Weekly Portion

Weekly Portion: Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1)

In last week’s Torah portion, Pinchas acted to stop a public display of immorality. He thus stemmed the plague of retribution which was killing the multitudes. He is rewarded by being made a Cohen — by Divine decree.

The Almighty commands Moshe to attack the Midianites in retribution for the licentious plot the Midianites perpetrated upon the Israelites. A new census is taken of the Jewish people revealing that there are 601,730 men available for army duty. God directs the division of the Land of Israel amongst the tribes. The Levites are tallied. The daughters of Tzelafchad come forward to petition Moshe regarding their right of inheritance. Moshe inquires of the Almighty Who answers in their favor.

Moshe asks the Almighty to appoint a successor and the Almighty directs Moshe to designate Yehoshua (Joshua). The Torah portion concludes with the various offerings — daily, Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh and holidays.

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Dvar Torah
adapted from Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.

The Torah states, “Korach, the leader of the rebellion against Moses, and his co-conspirators were swallowed up by an earthquake, but the children of Korach did not die” (Numbers 26:11). How is it possible that a parent — Korach — could jeopardize the future and lives of his children?

Korach was a very learned person. He sincerely believed that he was right in challenging Moses, and he convinced many of the elders to join him. The Midrash states that Korach’s children were in a quandary. On one hand, they did not wish to challenge Moses, but on the other hand, how could they defy their father? Initially they supported their father, but at the last moment, they deserted him and supported Moses and were spared from death.

The Midrash asks, inasmuch as Korach was so highly learned and was one of the select few to carry the Holy Ark, how could he be so foolish as to challenge Moses? The Midrash answers that Korach’s prophetic vision showed him the greatness of his descendants. He reasoned that he must be right, because if he were wrong in opposing Moses, he could not possibly merit having such great offspring. His mistake was that he did not consider that his children might do teshuvah – repent – and achieve greatness in their own right.

Korach’s failure to consider that his children might do teshuvah caused him to expose his children to death. This was not because he did not love his children, but because he was incalcitrant and would not consider that he may be wrong.

This strikes a familiar note. Some parents do not give their children a basic Jewish education. “We don’t want them to be influenced. Let them make up their own minds when they grow up.” How distorted an argument! A secular education is not a neutral education which will allow them to freely choose their way of life. A secular education today essentially rejects any absolute moral standards. Neglecting Torah education and practices puts the child at risk of being torn from the Jewish nation. Parents should realize that to lose one’s identity as a Jew is not in their best interest nor in the best interest of their child.

Korach’s self-righteousness nearly proved fatal for his children. Parents should avoid this tragic error.