This Week’s Torah Portion Is Pinchas (Numbers 25:10–30:1)

The story of the zealot Pinchas seems like a good fit for revolutionaries and bloggers (I just celebrated my 20th blogging anniversary).

* Pinchas was the son of a man who married Jethro’s daughter, so he was partially descended from idolaters. And he slew a Jew, Zimri, was had an untarnished blood line.

* Every people love their own Pinchases and hate other people’s Pinchases.

* Hitler’s chauffeur Emil Maurice, who was the second person to join the SS after Hitler, had Jewish blood. Wikipedia: “Maurice became Hitler’s chauffeur. He reportedly had a brief relationship with Hitler’s niece, Geli Raubal in 1927, which led to his dismissal as Hitler’s chauffeur.”

“Even though Maurice had been a party member since 1919, taken part in the abortive Beer Hall Putsch, for which he was awarded the prestigious Blood Order, and been a bodyguard for Hitler, Himmler considered him to be a serious security risk given his “Jewish ancestry”.[2][14] Himmler recommended that Maurice be expelled from the SS, along with other members of his family. To Himmler’s annoyance, Hitler stood by his old friend.[12] In a secret letter written on 31 August 1935, Hitler compelled Himmler to make an exception for Maurice and his brothers, who were informally declared “Honorary Aryans” and allowed to stay in the SS.”

* Wikipedia: “As he rose to power as leader of the Nazi Party, Hitler was domineering and possessive of [his niece Angela Maria “Geli”] Raubal, keeping a tight rein on her.[5] When he discovered she was having a relationship with his chauffeur, Emil Maurice, he forced an end to the affair and dismissed Maurice from his service.[1][6] After that he did not allow her to freely associate with friends, and attempted to have himself or someone he trusted near her at all times, accompanying her on shopping trips, to the movies, and to the opera.”

“The historian Ian Kershaw maintains that “whether actively sexual or not, Hitler’s behaviour towards Geli has all the traits of a strong, latent at least, sexual dependence.”[5] The police ruled out foul play; the death was ruled a suicide.[8] Hitler was devastated and went into an intense depression.”

“Hitler later declared that Raubal was the only woman he had ever loved. Her room at the Berghof was kept as she had left it, and he hung portraits of her in his own room there and at the Chancellery in Berlin.”

* NUMBERS 25 While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, 2 who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods. 3 So Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor. And the Lord’s anger burned against them.

4 The Lord said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of these people, kill them and expose them in broad daylight before the Lord, so that the Lord’s fierce anger may turn away from Israel.”

5 So Moses said to Israel’s judges, “Each of you must put to death those of your people who have yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor.”

6 Then an Israelite man brought into the camp a Midianite woman right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 7 When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand 8 and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear into both of them, right through the Israelite man and into the woman’s stomach. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped; 9 but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000.

10 The Lord said to Moses, 11 “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. 12 Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. 13 He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites.”

14 The name of the Israelite who was killed with the Midianite woman was Zimri son of Salu, the leader of a Simeonite family. 15 And the name of the Midianite woman who was put to death was Kozbi daughter of Zur, a tribal chief of a Midianite family.

16 The Lord said to Moses, 17 “Treat the Midianites as enemies and kill them. 18 They treated you as enemies when they deceived you in the Peor incident involving their sister Kozbi, the daughter of a Midianite leader, the woman who was killed when the plague came as a result of that incident.”

* There seems to be a game of telephone going on. God tells Moshe to impale the leaders and Moshe commands to slay all idolaters. So how often did Moshe misunderstand God’s commands? For instance, what about the commands to genocide in the Torah? Perhaps Moshe misunderstood God?

* Why should all the leaders be impaled? Surely not all leaders were idolaters and fornicators?

* God likes that Pinchas slew Zimri and his Midianite princess Cozbi. What kind of prince lets his daughter be a whore?

* Artscroll: “Under the leadership of Midian, a lust for immoral pleasure and a desire for the worship of Peor had been introduced into the Jewish people. Such desires are very hard to eradicate.”

Jews would never have become pornographers and perverts if it had not been for the evil Midianites and their whorish women constantly tempting Godly Jews from the path of Torah.

* Num. 25:6. Jacob Milgrom: “…the Israelite [Zimri] was convinced (by his Midianite partner?) that ritual intercourse was the best way to appease God and thereby terminate the plague.” A lot more men would go to temple if they could have ritual intercourse.

According to Mycenaen-Greek rites, “the boy or girl who went to death without having experienced sexual intercourse remained unsatisfied and therefore caused harm to the living. The sequence of sacrifice, food and drink and ritual intercourse would represent the gamut of those things necessary to put the restless spirits of the age at ease.” (Milgrom)

* One thing I love about Judaism is its sharp distinction between public and private sins. Private sins, by and large, are between you and God (though everything we do affects other people, it is hard and distasteful to monitor what goes on in private) but public sins are a matter of communal concern.

* Num. 25:9. Jewish tradition claims that Pinchas’s example was followed by his loyal supporters, and it was they who slew the 24,000 Israelites. It was another Holocaust!

* Num. 25:11. R. Jacob Milgrom: “Once released, God’s anger destroys everything in its path and makes no moral distinctions. This empirical truth concerning natural disasters — in modern actuarial parlance called ‘acts of God’ – is neither glossed over nor treated apologetically by the Torah. It is reckoned with as a cornerstone of its theology.”

One modern Pinchas who comes to my mind is John Brown. Wikipedia:

John Brown (May 9, 1800 – December 2, 1859) was an American abolitionist who believed armed insurrection was the only way to overthrow the institution of slavery in the United States. Brown first gained attention when he led small groups of volunteers during the Bleeding Kansas crisis of 1856. Dissatisfied with the pacifism of the organized abolitionist movement, he said, “These men are all talk. What we need is action—action!” During the Kansas campaign, Brown commanded forces at the Battle of Black Jack and the Battle of Osawatomie. He and his supporters killed five pro-slavery supporters in the Pottawatomie massacre of May 1856 in response to the sacking of Lawrence by pro-slavery forces.

In 1859, Brown led a raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry to start a liberation movement among the slaves there. During the raid, he seized the armory; seven people were killed, and ten or more were injured. He intended to arm slaves with weapons from the arsenal, but the attack failed. Within 36 hours, Brown’s men had fled or been killed or captured by local pro-slavery farmers, militiamen, and U.S. Marines led by Robert E. Lee. He was tried for treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia, the murder of five men, and inciting a slave insurrection. He was found guilty on all counts and was hanged. Brown’s raid captured the nation’s attention, as Southerners feared it was just the first of many Northern plots to cause a slave rebellion that might endanger their lives, while Republicans dismissed the notion and claimed they would not interfere with slavery in the South.

Historians agree that the Harpers Ferry raid escalated tensions that, a year later, led to the South’s secession and Civil War. David Potter has said the emotional effect of Brown’s raid was greater than the philosophical effect of the Lincoln–Douglas debates, and that it reaffirmed a deep division between North and South.

* Perhaps Dylann Roof and Anders Brevik are Pinchas-types.

* Phineas Priesthood:

The Phineas Priesthood or Phineas Priests (also spelled Phinehas) is a title for self-selected vigilantes who commit violent acts in accordance with the ideology set forth by the 1990 book, Vigilantes of Christendom: The Story of the Phineas Priesthood by Richard Kelly Hoskins.[1]

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), “Many people mistakenly believe that there is an actual organization called the Phineas Priesthood, probably because there was a group of four men in the 1990s who called themselves Phineas Priests. The men carried out bank robberies and a series of bombings in the Pacific Northwest before being sent to prison. But there is no evidence that their organization was any larger than those four individuals.”

The ideology set forth in Hoskins’ book includes Christian Identity beliefs opposed to interracial relationships, the mixing of races, homosexuality, and abortion. It is also marked by its anti-Semitism, and anti-multiculturalism.

The Phineas Priesthood is not considered an organization because it is not led by a governing body, there are no gatherings, and there is no membership process. One becomes a Phineas Priest by simply adopting the beliefs of the Priesthood and acting upon those beliefs. Adherents of the Priesthood ideology are considered terrorists for, among other things, various 1996 abortion clinic bombings, the bombing in Spokane of The Spokesman-Review newspaper, bank robberies, and plans to blow up FBI buildings.[2] Four members of this organization were convicted of crimes including bank robbery and bombing, with each sentenced in 1997 and 1998 to life in prison.[3]

The Phineas Priesthood is named for the Israelite Phinehas, grandson of Aaron. Numbers 25:7 According to Numbers 25, Phineas personally executed an Israelite man and a Midianite woman while they were together in the man’s tent, running a spear through the two and ending a plague sent by God to punish the Israelites for intermingling sexually and religiously with the Midianite Baal-worshipers. Phineas is commended for having stopped Israel’s fall to idolatrous practices brought in by Midianite women, as well as for stopping the desecration of God’s sanctuary. Yahweh commends Phineas through Moses as zealous, gives him a “covenant of peace,” and grants him and “his seed” an everlasting priesthood. This passage was cited in Hoskins’ book as a justification for using violent means against interracial relationships and other forms of alleged immorality.

* I notice that right-wing militia types in America are never portrayed positively in the media.

* KC: 1. I’m believe Moses’s original revelation was real… but this stuff is really in the weeds. Wonder if he started to mistake his own calculating mind for them mind of Hashem.

2. I want to talk about a documentary I saw about Japan, and the art of ikebana. The point is that highly refined cultural practice can only evolve in homogeneous populations.

3. There sure are a lot of days off for Jews.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
This entry was posted in Torah. Bookmark the permalink.