Who is Pinchas? Pinchas is both the hero and the antihero, depending on who judges it. Pinchas is someone who takes justice into his own hands. And how many times would we have wanted to do the same in situations in which the prevailing system is not effective, or when seeing the suffering of a loved or close one in unexpected situations.
In Pinchas’s understanding, his vision is the correct one. He sees the corruption before his eyes and reacts untimely and executes. He slays the corrupt—a couple made up of a member of the People of Israel and a Moabite woman—in a terrible and bloody scene.
Thanks to Pinchas, the plague ceased—that, which came over Bnei Israel because they once again left the path of Adonai to worship other gods, seduced by the daughters of Moab. Twenty-four thousand dead, in the second epidemic that decimated the town.
And the Kadosh Baruch Hu rewarded the action of the wrathful, halting the outbreak when Pinchas killed those two. Is it an example to follow? Justice by one’s own hand?
Pinchas is he who many of us would like to be, but reasoning, the prevailing law and, sometimes, common sense prevent us from being. He is the one who sees the right path and imposes it in his own way; the one who understands that THE law is his—and the only one—and stands as an authority against what is wrong.
Perhaps for a people without attachment to a law that they had just received, that action was the solution or a way of appreciation.
But immediately after that terrible episode, the census began... to count the people who remained, or rather, to perceive who can be taken into account. Because, it is important to understand how many we are; but much more essential is knowing who we have. More far-reaching than the number of people… is to comprehend who makes up that number and if they are really willing to work for the common good.
And in that almost reorganizing counting of all the pandemonium that caused the plague and the episode of our "hero", something exemplary happens: the story of the daughters of Tzelofchad. Five daughters whose father had died and who, because they had no man to take charge of the family and the lands that would have corresponded to them, would be left without an inheritance, without possessions.
They came to Moshe claiming rights as daughters and it was the Lord who gave them the blessing, so that they could possess what was due to them, taking this situation as an example of the rights of women in an identical situation.
This parashah shows us an interesting development: how disorder and corruption MUST find an order. In that order, how to manage to find those who can carry out the common project and know who can be counted on, to finally impart what is right and do what is fair. Not the justice of the angry or of those who believe they are endowed with the truth and the reason, but the justice that has to do with social sensitivity.
The parashah continues with the mention of the offerings that were to be made on each of the festivities. And it is striking how, in the face of so much drama experienced in the first chapters, what follows is the mention of holidays. But that's how it is: of course we can celebrate and enjoy, even having suffered misfortunes and disappointments. And much more easily if we have been able to achieve internal order, people's commitment, with that social sensitivity that we mentioned before.
The story continues with the almost magical moment in which the leader of leaders lays his hands on his successor, in the act of humility and recognition par excellence. Yehoshua Ben Nun will continue the enormous task of guiding the People of Israel to the Promised Land.
May the example of commitment to justice, to the task and to those around us fill our hearts on this Shabbat Kodesh. May commitment to OUR law, which is our Torah, and mitzvot help us find meaning in our lives. To be a little closer to God, a little closer to our own. In family and in community.