By Shanen Bloom Werber, Family coordinator for the first Torah MiTzion’s presence in Chicago in the 1990's, Currently lives in Gush Etzion
Parshat Pinchas is all about status – defining status, declaring status, changing status. What a great parsha for a young person changing status in Jewish law from child to adult member of Bnei Yisrael. Parshat Pinchas was our brother, Michael Bloom z”l’s “bar mitzvah parsha”.
Reading through the parsha, it seems there are many disconnected stories, a census, genealogies, leadership issues, and a list of chagim with the pertinent korbanot/sacrifices listed – all sorts of things thrown together here. What unites all these issues is “status”. And “change of status”.
Pinchas’ courageous act ended last week’s parsha. His status changes at the beginning of this week’s reading: he is given "בריתי שלום", HaShem’s personal covenant of peace. He and his descendants are declared kohanim, the elevated status of priesthood. From violence to peace.
To prepare for battle against the Midyanim, a census defines adulthood/who would be a soldier. Ask any chayal what a change of status “גיוס” - induction into the army is!
The census serves for division of the land among the tribes of Bnei Yisrael. New status upcoming: landowner! Tzlafchad’s daughters bring a case to Moshe, requesting that their dead father’s portion be passed on through them, as he had no sons. A situation not addressed until now. Moshe has to ask HaShem how to deal with this issue. Moshe asking – different status than Moshe announcing / directing / passing on G-d’s words. The daughters are given an inheritance status.
Moshe will not enter Eretz Yisrael, HaShem declares. Definitive! Change of status – he can view the Land, but not enter it! Accepting his fate, Moshe requests new leadership for the people. HaShem directs him to appoint Yehoshua Bin-Nun, who takes over after a smeecha ceremony. Ask any modern day rabbi what a change of status that is!
All these were changes in status for people – as individuals and as groupings. All in different circumstances but all sharing the issue of status.
The parsha concludes with its well-known listing of Shabat, Rosh Chodesh-new month, and holiday-chagim korbanot (sacrifices). The Shabat and chagim dates are elevated to “מקראי קודש” status – days of declared holiness! Each holy day is defined minimally; the emphasis in parshat Pinchas is on the sacrifices for that day. These sections serve as the maftir special reading for each new month and holiday.
What bar mitzvah boy could ask for a “better” parsha to mark his change of status; and to enable him to “layen”/read the holiday-new month portions for those days so many times per year! Talk about putting one’s change of status into action. Our brother Michael did! And much more.
May Rav Michael Yaacov ben Avraham v’Chava Dvora’s memory be a blessing for us all, all year round, as we hear parts of “his” parasha!
יהי זכרו ברוך!