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Phinehas – the Slayer of Uncertainty

A strange episode at the end of the last Torah portion, Balak, where Phinehas (Pinchas) slain a Jewish prince caught in the act with a heathen woman, is rewarded in this week’s eponymous Torah portion with the priesthood.  This begs the question, what is the connection between the act of zealotry by Phinehas and the reward of priesthood he receives for it? By way of background, as we read in the previous Torah portion, the evil king, Balak, fails to bring a curse on the Jewish people by Balaam (Bilam).  According to Midrash, Balaam advises Balak to send most beautiful Midian women to seduce Jewish men (see Flavius Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews, Book IV, Chapter VI, Paragraphs 6-12). Balak heads the advice and uses Moabite and Midianite women to seduce Jewish men [...]

Tumah and Taharah

The Hebrew words taharah and tumah, which are the subjects of the Torah portion of Chukat (Numbers 19:1–22:1), are usually translated as ritual purity and ritual impurity respectively. This, of course, has nothing to do with physical purity or impurity, as these are strictly spiritual concepts. But what is a “spiritual concept” in the first place? The word “spiritual” is thrown around a lot by religious pundits and new age gurus. This word is anathema to scientists as anything spiritual is deemed to be antithetical to science. However, this word can be given a simple, precise and strictly scientific definition. (As Descartes famously said, most arguments would disappear if people bothered giving definitions to the concepts they argue about.) Well, one thing everyone would agree with, that spiritual is not physical. Since all [...]

By |2017-06-29T21:27:41-04:00June 19th, 2013|Chukat, Parshah, Spirituality, Time, Uncategorized|0 Comments

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