, or Pin’has
(פנחס — Hebrew
,” a name, the sixth word, and the first distinctive word, in the parshah) is the 41st weekly Torah portion
) in the annual Jewish
cycle of Torah reading
and the eighth in the book of Numbers
. It constitutes Jews
in the Diaspora
generally read it in late June or July.
After the sin of Baal-Peor
announced that because Phinehas had displayed his passion for God, God granted Phinehas God’s pact of friendship and priesthood
for all time. God then told Moses
to attack the Midianites
to repay them for their trickery luring Israelite
men to worship Baal-Peor. ()
God instructed Moses and Eleazar
to take a census
of Israelite men 20 years old and up, and Moses and Eleazar ordered it done. The census showed the following populations
- Reuben: 43,730
- Simeon: 22,200
- Gad: 40,500
- Judah: 76,500
- Issachar: 64,300
- Zebulun: 60,500
- Manasseh: 52,700
- Ephraim: 32,500
- Benjamin: 45,600
- Dan: 64,400
- Asher: 53,400
- Naphtali: 45,400
totaling 601,730 in all.
The text notes parenthetically that when Korah’s band agitated against God, the earth swallowed them up with Korah, but Korah’s sons did not die. God told Moses to apportion shares of the land according to population among those counted, and by lot. The Levite men aged a month old and up amounted to 23,000, and they were not included in the regular enrollment of Israelites, as they were not to have land assigned to them.
Among the persons whom Moses and Eleazar enrolled was not one of those enrolled in the first census at the wilderness of Sinai, except Caleb and Joshua. ()
The daughters of Zelophehad
The daughters of Zelophehad
approached Moses, Eleazar, the chieftains, and the assembly at the entrance of the Tabernacle
, saying that their father left no sons, and asking that they be given a land holding. Moses brought their case before God, who told him that their plea was just and instructed him to transfer their father’s share of land to them. God further instructed that if a man died without leaving a son, the Israelites were to transfer his property to his daughter, or failing a daughter to his brothers, or failing a brother to his father’s brothers, or failing brothers of his father to the nearest relative.
God told Moses to climb the heights of Abarim
and view the Land of Israel
, saying that when he had seen it, he would die, because he disobeyed God’s command to uphold God’s sanctity in the people’s sight when he brought water from the rock in the wilderness of Zin
. Moses asked God to appoint someone over the community, so that the Israelites would not be like sheep
without a shepherd
. God told Moses to single out Joshua, lay his hand on him, and commission him before Eleazar and the whole community. Joshua was to present himself to Eleazar the priest, who was to seek the decision of the Urim and Thummim
on whether to go out or come in. ()
God told Moses to command the Israelites to be punctilious in presenting the offerings
due God at stated times. The text then details the offerings for regular days, the Sabbath, Rosh Chodesh
, Rosh Hashanah
, Yom Kippur
, and Shmini Atzeret
In classical rabbinic interpretation
Numbers chapter 25
taught that Phinehas was able to accomplish his act of zealotry only because God performed six miracles: First, upon hearing Phinehas’s warning, Zimri
should have withdrawn from Cozbi
and ended his transgression, but he did not. Second, Zimri should have cried out for help from his fellow Simeonites, but he did not. Third, Phinheas was able to drive his spear exactly through the sexual organs of Zimri and Cozbi as they were engaged in the act. Fourth, Zimri and Cozbi did not slip off the spear, but remained fixed so that others could witness their transgression. Fifth, an angel
came and lifted up the lintel so that Phinehas could exit holding the spear. And sixth, an angel came and sowed destruction among the people, distracting the Simeonites from killing Phinheas. (Babylonian Talmud
The Gemara told that after Phinehas killed Zimri and Cozbi, the Israelites began berating Phinehas for his presumption, as he himself was descended from a Midianite idolater, Jethro. The Israelites said: “See this son of Puti (Putiel, or Jethro) whose maternal grandfather fattened (pittem) cattle for idols, and who has now slain the prince of a tribe of Israel (Zimri)!” To counter this attack, the Gemara explained, God detailed Phinehas’s descent from the peaceful Aaron the Priest in . And then in God told Moses to be the first to extend a greeting of peace to Phinehas, so as to calm the crowd. And the Gemara explained to indicate that the atonement that Phinehas had made was worthy to atone permanently. (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 82b.)
A midrash interpreted in which God gives Phinehas God’s “covenant of peace,” to teach that Phinehas, like Elijah, continues to live to this day, applying to Phinehas the words of “My covenant was with him of life and peace, and I gave them to him, and of fear, and he feared Me, and was afraid of My name.” (Numbers Rabbah 21:3.)
Reading the words of that Phinehas “made atonement for the children of Israel,” a midrash taught that although he did not strictly offer a sacrifice to justify the expression “atonement,” his shedding the blood of the wicked was as though he had offered a sacrifice. (Numbers Rabbah 21:3.)
Numbers chapter 26
found support in for the proposition that sometimes texts refer to “sons” when they mean a single son. (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 143b.)
Abba Halifa of Keruya asked Rabbi Hiyya bar Abba why reported that 70 people from Jacob’s household came to Egypt, while enumerated only 69 individuals. Rabbi Hiyya reported that Rabbi Hama bar Hanina taught that the seventieth person was Moses’ mother Jochebed, who was conceived on the way from Canaan to Egypt and born as Jacob’s family passed between the city walls as they entered Egypt, for reported that Jochebed “was born to Levi in Egypt,” implying that her conception was not in Egypt. (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 123b–24a.)
The Gemara taught that the use of the pronoun “he (hu)” in an introduction, as in the words “These are (hu) that Dathan and Abiram” in signifies that they were the same in their wickedness from the beginning to the end. Similar uses appear in to teach Esau’s enduring wickedness, in to teach Ahaz’s enduring wickedness, in to teach Ahasuerus’s enduring wickedness, in to teach Abraham’s enduring righteousness, in to teach Moses and Aaron’s enduring righteousness, and in to teach David’s enduring humility. (Babylonian Talmud Megillah 11a.)
The Gemara asked why the Tannaim felt that the allocation of the Land of Israel “according to the names of the tribes of their fathers” in meant that the allocation was with reference to those who left Egypt; perhaps, the Gemara supposed, it might have meant the 12 tribes and that the Land was to be divided into 12 equal portions? The Gemara noted that in God told Moses to tell the Israelites who were about to leave Egypt, “And I will give it you for a heritage; I am the Lord,” and that meant that the Land was the inheritance from the fathers of those who left Egypt. (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 117b.)
Numbers chapter 27
Chapter 8 of tractate Bava Batra
in the Mishnah
and Babylonian Talmud and chapter 7 of tractate Bava Batra in the Tosefta
interpreted the laws of inheritance in and 36:1–9.
(Mishnah Bava Batra 8:1–8; Tosefta Bava Batra 7:1–18; Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 108a–39b.)
Rabbi Joshua taught that Zelophehad’s daughters’ in petitioned first the assembly, then the chieftans, then Eleazar, and finally Moses, but Abba Hanan said in the name of Rabbi Eliezer taught that Zelophehad’s daughters stood before all of them as they were sitting together. (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 119b.)
Noting that the words “in the wilderness” appeared both is (where Zelophehad’s daughters noted that their father Zelophehad had not taken part in Korah’s rebellion) and in (which tells the story of the Sabbath violator), the Rabbis taught in a Baraita that Zelophehad was the man executed for gathering sticks on the Sabbath. (Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 96b.)
A Baraita taught that Zelophehad’s daughters were wise, Torah students, and righteous. (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 119b.) And a Baraita taught that Zelophehad’s daughters were equal in merit, and that is why the order of their names varies between and . (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 120a.) According to the Gemara, they demonstrated their wisdom by raising their case in a timely fashion, just as Moses was expounding the law of levirate marriage, or yibbum, and they argued for their inheritance by analogy to that law. (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 119b.)
Numbers chapter 28
in the Mishnah and Babylonian Talmud interpreted the laws of the regular offerings in (Mishnah Tamid 1:1–7:4; Babylonian Talmud Tamid 2a–33b.)
Tractate Pesachim in the Mishnah, Tosefta, Jerusalem Talmud, and Babylonian Talmud interpreted the laws of the Passover in Exodus 12:3–27, 43–49; 13:6–10; 34:25; Leviticus 23:4–8; 28:16-25; and Deuteronomy 16:1–8. (Mishnah Mishnah/Seder Moed/Tractate Pesachim; Tosefta Pisha 1:1–10:13; Jerusalem Talmud Pesachim 1a–; Babylonian Talmud Pesachim 2a–121b.)
Numbers chapter 29
in the Mishnah, Tosefta, Jerusalem Talmud, and Babylonian Talmud interpreted the laws of Sukkot in 34:22;
(Mishnah Sukkah 1:1–5:8; Tosefta Sukkah 1:1–4:28; Jerusalem Talmud Sukkah 1a–; Babylonian Talmud Sukkah 2a–56b.)
According to Maimonides
cited verses in the parshah for 12 positive and 6 negative commandments
- To judge in cases of inheritances ().
- To offer the continual sacrifices daily ().
- To offer an additional sacrifice every Sabbath ()
- To offer an additional sacrifice at the beginning of each new month ()
- To rest on the seventh day of the Festival of Passover ()
- Not to do work on the Festival of Shavuot ()
- To offer an additional sacrifice on the Festival of Shavuot ()
- To hear the sound of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah ()
- Not to do work on Rosh Hashanah ()
- To offer an additional sacrifice on Rosh Hashanah ()
- To offer an additional sacrifice on Yom Kippur ()
- To fast on Yom Kippur ()
- Not to do work on Yom Kippur ( 23:28, 31; )
- Not to do work on the first day of Sukkot ()
- To offer an additional sacrifice on the Festival of Sukkot ()
- To offer an additional sacrifice on the day of Shemini Atzeret, for this day is a pilgrimage festival in itself ()
- Not to do work on the eighth day of Sukkot ()
- Not to transgress in matters that one has forbidden himself ()
(Maimonides. Mishneh Torah, Positive Commandments 39, 41, 42, 45, 47, 48, 50, 51, 160, 164, 170, 248; Negative Commandments 157, 325, 326, 327, 328, 329. Cairo, Egypt, 1170–1180. Reprinted in Maimonides. The Commandments: Sefer Ha-Mitzvoth of Maimonides. Translated by Charles B. Chavel, 1:50–53, 55–60, 170–71, 173–74, 179–80, 256–57; 2:148–49, 298–301. London: Soncino Press, 1967. ISBN 0-900689-71-4.)
According to Sefer ha-Chinuch
According to Sefer ha-Chinuch
, there are six positive commandments in the parshah.
- The precept of the laws of inheritance
- The precept of the regular olah offering, sacrificed every day ()
- The precept of the musaf offering on the Sabbath
- The precept of the musaf offering on Rosh Chodesh
- The precept of the musaf offering on the Shavuot Festival
- The precept of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah ()
Sefer HaHinnuch: The Book of [Mitzvah] Education. Translated by Charles Wengrov, 4:171–203. Jerusalem: Feldheim Pub., 1988. ISBN 0-87306-457-7.)
When parshah Pinchas comes before the 17th of Tammuz (as it does in 2008), the haftarah
for the parshah is 1 Kings 18:46–19:21.
When the parshah falls after the 17th of Tammuz, Jews read for the haftarah the first of three readings of admonition leading up to Tisha B'Av
, Jeremiah 1:1–2:3.
The haftarah in 1 Kings tells the story of the prophet Elijah’s flight from King Ahab
, his theophany
, and his anointing of Elisha
. God’s hand was on Elijah, and he ran from King Ahab
. Ahab told Queen Jezebel
how Elijah had killed all the prophets of Baal
, and Jezebel sent a messenger to tell Elijah that she intended to have him killed by the next day in recompense. So Elijah ran for his life to Beersheba
in the Kingdom of Judah
, left his servant there, and went a day's journey into the wilderness. Elijah sat down under a broom tree
, asked God to take his life, and lay down and slept. An angel touched Elijah and told him to arise and eat, and Elijah found at his head a cake and a jar of water, and so he ate, drank, and went back to sleep. The angel again touched him again and told him to arise and eat, and he did and on the strength of that meal journeyed 40 days and 40 nights to Mount Horeb
, the mount of God. When he came to a cave and lodged there, God asked him what he was doing there. Elijah said that he had been moved by zeal for God, as the Israelites had forsaken God’s covenant, thrown down God’s altars, and killed God’s prophets, leaving only Elijah, and they sought to kill him, too. God told Elijah to stand on the mount, and God passed by. A great wind rent the mountains, and broke the rocks in pieces, but God was not in the wind. Then an earthquake came, but God was not in the earthquake. Then a fire came, but God was not in the fire. And then came a still small voice, which asked him what he was doing there. Elijah repeated that he had been moved by zeal for God, as the Israelites had forsaken God’s covenant, thrown down God’s altars, and killed God’s prophets, leaving only Elijah, and they sought to kill him, too. God told him to go to Damascus
and anoint Hazael
to be king over Aram
, to anoint Jehu
to be king over Israel, and to anoint Elisha to succeed Elijah as prophet. God foretold that any who escaped the sword of Hazael would be killed by Jehu; any who escaped the sword of Jehu would be killed by Elisha; and God would leave alive in Israel only the 7 thousand who had not bowed to Baal. So Elijah found Elisha, who was plowing with one of his 12 yoke of oxen, and Elijah cast his mantle on Elisha. Elisha left the oxen, asked Elijah for permission to kiss his parents goodbye, killed the oxen and distributed their meat to the people, and went to follow Elijah. ()
Connection to the parshah
The parshah and haftarah both address protagonists who showed zeal on behalf of God against apostasy by the Israelites. and 13
report that God laud’s Phinehas’s zeal for God (be-kan’o ’et kin’ati
and kinnei’ le-’lohav
), while in and 13
Elijah tells God of Elijah’s zeal for God (kanno’ kinnei’ti la-YHVH
). Immediately before the parshah (in ), Phinehas killed Zimri and Cozbi to stem the Israelites’ following of Baal-Peor in the Heresy of Peor
, while immediately before the haftarah (in ), Elijah killed the prophets of Baal to stem the Israelites’ following of Baal. Targum Jonathan to Exodus 6:18
thus identified Phinehas with Elijah.
The Weekly Maqam
In the Weekly Maqam
, Sephardi Jews
each week base the songs of the services on the content of that week's parshah. For parshah Pinchas, Sephardi Jews apply Maqam Saba, the maqam that symbolizes a covenant (berit
). It is appropriate, because in the very opening of this parshah, God told Phinehas that due to his heroic acts, he was granted an eternal covenant of peace with God.
The parshah has parallels or is discussed in these sources:
- 1 Maccabees chs. 1–16. (parallel to Phinehas).
- 4 Maccabees 18:12.
- Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 3:10:1–4; 4:6:12–13; 4:7:1–2. Circa 93–94. Reprinted in, e.g., The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged, New Updated Edition. Translated by William Whiston. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Pub., 1987. ISBN 0-913573-86-8.
- Instruction for Catechumens, and A Prayer of Praise of God for His Greatness, and for His Appointment of Leaders for His People, in “Hellenistic Synagogal Prayers,” in James H. Charlesworth. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2:687–88. New York: Doubleday, 1985. ISBN 0-385-18813-7.
- Pseudo-Philo 28:1–4.
- John 7:1-53 (Sukkot).
- Targum Jonathan to Exodus 6:18 (Phinehas was Elijah).
- Mishnah: Pesachim 7:4; Yoma 7:1–3; Sukkah 5:6; Taanit 4:2; Megillah 3:5; Sotah 7:7; Bava Batra 8:1–8; Sanhedrin 9:6; Shevuot 1:3; Zevachim 10:1; Menachot 4:2–3, 8:7–9:2; Tamid 1:1–7:4. Land of Israel, circa 200 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-300-05022-4.
- Jerusalem Talmud: Berakhot 43b; Sheviit 5b; Orlah 2b. Land of Israel, circa 400 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Yerushalmi. Edited by Chaim Malinowitz, Yisroel Simcha Schorr, and Mordechai Marcus, vols. 1, 6a, 12. Brooklyn: Mesorah Pubs., 2006–2008.
- Babylonian Talmud: Berakhot 54b; Shabbat 21b, 24a–b, 36a, 64a, 80b, 97a, 103b, 131b, 133a; Eruvin 40a, 63a–b; Pesachim 47b–48a, 58a–59b, 66a, 68b, 71a, 76b–77a, 81b, 83b, 96a; Yoma 2b–3b, 7a, 15a, 25a, 34a–b, 35b, 41b, 46a, 62b, 65b, 68b, 70a–71a, 73a–b, 76a, 81a; Sukkah 47a, 48b–49b, 55a–b; Beitzah 15b; Rosh Hashanah 4b–5a, 7a, 29a–b, 32b, 33b–34a; Taanit 2b–3a, 17b, 26a; Megillah 11a, 14a, 20b, 21b, 28a, 29b, 30b–31a; Moed Katan 9a, 19a, 20a, 27a; Chagigah 6a–b, 7b, 9a, 16a, 17a–18a; Yevamot 78b, 90b, 100b, 104b; Ketubot 13b, 52b; Nedarim 78a; Nazir 23b, 30a; Sotah 12a, 14a, 22b, 40b, 43a, 46a; Gittin 85a; Kiddushin 33b, 66b; Bava Kamma 42b, 82b, 88b, 92b, 111a, 112a; Bava Metzia 52b; Bava Batra 75a, 106b, 108a–39b, 141a, 143b, 147a; Sanhedrin 8a, 11b, 13b, 16a, 34b–35a, 40b, 43b–44b, 64a, 82a–b, 105b–06a, 110a; Makkot 7b, 12a; Shevuot 2a, 9a–11a; Avodah Zarah 8b, 19b, 44b; Horayot 6a, 10b, 12b; Zevachim 6b, 12a, 84a, 89a, 101b, 110b, 118a; Menachot 44b–45b, 46b, 49b, 52a, 65a, 72b, 84b, 87a–b, 89a, 91b, 93b, 99b, 103b, 104b, 107a; Chullin 60b, 134b; Bekhorot 5b, 17a; Arakhin 3b, 13b; Temurah 14a–b, 29a; Keritot 4a, 28b; Meilah 11b, 13b; Tamid 2a–33b; Niddah 26a. Babylonia, 6th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Bavli. Edited by Yisroel Simcha Schorr, Chaim Malinowitz, and Mordechai Marcus, 72 vols. Brooklyn: Mesorah Pubs., 2006.
- Rashi. Commentary. Numbers 25–30. Troyes, France, late 11th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Rashi. The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated. Translated and annotated by Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg, 4:319–67. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1997. ISBN 0-89906-029-3.
- Judah Halevi. Kuzari. Kitab al Khazari/Part Two Toledo, Spain, 1130–1140. Reprinted in, e.g., Jehuda Halevi. Kuzari: An Argument for the Faith of Israel. Intro. by Henry Slonimsky, 101, 133. New York: Schocken, 1964. ISBN 0-8052-0075-4.
- Numbers Rabbah 21:1–25. 12th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Numbers. Translated by Judah J. Slotki. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
- Zohar 3:213a–241b. pain, late 13th Century. Reprinted in, e.g, The Zohar. Translated by Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon. 5 vols. London: Soncino Press, 1934.
- Thomas Hobbes. Leviathan, Leviathan/The_Third_Part#Chapter_XL:_Of_the_Rights_of_the_Kingdom_of_God.2C_in_Abraham.2C_Moses.2C_the_High_Priests.2C_and_the_Kings_of_Judah Leviathan/The_Third_Part#Chapter_XLII:_Of_Power_Ecclesiastical England, 1651. Reprint edited by C. B. Macpherson, 506, 572. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Classics, 1982. ISBN 0140431950.
- Emily Dickinson. Poem 112 (Where bells no more affright the morn —). Circa 1859. If the foolish, call them "flowers" — Circa 1860. It always felt to me — a wrong Circa 1862. In The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Edited by Thomas H. Johnson, 53, 79–80, 293–94. New York: Little, Brown & Co., 1960. ISBN 0-316-18414-4.
- Jacob Milgrom. “Magic, Monotheism, and the Sin of Moses.” In The Quest for the Kingdom of God: Studies in Honor of George E. Mendenhall. Edited by H. B. Huffmon, F.A. Spina, A.R.W. Green, 251–265. Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 1983. ISBN 0931464153.
- Tal Ilan. "How Women Differed." Biblical Archaeology Review, 24:02. Mar./Apr. 1998.
- William H.C. Propp. “Why Moses Could Not Enter The Promised Land.” Bible Review. 14 (3) (June 1998).