Torah Portion: Pinchas
Pinchas, the Biblical figure after whom this week’s Torah portion is named, commits a violent and graphic act of religious zealotry. Tradition has viewed his actions with intense ambivalence and more contemporary expressions of Jewish religious zealotry (e.g., Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, the murder of Muslim worshippers at prayer in Hebron) are roundly condemned by leaders across the Jewish world. Although examples of violence perpetrated in the name of religion exist in our Torah, these have never been held up as models to be emulated. Instead, the approach cultivated by Jewish scholars through the centuries is the one expressed in a prayer composed by the late Rabbi Chaim Stern: “O keep me from seeing only black-and-white in a world of many colors. Do not let me imagine that my people are ‘Children of Light’ while others are ‘Children of Darkness.’ Teach me to see myself in every face, to hear the human spirit in every voice. Keep me from making distinctions that are of no significance, from judgments that serve only myself, and from the urge to rise by my neighbor’s fall. From prejudice preserve me, from hatred redeem me, and from self-righteousness defend me.” With this prayer in mind, I wish you and yours a Shabbat Shalom!