Impurity that Proceeds from the Heart, a Torah Perspective, פרשת פינחס, Parashat Pinchas, Bits of Torah Truths


This week’s Torah Portion opens with Pinchas being rewarded for his act of zealousness for the Lord God of Israel. Pinchas was then appointed as a Kohen (Priest). Although a grandson to Aharon, he was not included in the original selection of Kohanim.  Bilam had told the Midianites how to destroy Israel by sinning against God at Baal Peor and so Moshe was told to do battle against the Midianites. Moshe counts the Children of Israel in preparation for entering the Land of Israel.  The total number of men over 20 years old able to fight in war, not including the Levites was 601,730.  Comparison to the numbering of the people 40 years earlier, Moshe numbered them to be 603,550.  Moshe divides Israel through a lottery that matched each tribe to its proper portion. The Levites are then counted.  We are told how the daughters of Zelophehad ask for a halachic ruling regarding their father who died without any sons, the laws of inheritance are discussed. Moshe is told to prepare for his death, and Joshua is chosen as his successor.  The remainder of the Torah Portion details the various public sacrifices offered throughout the year, the Daily sacrifice, Shabbat, Musaf, Rosh Chodesh, and every Yom Tov.

The daughters of Zelophehad went before Moshe according to Bamidbar / Numbers 27:1-4 and said the following, 27:1 Then the daughters of Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph, came near; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah and Hoglah and Milcah and Tirzah. 27:2 They stood before Moses and before Eleazar the priest and before the leaders and all the congregation, at the doorway of the tent of meeting, saying, 27:3 ‘Our father died in the wilderness, yet he was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah; but he died in his own sin, and he had no sons. 27:4 ‘Why should the name of our father be withdrawn from among his family because he had no son? Give us a possession among our father’s brothers.’ (NASB)  The Daughters of Zelophehad took up the matter of inheritance as it is related to their father not receiving the inheritance because he had no sons.  These women were bold going to Moshe and asking for an inheritance and seeking the Lord’s will on this important topic.  The Talmud Bavli Shabbat 96b states the following concerning this story.

Talmud Bavli Shabbat 96b

On the topic of the wood gatherer, the Gemara cites that which the Sages taught in a baraita: The wood gatherer mentioned in the Torah was Zelophehad, and it says: “And the children of Israel were in the desert and they found a man gathering wood on the day of Shabbat” (Numbers 15:32), and below, in the appeal of the daughters of Zelophehad, it is stated: “Our father died in the desert and he was not among the company of them that gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah, but he died in his own sin, and he had no sons” (Numbers 27:3). Just as below the man in the desert is Zelophehad, so too, here, in the case of the wood gatherer, the unnamed man in the desert is Zelophehad; this is the statement of Rabbi Akiva.

The Talmud states according to Rabbi Akiva, their father was the one who gathered wood during the Shabbat and then died from his sins and not in the rebellion against Moshe and Aaron that we read about in the past three Torah portions.  So the idea here is that he had not been among the rebels in the uprising of Korach or of those who complained and died by the snake bite.  His daughters stated publicly that their father was not a member of the rebels with Korach.  He also was not one of those who God had vowed would not live to take part in the conquest of the land of Canaan at the appointed time.  Their father died simply as a result of personal sin, and this would not deny him a claim to the ancestral land in the land of Israel.  Nachmanides writes “according to the plain meaning of the text, the reason that these girls mentioned that their father had not been a member of the gang of rebels with Korach was that they thought that Moses must surely hate anyone who had been connected with that group, as they had targeted him personally in their uprising and incitement of the people against him.”  Zelophehad died due to his sins committed as an individual and not as a group.  The importance of inheriting what God has promised is connected to what is forgivable.  Notice something about Moshe and Aaron, the Lord God tells Moshe in this week’s Portion (Parashat Pinchas) that he too will die and also not enter into the promised land.  His children will inherit the land, but not him personally.  The “premature” death of both Moshe and Aharon had been due to their having failed to exploit an opportunity to sanctify the Holy Name of Hashem. (Bamidbar / Numbers 20:12)  This aspect of sanctifying the Name of God is drawn out at the opening of the Torah portion with Pinchas killing an Israelite and a Midianite woman.  This is how Rashi interprets these verses on Moshe and Aaron.  Something to take note of is how sacrifice and atonement did not allow Moshe and Aaron to enter into the Holy Land.  There were distinct consequences for not sanctifying the Name of God.  Rashi states “the Torah describes the sin of Moses and Aaron in different terms, i.e. violating a negative commandment not just failing to observe a positive commandment.” (Compare Devarim / Deuteronomy 32:51) According to the commentary in Sifri, the rabbis state, “the verse is appropriate here as the sin Moses and Aaron had been guilty of occurred in the desert of Tzin, immediately after Miriam had died and been buried, not in the fields of Moav where Moses made his final speech to the nation.” (Chizkuni on Bamidbar / Numbers 27:13 Part 1)  The Torah speaks about the importance of sanctifying the Name of God.  One of the primary focus of the Torah is on the sanctification of God’s Name by way of the sacrifice, when one sins he or she brings a sacrifice to the Lord. 

      This week’s Torah portion also lists the sacrificial requirements of the commanded sacrifices. 

Bamidbar / Numbers 28-29

  • Daily Offerings
  • Sabbath Offerings
  • Passover Offerings
  • Offerings for the Feast of Weeks
  • Offerings for the Feast of Trumpets
  • Offerings for the Day of Atonement
  • Offerings for the Feast of Booths

In the Daily offerings, two male lambs one year old, with a tenth of ephah of flour, quarter hin of oil and wine, one in the morning, and one in the evening.  These are the opening and closing sacrifices for the day, the olat tamid sacrifice.  On the Shabbat, we read the following, 28:9 “On the Sabbath day, two male lambs a year old without blemish, and two tenths of an ephah of fine flour for a grain offering, mixed with oil, and its drink offering: 28:10 this is the burnt offering of every Sabbath, besides the regular burnt offering and its drink offering. (ESV)  The monthly offerings are a burnt offering, two bulls, one ram, seven male lambs mixed with flour, oil, and wine and including a male goat according to Bamidbar / Numbers 28:15 Also one male goat for a sin offering to the Lord; it shall be offered besides the regular burnt offering and its drink offering. (ESV)  On the 14th day of the month of Nissan is the Passover, two bulls, one ram, and seven lambs a year old mixed with flour and oil.  The Torah states (Bamidbar / Numbers 28:24-25) the daily offerings are to be performed each day of the feast of unleavened bread following the Passover.  On the day of the first fruits, shall offer two bulls, one ram, seven lambs and one make goat besides the regular burnt offerings (Bamidbar / Numbers 28:26-31).  The offerings given on the feast of trumpets is one ram, seven male lambs, and a male goat along with the flour, oil, and wine.  Yom Kippur consists of one bull, one ram, seven male lambs and a male goat along with the flour, oil, and wine for the drink offerings.  The feast of booths includes three bulls, two rams, fourteen lambs and a male goat.  This is an eight day festival, and is the festival that brings the most sacrifices, each of the eight days fourteen lambs are offered including the bulls and the ram offerings. Based upon this section of the Torah from Bamidbar / Numbers 28, throughout the year the focus is upon drawing near to the Lord and the sacrifice the Lord God has prescribed.  The point of this week’s Torah portions appears to focus upon the importance of being zealous for the Lord, inheriting the promises of God, of sanctifying the Name of God, and of atonement through sacrifice. 

 A large portion of this week’s Torah portion details the importance of the sacrifice and causes us to understand how drawing near to the Lord at all times, as a result of personal sin or during a festival, is connected to atonement by blood.  These things teach us of the significance of the blood of atonement, where atonement comes by the life of a creature, the blood makes atonement for the soul. (Vayikra / Leviticus 17:11)  The Lord God Almighty designed our bodies, and the bodies of the animals that are used for sacrifice with blood that contains the nutrients and oxygen we need for our bodies to live.  Because of this,  the Scriptures write that life is “in the blood” and is reserved for sacrificial atonement upon the altar of HaShem (כִּי נֶפֶשׁ הַבָּשָׂר בַּדָּם הִוא).  From the moment of the birth of a nation (Israel) from out of another nation (Egypt) we learn of the significance of the blood of the Passover lamb which was placed upon the mezuzot (door posts) and the lintel causing the angel of death to pass over and spare the first born.  The rabbis say because of this, the Passover was a means for the nation of Israel to receive the revelation given at Sinai.  This Revelation of God, found in the Tabernacle, God welling in our midst, and the sacrifice of atonement, we are given the ritual expression of atonement that required the shedding of blood of the sacrificial animals at the entrance of the Ohel Moed (Tent of Meeting).  This is so important that the Lord God told Moshe to tell all of Israel, Vayikra / Leviticus 17:3 ‘Any man from the house of Israel who slaughters an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp, or who slaughters it outside the camp, 17:4 and has not brought it to the doorway of the tent of meeting to present it as an offering to the Lord before the tabernacle of the Lord, bloodguiltiness is to be reckoned to that man. He has shed blood and that man shall be cut off from among his people. (NASB)  The rabbis say in the Mishnah Pesachim 10:6 that the Passover wine was a metaphor for the blood that seals the covenant between God and His people.  This is how Yeshua the Messiah used the imagery of the wine to represent His blood that was being shed for our atonement from sin.  This was possible because both the Written and the Oral Torah explains how the life is in the blood which seals the covenant of God.  Because of these things, the blood then symbolizes identifying the life and redemptive mission of the Messiah! 

Hebraically, the heart is known as the center of our thoughts, the source of both good and evil.  King Solomon wrote in Mishley / Proverbs 4:23 Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. (NASB, כג מִכָּל-מִשְׁמָר נְצֹר לִבֶּךָ כִּי-מִמֶּנּוּ תּוֹצְאוֹת חַיִּים:)  The Torat Adonai (instruction of God) is given such that we may know how to live righteously before Him in light of the reality of His existence.  This is how we understand His Torah to be instructing us in morality and ethics such that we live with justice doing what is right, and loving our neighbor, these universal principles that God has laid out according to His Word.  The voice of conscience is a witness that we either live according to these principles, or violate the standards of love, decency, and justice in our lives.  It is for this reason the Lord God gave us the life that is in the blood to make atonement for the soul.  The Lord then gives His Mercy and introduces the concept of grace (חסד, chesed, mercy, lovingkindness) and provides us a deliverer, redemption, and sacrifice that is taken by faith.  This is consistent with Pesach Haggadah, Nirtzah, Zevach Pesach 5.  We are Told according to the Mishnah that each person during the Passover is to consider himself as having been the first born son who was redeemed  by the blood of the lamb. (Mishnah Pesachim 10:5)

Pesach Haggadah, Nirtzah, Zevach Pesach 5

yet didst thou pass over thy first-born son, being marked with the blood of the sacrifice of the Passover. Not suffering the destroyer to enter my doors on the Passover.

According to the Mishnah, every generation, each person is obligated to engage himself with this festival as one who went forth from Egypt being redeemed by the blood of the lamb.  This statement is based on what was said at the beginning of the Haggadah, had God not taken our ancestors out of Egypt, we and our children would still be enslaved; that is, we must say, God did not suffer the destroyer to enter into my doors on the Passover, he took “us” out from Egypt.  The reason we can say this is because the Lord God of Israel is actively (daily) working in our lives and so we too are included in all the miracles. 

The impurity that proceeds from the heart (sin) is the purpose for the Torah’s focus upon sacrifice, coupled with His love and mercy towards us.  The sending of His son Yeshua the Messiah was to make atonement for the soul.  Yeshua removed our sins because the Torah explains the life is in the blood which seals the covenant of God.  Because of the Torah we have an opportunity through mercy and repentance to call upon the name of God in the name of His Son Yeshua the Messiah.  The blood of the lamb was given for the purpose of allowing us to inherit the promises of God.  Just as the father of the daughters of Zelophehad, we all are responsible for the sins committed as individuals.  The Torah’s emphasis upon sacrifice leads us to understand the importance of inheriting what God has promised is connected to what is forgivable.  This is the purpose of looking upon the one who was lifted up, to personally repent before God of our sins and believing upon Yeshua so we may be forgiven.  The blood of the lamb of God was given so we might inherit the promises of God and become a part of His family.  The Torah reflects this deep covenantal purpose that is connected to redemption and His Annointed one.  The significance of these things that we read in the Torah, the rabbinic literature, and what Yeshua has done is why the Torah and the Gospel message go hand in hand.