know that in the Roman time you had the Vestal Virgins in all the Roman cities and in all the places where the Roman legions went, those were temples of- of- of public prostitution.

Yeah? Vestal Virgins, they were called, they were everything except virgins that were- no actually I’m wrong, in the beginning, they all were virgins. But back to that- there, that’s not a new thing in the angel world, in the pagan world, you know, sex was considered a part of, not of family life only but a part of the way you express your dedication to your idols, to your gods, to the false gods.

This is, you know, one of these cases in which I think that we should- we should- we should dig a little bit deeper, you know because we are trained in Western civilization and only in Western civilization there is a law and no matter what, you don’t break the law.

But history is full of great heroic acts of people that took charge of the situation. even though they were not the ones that are responsible even though they’re not the ones that were appointed by law for the job, but when they saw the need, they took charge. We have a famous story of this dear brother and sister, in the gospels; the story of the Good Samaritan. The story of the Good Samaritan examined that.

The priest, the Levi that passed by and saw that- that- that Israelite, that Jew, beaten on the side of the road and bleeding they didn’t want to get their hands dirty. They didn’t want to become un- unclean and therefore not able to serve that day in the temple, but a Samaritan, that was- hated Jews, and was hated by Jews, saw the beaten person, he wasn’t in charge, he wasn’t responsible, he wasn’t expected, but he did it.

He got the person up, took him to the hotel, told the hotel that he will pay for all of his expensive until he gets well and was able to get out of there. He didn’t have to do it. It wasn’t his job. It wasn’t his place, but he did it, And- and Yeshua praised him for it and used him as an example.

And I saw an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, very, very famous rabbi a son of other, very, very famous rabbis, his father was the chief rabbi. When he was asked on television, what does it mean to be holy? The command in Leviticus 19:1-2, You should be holy because I, the Lord, am holy.

When they asked him, the interviewer asked him, Rabbi Benny, what does it mean to be holy? You know what he answered? To be like the Good Samaritan. The interviewer, Orthodox Jews tell you, you know that you’re quoting from Jesus? He said yes, for me, Jesus is a very important rabbi.

Yep. Things are developing here in Israel. But in our portion, this opening of- of the portion of Pinchas, named after this man, has got a great lesson. Sometimes you don’t have a choice. Sometimes you have to break the law, the law of the land, the law of what is appropriate or not appropriate in order to do the will of God.

And was a couple of days ago, Memorial day for the Holocaust; 6 million Jews that died. And, and we have the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem and there is thousands of Gentiles, many of them are Catholic priests and nuns who lied, who stole, who hid Jewish children in the monasteries, in the churches and saved their lives.

You have more than one general in Israel army, that was saved by Catholic priests, raised as a Catholic till he was 13 years old, and then the Catholic priest told him, listen you are a Jew. Return to your Jewish community.

We don’t want- there were like that- a priest like Daniel Rufeisen and Bruno Hussar and great men- Jews, that were raised in a Cath- and remain Catholics remained believers in Yeshua. And did great things, and great true Zionists for the state of Israel.

Yes, that happens even today, but the reaction of God to what was happening in Israel with the daughter, the women of- and with the advice that Bil’am gave to Balak to send the- the women, they- they’ll win over Israel. God commands Eleazar, the priest, and Moses to raise up an army from 20 years old, and up. Of those that got out of Egypt to count those from 20 years up and up to 50 and create an army for the first time in the history of Israel.

And they did. And they- they gathered them together and built an army in order to be able to cross the Jordan River and take the land that God gave Abraham, Isaac and Jacob by force, by war.

The first city was given to them as a gift, Jericho. But the rest of the cities they had to fight. They had to have an army. They have to ah, clear the land from idolatry, from paganism. They didn’t succeed so much in the first 200 years but later on, they did succeed and clear the land more or less, more- There’s always a stray idolater, even today in the land of Israel, even among the Messianic Jews, there’s sometimes things like that happen.

So we have the rest of the- the portion of the- the the week that we are reading of Pinchas is actually the census of the counting of how many men from each tribe between the age of 20 to 50 were kosher men, capable men to be soldiers, to be fighters. And that- that takes all of chapter 26, and we have the numbers, it’s a very interesting study within itself, but- but I want to inspire you folks.

So I want to go to- to chapter, to the- still within the portion of- of the- our reading of this week, and I want to go to chapter 27, verse one. There was a poor guy named Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, from the Tribe of Manasseh, which is the Tribe of Joseph, one of Joseph’s son. And this man had only daughters Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah; five daughters.

But the poor, poor guy Mr. Zelophehad died, and he had no sons, And according to the law Moses was given to Israel in Mount Sinai, only the sons inherit. The girls marry somebody else, so they can’t inherit the land that God gave to the tribe because the land would go to another tribe, to another family, and so only the sons inherit.

But this, five daughters of Zelophehad, they come to Moses and they said, it’s not fair. Our father had no son, only daughters, poor guy. We want to inherit our father. Now, if Moses was like a normal person, a government official, or even a minister in the government, or even the prime minister of Israel, or the president of Israel, he would say the law is the law. The law says that girls don’t inherit, they don’t inherit, but Moses understood that there’s something unfair here.

So he turns to God and says, God, help me. What, what should I do? God says, you know what? I’m changing the law. Let the women inherit. Ah, I like that.

You have two things here in this portion called Pinchas, of changing the law, of going beyond the law for justice sake, God changed the law. He said, do you know what? These girls are right. It’s not fair for girls not to inherit. Let the girls inherit.

How beautiful that is, dear brothers and sisters. We’re talking about, you know egalitarianism. God, in his way, understood the problem. That the law was not answering a very fair and a very right question. And he says, let the daughters of Zelophehad Milcah and Tirzah and Mahlah and Noah and Milcah inherit.

There’s only one caveat to it, they must marry people from their own tribe so that the land doesn’t go to another tribe. Hallelujah, praise God. God understands us much better than we understand ourself. He is more gracious to us than we are gracious to each other, and hallelujah, praise the Lord. Amen.

Joseph Shulam: A Prophet Must Have Courage [2021]

When children grow up and start to think for themselves their character begins to show! In every group there is always some kid that is unusual, different, bright but not controllable. Precautious kid with a soft heart, but a hard head.

This week’s Torah portion from the book of Numbers 25:10‑30:1 is called Pinchas (Phinehas). Pinchas is a name of this kind of young man. A young man that everything about him is “out of the box.”

He is not politically correct. He is stubborn and disobedient to the ruling elite of the tribe Pinchas never gives up and always has questions that challenge the elders that are sitting at the gate to judge the crowds. Here is the reason why this portion of the Torah is named after a young man that I described above.

Here is the story of Pinchas! In the last Shabbat we read the portion called Balak. Balak is the King of Moab who calls Balaam the magician who has the power to curse or to bless.

Balaam has an international reputation and a record of success. When Balaam blesses, the people come out blessed. When Balaam curses, the curses that he uses bring disaster and are fulfilled in a clear and visible way.

Balaam came to curse Israel and ended up by blessing Israel. The most powerful influence on Balaam was his donkey that saw the angel of the Lord standing in front of him while Balaam was riding him.

The donkey could see the angel and Balaam the great prophet and magician could not see him. The donkey could hear the angel and Balaam couldn’t. After three times that the angel appears and tries to stop the donkey and Balaam, and each time Balaam uses his cane and hits the donkey on the head.

The Lord opens the donkey’s mouth and he talks to Balaam. The donkey complains to Balaam and asks him with an audible voice. Why are you beating me! At this point the eyes of Balaam open and now he can hear and see the Angel of the Lord.

The scheme of Balak King of Moab does not succeed, because Balaam was obedient to God and would not disobey Him. However, Balaam’s greed is still there and he can’t curse Israel because God does not allow him, but on the other hand he wants the reward that Balak, King of Moab, promised him.

So, Balaam gives forth some of the most wonderful biblical texts describing Israel and the Jewish nation. Every Jewish synagogue opens every service with the words of the Gentile magician, Balaam:

“How lovely are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwellings, O Israel!” – Numbers 24:5 [NKJV]

Balaam can’t curse Israel, but he still wants to the gold and silver that Balak promised him. So, Balaam gives advice to Balak. Since the Israelites love beautiful young women, use the beautiful Midianite girls to seduce the Israelite men.

Here is when Pinchas comes into the picture. Zimri the son of Palu, the prince of the tribe of Simeon, and Cozbi the daughter of Zur, a princess of Midian, are having sex at the entrance to the Tabernacle of God. Yes, having sex publicly and the elders of Israel are watching and in shock, and they don’t know what to do because this horrible act is being performed in the courtyard of God’s dwelling place.

Moses and the elders are in total shock and tongue-tied. The leadership of Israel is just paralyzed and could not imagine that such an abomination would ever be performed by anyone from Israel, in such a blatant abominable act.

“Now when Pinchas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose from among the congregation and took a javelin in his hand; and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body. So the plague was stopped among the children of Israel.” – Numbers 25:7,8 [NKJV]

The young man Pinchas actually provides his name for this week’s portion. You would think that God would be very upset that this young Levite who had no legal authority and took the law into his own hands and executed Zimri and Cozbi in public, right at the entrance to the Lord’s Tabernacle.

Under the laws of most Western countries, a person like Pinchas, who takes the law into his hands without authority and permission, and kills two people in public, right in in front of Moses and the elders of Israel, would be charged with a crime.

The lesson here is so very important for me. I learn from Pinchas that God is not square and that God can appreciate moments when the law is impotent and a young person who steps up with courage and initiative and, even if he takes the initiative without formal authority, can be innocent of committing a crime.

Under normal circumstances, when someone takes the law into his own hands without authority, he would be taken to court and go to jail. However, here we have God, the God who created the world, rewarding Pinchas for taking the initiative and killing these two people, Zimri and Cozbi, with all the elite and leadership of Israel as witnesses.

Pinchas was not concerned for himself or what might happen to him for killing these two people who were challenging the Tabernacle of God and His presence. Challenging Moses and his authority, the elders of Israel, and the priests of the Lord who were all there watching.

Pinchas was not trying to be politically correct. Pinchas was concerned about stopping the abomination and depravity of these two young leaders, of these two leaders among their people, Simeon the president of his tribe, Simeon, and Cozbi, the daughter of the King of Midian.

You see, my dear brothers, most of the so-called “men of God” think three times before they say something that might be interpreted as “out of the box” or politically incorrect. The fear of the media and of the possible criticism of people or of the press, is a very scaring factor.

If the pastor is not polished and if he does not wear a big smile, and if his teeth aren’t perfectly white and he isn’t always smooth-talking and speaking in generalities, without any criticisms, smooth and mild and full of positive thinking, all the time worrying that he might not have a job on Monday, if he exposes the sins of one of the elders, or even of the pastor or of one of his children.

We can learn from Pinchas that there are moments when a man has to stand for what is right and just and important to protect and defend what is right and what is holy, and God’s honor, even at a high personal cost. Every prophet of God has to have the courage to speak things that are not politically correct and not popular for the masses that are fed “politically correct” three times per day.

Here are the words of Jeremiah, who had a rich experience speaking and calling Israel and the leadership of Israel and the spiritual leadership of Jerusalem to order. Jeremiah experienced rejection and physical persecution and loss of status and severe treatment even to be expelled from his job as a priest in God’s house.

It is sometimes the right thing to do, to stand up against corrupt laws and evil practices and injustice and to speak out and protest the evil that is going on all around. Someone has to have the courage to stand up and take a clear stand to change the tide and protect God’s interests and the truth. This is why Pinchas was rewarded by God and made the chief of staff of all of Israel’s army.

The principle that I think that every man of God has to have in his calling is, first of all, commitment to honor God and His cause. Second, every man of God has to have courage to stand up against the majority against the politically correct culture and stand up for what is of God and what is holy and pure without calculating what he will personally gain, or what he might miss out on.

I pray that you and the leadership in your synagogue or church will be made up of the same kind of material as Pinchas, and have the character of Pinchas. To stand up for righteousness and holiness and justice in your camp.

If a person is not willing to stand up for God and for His word and defend what is right and to condemn what is wrong, he ought not to become a pastor or a preacher or even a teacher of God’s word. Who is going to stand up for God and for His word, and for The Torah and the prophets, and the New Testament of the good news, for the Jew first, and also for the Gentiles?

Stay on the side of faith and with God’s people, and don’t trust all the fake world politicians that want to destroy and uproot the Jewish nation of Israel from God’s promises. The goals of the greedy and power mongering world famous politicians are the same as the goals of Balak, King of Moab, and Balaam, the son of Beor.

Joseph Shulam: Balaam’s Shameful (and Effective) Tactic [2020]

This week the reading is from the portion (parasha) of Pinchas (Phinehas) Numbers 25:10 – 29:40, and from the Prophets (haftarah) the reading is from 1 Kings 18:46 – 19:21. From the New Testament we read from the Gospel of John 2:13-22.

One of the things that I recommend to you when you read the text from the Torah and from the Prophets and from the New Testament is to ask yourself why has tradition selected these particular texts to be read together on a particular Shabbat? I think that it is an important exercise that will reveal to you what was on the agenda of the sages who between the 7th and 9th century C.E. (Common Era) chose these readings.

It will also give you a clue as to why the complementary texts from the New Testament were chosen. Try it after your reading. Ask yourselves why was this text from the Prophets chosen to complement the reading of the Torah?

I like the story of Pinchas. I suppose that I like Pinchas because I identify with his character. The Law (every law of every country) is there to help the masses to maintain an orderly society. However, an orderly society has to have an escape door for those people who are not politically correct and who have the courage and spirit to do what needs to be done outside the box.

People who are willing to go to jail if necessary in order to do what is right and outside the box. The born-to-be-rebels, the Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke. The little boy who was standing on the street with his father and mother to see the king’s new clothes, and when everyone was speaking of the beautiful clothing and gold buttons and the cufflinks of the shirt of the king. The little boy, said out loud, “But Mom the king is naked!”

There always has to be a little boy like this that is willing to see the true reality and not be afraid to speak it out. Most times these little boys are not very popular because they are standing alone against the majority of society, those around them.

They are not popular because they see what others refuse to see or can’t see due to their selective hearing and seeing, motivated by a namby-pamby society that chooses to live comfortably with the attitude of “le deluge apres moi”= which literally means, “After me, the flood.” (Or, I don’t care what happens after I am gone.)

What is the story of Pinchas? It is directly connected to last week’s reading from Numbers 22 – 25. The internationally famous wizard, false prophet, and greedy Balaam was invited to curse Israel. The king of Moab, Balak, invited Balaam and promised him great wealth as a reward for cursing Israel.

Balaam is willing to come and curse Israel, but the Lord sends his angel to stop him and forbid Balaam to curse Israel. In turn Balaam seems to bless Israel and for this he gets no reward. Balaam is a person who wants the best of both worlds. He wants to appear as one who hears the Lord and who wants to keep his orders and commands.

On the other hand Balaam also wants to get the reward from Balak. He wants to live in both worlds and get the best from both. In the final count Balaam gives Balak the winning advice. Send your beautiful young women to seduce the men of Israel.

There is nothing new in this tactical approach. The same tactic has been used a million times by every government and every intelligence agency. We know from our modern times that Israel has used it several times but not on a major national scale. Israel has used the same tactic on an individual scale more than once.

Balaam was successful in giving this advice to Balak, king of Moab. The beautiful young maidens of Moab were very successful in the use of their bodies to drag the Israelites to worship their idols and draw them away from the God of Israel, the creator of the Universe.

Numbers 25 starts with this statement:

“Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel.” – Numbers 25:1-3 [NKJV]

What was God’s response to this harlotry and idolatry of the men of Israel with the daughters of Moab? The Lord commanded Moses to command the leaders of each tribe to arrest the men who participated in this horrible worship of Baal Peor, to take these men and kill them and hang them out in the sun so that everyone who didn’t commit this abomination would see and learn not to follow.

“And indeed, one of the children of Israel came and presented to his brethren a Midianite woman in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.” – Numbers 25:6 [NKJV]

The King James language is trying to be clean. The phrase in the King James Version “presented to his brethren” in Hebrew means much more than “presented” – it means that he was having sex with the Moabite princes in front of the leaders and judges of Israel including Moses who was standing there and doing nothing. Moses the great man of God was so shocked and bewildered that he knew not what to do.

The text tells us what happened:

“Now when Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose from among the congregation and took a javelin in his hand; and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body. So the plague was stopped among the children of Israel. And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand.” – Numbers 25:7-9 [NKJV]

We learn something new from this text. This blatant sin that was going on in the camp of Israel also brought a plague on the camp of Israel. As soon as Pinchas (Phinehas) killed the couple that was having sex at the door of the tabernacle of the Lord the plague stopped. We are told that in that plague, 24,000 children of Israel died before it was stopped by Pinchas with the use of his javelin by performing radical surgery on the Israelite man and the Midianite woman.

The text tells us who was the person who did this abominable act at the door of the tabernacle of the Lord:

“Now the name of the Israelite who was killed, who was killed with the Midianite woman, was Zimri the son of Salu, a leader of a father’s house among the Simeonites.” – Numbers 25:14-15 [NKJV]

What Zimri the son of Salu, the prince of the tribe of Simeon and Cozbi the daughter of the head of the people of Midian did was not just sin, a horrible sin of desecration of the tabernacle of the Lord, but was also trying to show that the God of Israel is impotent and that the leadership of Israel was impotent as well when compared to to the idol worshiping harlots of the Moabites and Midianites.

What Pinchas did was outside the box. He was not authorized to take the law into his own hands. He didn’t ask permission from Moses or from anyone else. He took the law into his own hands and executed the two sinners right on the spot.

You would think that God would have been angry with Pinchas because he didn’t respect the system, the legal procedures and just did what he felt necessary at the moment. On the contrary the Lord rewarded Pinchas and praised him and made him the chief of staff of the armies of Israel.

If someone today were to do something similar he would be judged in a court of law and thrown into prison. But not before the Lord God of Israel:

“Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal.” – Numbers 25:11 [NKJV]

In special circumstances when no one in the leadership is willing to stand up and be counted on the side of the Lord someone has to stand up and be counted. This is not a call for rebellion against the leadership of your churches, but it is a call, first and foremost, to be ready to stand up for the truth and for the righteousness of God when the elected leadership is not functioning, and is at a loss as to what is the proper way, to demonstrate what is in fact, righteous indignation.

Stand up and be counted on the side of the Lord and let the chips fall where they may.

Political correctness is good and proper when all things are working in order and when there is no plague cutting down the lives of God’s children. When there is a plague raging through the house of the Lord’s people it is time to take action like Pinchas did.

I never advocate violence as a solution to anything spiritual or political, but I do advocate standing up and speaking the truth in love, and to not worry about popular opinion or the consequences of speaking the truth in love.

If there is ever a situation where you are forced to take even physical action remember the judge of all flesh is still the same God that saw what Pinchas did and blessed Pinchas and all of Israel and who stopped the plague that killed 24,000 of the people of Israel.

Every plague in the Bible was started and deployed by the almighty God as a punishment for sins and the abominations that His children executed. At times the only way for God to get His children to wake up and to recognize their abominations is to punish them with plagues.

He used it on Egypt and on Israel many times, but confession and repentance with a contrite heart always stops the plague and blesses the children of God.

Joseph Shulam: Living Outside of the Box [2019]

This Shabbat the Torah reading (in Israel) will be Parashat Pinchas (Phinehas) (Numbers 25:10-30:1) and the reading from the prophets is from Jeremiah 1:1 – 2:3. Last week we read the dramatic story of Balaam and his donkey. The donkey was smarter than the famous magician with an international reputation.

This week the reading starts with a very dramatic event in Israel’s camp. The president of the tribe of Simeon, Zimri the son of Salu, took the princess of Moab, Cozbi the daughter of Zur, and had sex with her in public in front of the Tabernacle of the Lord. This horrible act of rebellion, and total rejection of the Lord God Himself, was done by the advice that Balaam gave to Balak.

Balaam could not curse Israel, but he found a way to bring Israel down, by sending all the beautiful Moabite girls to seduce the men of Israel. This horrible advice took root in Israel, and as idolatry and immorality often go together, this is what happened in the camp of Israel.

This was just a short time before they were to enter the land of Canaan, that was promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as an inheritance forever. Now Moses and the elders of Israel are standing by and wringing their hands with sorrow. They are totally horrified, and they have both loss of words and loss of deeds, they are paralyzed.

While all this is going on, a young man by the name of Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, takes the law into his own hands. He took his javelin in his hand, and he went into the tent and thrust both Zimri and Cozbi through.

The javelin of Phinehas went through both the man and the woman and stuck in the ground killing both of them in front of the leadership of Israel. This brave young man Phinehas stopped the plague that was raging among the children of Israel.

You would think that both Moses and God would be angry with Phinehas for taking the law into his own hands, and killing the two lawbreakers who did this sin as an act of defiance and rebellion against God and against Israel. This prince and princess had one aim in doing this sex act publicly. They wanted to prove that the God of Israel is impotent, and that the leadership of Israel was impotent.

Phinehas (Pinchas), the young priest of the house of Aaron, didn’t wait to get permission from Moses or Aaron. He took the law into his own hands, because he wanted to save God’s honor and the honor of the Tabernacle of God, that stood in the middle of the camp of Israel.

He did it on his own, an act that was totally outside the box, outside of what is politically correct, of what is permissible by the Torah. According to the Torah, an execution cannot be done in the camp of Israel without an orderly court trial and a decision by a special majority of the judges of Israel.

Phinehas did not wait for anyone to give him permission. Today in Israel, Phinehas and men like him would go to jail. The opposite happened.

God blessed Phinehas, and he was made the chief of staff of the forces of Israel – a 4 star general – for this act of bravery, and for the initiative that he took in a moment where the older and wiser leaders, like Moses, did not know what to do. Above all of the above, as a result of the act of this young man Phinehas, God stopped the plague that killed 24,000 men of Israel, and rewarded the not-politically-correct young man Phinehas.

There is a lesson in this, my dear brothers and sisters. God, more often than not, works outside the box. He honors, respects, and rewards men that have that energy to do things that are outside of the box.

netivyah-jerusalem-prayer-list

The biggest outside-the-box act is when God sent His Son, Yeshua, to die on a Roman cross for our sins. What can be more irregular? What can be more politically wrong and deplorable than a father who sacrifices his own son for the sake of strangers and criminals?

God’s love for us, humans, is totally outside the box. This is why God understood the heart and the motivation of Phinehas, and in place of punishment, a reward was given by the Creator Himself. Let us all learn from this story in the Torah, that where there is no man to stand up for what is right and just and righteous, you be that man. If there is no Maccabee to fight for God, you stand up and be the Maccabee yourself.

Joseph Shulam: The Origin of Women’s Rights [2017]

This week the synagogues around the world read from Numbers 25:10 – 30:1. This is a very dramatic reading. The two stories that make this portion of the Torah are the deed of Pinchas (Phinehas), who took the law into his own hands, and the story of the daughters of Zelophehad (27:1-11). I shall focus on the aspect which has received less attention: comparing Torah laws on the right of daughters to inherit with the practice of the ancient nations around us.

The daughters of Zelophehad came to Moses with a story and a request: “Our father died in the wilderness… for his own sin” (Numbers 27:3). Even though he died for his sin, his daughters apparently honored his memory. “And he has left no sons” (Numbers 27:3).

Since he only left daughters, and daughters could not inherit or receive a holding in the land according to the law of Moses, they also could not continue the name of their father’s family for the future generations. These seven daughters of Zelophehad argued: “Let not our father’s name be lost to his clan just because he had no son! Give us a holding among our father’s kinsmen!” (Numbers 27:4). It is important to stay with the text and understand that the daughters of Zelophehad requested to inherit their father’s land not so that they could be landowners, but for the perpetuation of the name of their father and his honor.

In my opinion, this is the first act of women’s rights/women’s liberation. The Torah recognizes only the male children as inheritors of their father’s property. There are good reasons for this ancient rule. Especially because the land of Canaan was divided to each tribe of Israel, and within the tribes to each family. So, only if the sons, who are those who hold the name of the family, inherit, there is no danger that the property will move to another tribe when the daughters marry men from the other tribes.

In the nations around the land of Israel, if there were no sons to inherit from the father, a daughter could inherit all her father’s property. Archaeologists have found documents from a place called Alalakh, (Stratum VII, 17th cent. B.C.E.), indicating that daughters had the right to inherit just as sons. There is evidence that this practice continued up to the 15th century B.C.E.

This practice continued later, as well, as is documented in sources from Stratum IV (15th cent. B.C.E.). In Ugarit (13-14th cent. B.C.E.) the laws are not as clear on this issue of daughters inheriting in the presence of a male sibling. However, it is clear that they could inherit their father in the absence of a male brother.

In Emar (13th cent. B.C.E.) when specified in a testament of the father, daughters could inherit the same as sons. In a few cases, the father could specify in his testament that the daughters could inherit and give his daughters the status of a “son” that would give the daughters the full rights to do all the ancestral rites.

In Egypt, in the time of the Old Kingdom (2675-1980 B.C.E.), daughters inherited the property of their dead father, but their brothers inherited a larger portion. This practice in Egypt continued also into the New Kingdom, that means all the way to the time of Moses and the children of Israel in Egypt.

The finding from the ancient Near East sheds an interesting light on the issue among the Israelites. Moses was raised as an Egyptian prince in the house of Pharaoh. He probably was well versed in the Egyptian laws.

Now, after the giving of God’s law in Sinai, their inheritance was given to the sons, the elder son received half of the inheritance, and the rest of the sons shared the rest. Suddenly, a problem arises, there are daughters who have no male brother and they want to inherit their father’s land. What are the options of Moses:

He could say to these women, “the law is the law”, there is no way to change the law. Not everyone who is unhappy with the law can come and demand to change the law and make it to his private liking.

He could say, I see your point, all the nations around us allow the daughters to inherit the father if there are no male children. Why should we be different than all our neighbors? Let these girls inherit. Equality between man and woman from noble families is a well-established practice in our world. Let us be like everybody else around us.

Moses takes a different route. He does not feel that he has the right to change the law or the custom of the people of Israel on his own. He has a higher authority form which to ask a solution to this problem. He considered the problem and didn’t dismiss it.

“So Moses brought their case before the Lord. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘The daughters of Zelophehad speak what is right; you shall surely give them a possession of inheritance among their father’s brothers, and cause the inheritance of their father to pass to them. And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: “If a man dies and has no son, then you shall cause his inheritance to pass to his daughter. If he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers. If he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. And if his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to the relative closest to him in his family, and he shall possess it.”’ And it shall be to the children of Israel a statute of judgment, just as the Lord commanded Moses.” – Numbers 27:5-11

Moses presented the problem to God, and God understood the problem, and actually changes the law not only for this specific case, but also for the future. God says, “If a man dies and has no son, then you shall cause his inheritance to pass to his daughter.”

Dear brothers and sisters, I can’t express properly how happy this story makes me. I am a witness of a major breakdown of church hypocrisy. Churches who have been waving the flag of restoration, and bible only is our authority, and we want to be like the New Testament church, have ignored the clear instruction written in the New Testament on many issues, but especially on the issue of women and their role in the life and practice of the church.

I have wondered how intelligent men can be so unintelligent when it comes to the bible. The New Testament gives women a spectrum of possibilities to establish their equality. Let me just list a few from the very texts that promote equality and privileges for women:

“But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.” – 1 Corinthians 11:5

It is clear in this text that women can pray and prophesy in public, as long as they have their hair covered. Churches should have been teaching this and not forbidding women from praying in public. For the churches to deny women from praying in public – they have sinned against women and against the church itself.

“I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.” – Romans 16:1,2

In this text from Paul’s letter to the Romans, we see that in the church of Rome there were female deacons. The English text reads that Phoebe was a servant. The Greek word for servant is “daikon”. Just as the case of women praying in public, in this case women were serving in every church, but they were not recognized that their service was titled the same as the men, deaconess.

“And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.” – Philippians 4:3

In this text, Paul calls women who worked (labored) with him in the gospel fellow workers. I wonder what these women did together with Paul in order to be called fellow workers and laborers in the gospel.

Dear brothers and sisters, if we are still committed to the restoration of the New Testament church, let us not stop with the great achievements of the 19th century men of God who understood that the only way to be sure that we are walking in God’s path and getting out of the Roman Catholic stronghold is to return to the word of God in the historical context, and be truly committed to biblical authority for our lives and churches.

There are many more examples and statements, but this prayer list is not the place for enlarging on this topic. For conclusion, I must say that Christians state Paul’s statement regarding the Jew-Gentile challenge, but they forget that the next words in Paul’s statement in Galatians is:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28

Joseph Shulam: Zeal for God’s Honor [2016]

This week’s reading from the Torah in Israel is from the portion called Pinchas (Phinehas). The portion starts in Numbers chapter 25:10-30:1. The first thing that is important for us to notice is that God is not angry with Phinehas for taking his spear and killing the princess of Moab and the prince of the tribe of Simeon.

Here is the interesting text:

“And indeed, one of the children of Israel came and presented to his brethren a Midianite woman in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Now when Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose from among the congregation and took a javelin in his hand; and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body. So the plague was stopped among the children of Israel. And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand.” – Numbers 25:6-9

This young man Phinehas took the law into his own hands, and actually executed this couple that were having sex in the courtyard of the Tabernacle of the Lord. The top leadership of Israel was there and the act was done in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the leadership of Israel. No one did anything about this abomination.

Those who were in authority, like Moses himself, were doing nothing. They were just bewildered and dumbfounded, and knew not what to do. In this case, Phinehas took the law into his own hands and his javelin pierced the couple in the middle of their action. No one appointed Phinehas to do this act of violence.

You would think that everyone would be angry and upset with this young man who jumped out of turn and did this brave act. As you can see from the text, this out-of-order act stopped the plague that was reaping death in the camp of the children of Israel. The plague killed 24,000 children of Israel, and it was stopped by this act of bravery.

In the reading of Numbers chapter 25:11,12, we find out that the Lord actually praises Phinehas and gives him something very special. The Lord gives Phinehas a covenant of shalom (peace), and stops the terrible plague on his behalf:

“Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal. Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace…’” – Numbers 25:11,12

The difficult issue in this portion of the Torah is what can we learn for own lives and times from this event, and from how the Lord reacted to Phinehas taking the law in his own hands:

  1. The law is the law, but at times the law does not give an answer to an emergency situation. Someone who sees the need and also sees the helplessness of those who are appointed to exercise the law and knows that he can stop the evil – it is his responsibility to not stand by and wait for the law to take action, but take action himself and be willing to bear the consequences if necessary.
  2. God expects everyone to do good every time he has the opportunity. Consider the following principle: “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)
  3. Consider that most of the time in our lives our choices are between “bad” and “worse”. It is not often that our lives have the choice between 100% of good and 100% of evil. We must take into account the King David Principle: “But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” (1 Samuel 17:45) For his own sake, David didn’t defend himself on several occasions, but when it comes to someone defiling the name of God or the honor of our God David, like Phinehas, stood up and put his faith into action. All of the army of Israel and King Saul were standing by not knowing what to do, but little David, with the power of the Lord behind him, took the action to stop the dishonoring of God.

The whole world sees how Muslims honor the image and name of Muhammad. I would never suggest for Christians or Jews to do what Muslims do when some spoof newspaper in Belgium or Paris draws a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.

But on the other hand, Christians and Jews are showing weakness when they see the evil and hear the evil and the blasphemy against our God, and we just stand by and say nothing or do nothing. There comes a time when all good men must stand up for the right and stop the worry for the political correct.

We must stand up with Yeshua and with God Himself. It is up to the disciples of Yeshua to stand up for Him. It is up to the followers of Yeshua and the worshipers of God Himself to protect the honor of God and of our Savior.

Phinehas was not worried about the political correctness of his action. He was worried about the fact that Moses and the leadership of Israel were showing weakness and not knowing how to stop the sin and the plague that was killing the people of Israel.

Phinehas was worried for the defiling of God’s holiness and the respect of the people for God’s Tabernacles. If we are ashamed of our Savior in front of man, He, Yeshua, will be ashamed of us in front of His Father in the day of judgment!

Joseph Shulam: What Do We Do in the Face of Unrighteousness? [2011]

This next Shabbat (Saturday) every synagogue in the world will hear the story of Phinehas from Numbers chapters 25. This story is very enigmatic, because when any law-abiding and law-respecting citizen reads the story he comes from it with a mixed feeling.

First, it is always good to know that God will raise up someone to do the job even when the leadership is weak and silent. Second, God can override the norm, and even the law that He gave to Moses, in order to promote justice and righteousness.

The case of Phinehas is actually just such a story. The story starts with one of the bible’s arch villains. Balaam was hired by Balak, the king of Midian, to put a curse on Israel as they were about to enter the land of Canaan. Balaam could not put a curse on Israel, but he wanted the reward money that Balak had offered him.

So, Balaam gave Balak advice on how to make the Israelites fall. He told him to send his beautiful Midianite women to seduce the men of Israel.

Here comes the part of the story involving Phinehas. The president of the tribe of Simeon, whose name is Zimri son of Salu, took Cozbi the daughter of Zur, who was head of the people of a father’s house in Midian, and right in front of the Tabernacle of God cohabited in public.

As the texts says:

“And indeed, one of the children of Israel came and presented to his brethren a Midianite woman in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.” – Numbers 25:6

Apparently Moses was there, looking on to what is going on, and doing nothing. Most probably Moses was totally frozen and did not know what to do.

“Now when Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose from among the congregation and took a javelin in his hand; and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body. So the plague was stopped among the children of Israel.” – Numbers 25:7,8

Phinehas actually took the law into his own hands. He was a priest. He did not have the authority to take the lives of Zimri and Cozi, who were having sex in public in front of the house of the Lord.

In Israel today, Phinehas would have been taken to court and put in jail for taking the law into his own hands and executing the criminals who caused God’s anger to be kindled against Israel. Even though the plague was stopped after 24,000 people died in Israel.

Today there would be an investigation, and Phinehas would have gone to jail. In this case, in the time of Moses, the word says:

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal. Therefore say, “Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace…”’” – Numbers 25:9,10

There is a very dangerous lesson to be learned from this story; albeit dangerous it is very important. God rewarded Phinehas for the zeal of the Lord that motivated him to take action when Moses and the other leaders of Israel were frozen with indecision and did not know what to do. God gives Phinehas something very special. God says: “I give to him My covenant of peace.”

Here is the question that we all have to ask ourselves. When is it right to break the order and laws of human beings and be consumed with the zeal of the Lord, and take action in ways that might be questionable in a state of law and order?

I don’t have a clear and decisive answer for you, but I do know that we have to keep an open mind and attitude toward ourselves and toward others that might have more zeal than Moses had. We should not be condemning of people who are willing to sacrifice their reputation and their freedom in order to do the will of the Lord.

This is not situation ethics, this is a zeal for righteousness, that when one sees horrible and terrible things happening, the fire of God’s justice and righteousness is kindled and takes action. Note that Moses is passive in the story, and he does not react at all, either for or against the action that Phinehas took.

I am sharing this story with you because I have serious doubts that you have heard preaching on Phinehas from the pulpit of your church any recent time. You should read the story from chapter 25 of the book of Numbers and see for yourself the fascinating implications of this word of God.

Yehuda Bachana: Good Jealousy and Bad Jealousy [2018]

Read the teaching below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.

This week’s Torah portion is in part, very monotonous, with a list of names and families making up the majority of the text. While at the same time, it is rather rich in content. This parasha is named after Phinehas, and his zeal which can be interpreted as jealousy, stopped the plague that had killed 24,000 people.

Further on in the parasha, we encounter the census as well as the division of the land according to the tribes. We learn about the daughters of Zelophehad and the laws of inheritance. In this week’s reading, there is a turnover of leadership and Joshua is appointed as the leader after Moses. Most of the holidays of Israel can also be found in this parasha, such as Yom Kippur, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Passover and more.

The Fine Line between Correct and Unacceptable Jealousy

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Yeshua’s jealousy for God’s house was expressed in a violent act of righteous anger. When are such acts acceptable? When are they not?

Parashat Pinchas is not an easy parasha, especially Phinehas’ action, which is difficult and unclear – including the reward from God. The question that each person asks himself is, where is the right balance or the fine line between healthy, righteous, and correct jealousy, and between unacceptable, offensive, racist, fanatical, and impure jealousy.

Jealousy can be simple and clear with children. For example, “Why does he have more toys than me?” “Why is he allowed to stay up late and I am not?” These are the typical questions kids ask when they see what others have. Suddenly, whatever they possess becomes not good enough.

Jealousy is always affected by our surroundings, we see what others have and then we want it for ourselves.

Does Positive Jealousy Exist?

Here at Netivyah we strive to help those in need. This year, we are working with 130 families, offering them weekly support with groceries. Most of these families have many children, and the main problem that the Welfare Bureau deals with is related to the next generation, to the teenagers in these families.

These teenagers see what their classmates are wearing, their brand new smartphones, and they get invited over to their big houses. The result is that most teenagers who come from families in financial hardship, resort to using recreational drugs or alcohol in order to numb their senses and reduce the pain caused by their family’s situation. Sometimes, they turn to minor crimes and theft, so that they can have what their classmates possess. In addition, the school dropout rate for these kids is very high.

Is there such a thing as positive jealousy? If so, what is it?

Jealousy that Causes Competition can be Used Positively

Jealousy that leads to competition forces people to transcend themselves, to work harder developing their ability in order to reach heights that would not have achieved otherwise. As the talmudic saying goes:

“Jealousy among teachers increases wisdom.” – Bava Batra 22a

We often do not take action or give enough effort due to laziness, although in our minds we know that we should do more. This is often the case with our education, volunteering, or with taking life seriously and investing in the home and family.

When I see my friend advance or succeed, it makes me want to improve and be like him. It arouses in me a jealousy; a positive jealousy that leads to progress and success.

The Dangers of Envy

However, jealousy is also a dangerous thing, and it has existed in human beings since the beginning of history. We read and learn of the instance when Cain could not overcome his jealousy:

“…but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.” – Genesis 4:5 [NIV]

Cain fulfilled and executed his jealousy without much thought:

“…While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” – Genesis 4:8b [NIV]

Later on we read about the brothers who hated Joseph and who were jealous of him. There feelings towards him were so strong that it caused them to try and murder him, although they decided to sell him into slavery instead in the end.

Another case of jealousy that led to murder can be seen with Saul’s envious feelings toward David. When David came back from battle and the women praised him more than Saul, Saul became jealous of the honor that David had received. In fact, later on he threw a spear in an attempt to harm David.

God Gives Us Everything We Need

The New Testament teaches us that God gives everyone exactly what He needs. For example, in 1 Corinthians 12, Saul compares us to the body which has many parts, each of which has a different function. Each one has a different gift and everyone is important, all of us are important to the surroundings and the community. Likewise, the community is important to the body of Messiah.

netivyah-community

If we want to serve but do not know how or in which area, then the things that we have or do not have may give us a clue. For example: musical talent or artistic ability can direct us to a certain path, intellectual abilities direct us to another. Compassion or sensitivity can cause us to help others. The abilities and talents that we have are the tools we need to realize our purpose, which in turn is designed to build up the kingdom of heaven, and to build each other, and allow one another to grow and draw nearer to the Almighty.

If we look at it in this way, then the possessions or the talents that our neighbor has are entirely irrelevant to us. There is no point in making comparisons, since they are totally unrelated to the purpose of our lives. Just as the baker does not envy the tailor’s sharp scissors.

The Line Between Religious and Fanatical Jealousy

Now we come to the impossible question of religious jealousy, which means being jealous for God. We even have an example from Yeshua the Messiah Himself, who became angry and was jealous for God’s house, the Temple, and turned over the tables of the money changers there and cast out the merchants with a whip (Matthew 21).

The difficult question is, where do we draw the line between religion, extremism, fanatical jealousy, and pure, godly jealousy?

I am very afraid of the idea of godly jealousy because the line that separates correct jealousy from fanatical religious jealousy is a hairbreadth – you almost can’t distinguish between the two. A person who enters into the pursuit of religious jealousy can quickly, with one step, cross the line and move to religious fanaticism, which is dangerous and harmful to those surrounding him.

Zeal for the Right Time and Place

Let us return to Phinehas’ jealousy and what happens after the act:

“Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites. Since he was as zealous for my honor among them as I am, I did not put an end to them in my zeal. Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him.” – Numbers 25:11,12 [NIV]

This covenant of peace was God’s response to Phinehas’ act, it was actually a demand for the zealot to move over to a heritage of peace and acceptance of those different from him forever. God was saying that maybe your zeal was right for this day and hour, and we should emphasize that it was right.

However, God says we must not turn these attributes into the policy of nation, and in fact, we see here the divine declaration that the world can only be conducted in peace.

Please leave a verse in the comments below, that you think sums up, or adds to the discussion today.

Click here to download a pdf version of this teaching.