Word for the Herd: Torah from your favorite teacher
As my students know, when it comes to tapping into the Torah portion of the week, I'm normally pretty excited to find a modern explanation so that teens, tweens and kids alike can really relate.
In the Portion, Pinchas, there is a lot of problems for the Israelites people with their neighbors (uh... nothing new and sadly, nothing old). In fact, the Israelites are now in Midyan, where Moses had found his wife, and where just a few weeks ago, I snapped this picture of a man. Midyan is really modern day Jordan (and just so we are clear, we are on pretty good terms with Jordan now a days). But Midyanites back in the time of Moses had a mission to destroy our people. They knew we were powerful, numerous, and were set out to conquer our own land, In last week's parsha, a Midyanite prophet with a talking donkey tried to curse us to get us to go away. No such luck.
But the Israelites, like any people when on a long journey... strayed from the path of perfection many times. Sometimes they wouldn't care about the rules of the Torah, sometimes they would even "hook-up" with people of other nations. And the worst, of course, was if they were disloyal to G-d. While in Midyan, the Children of Israel (C-O-I) worshiped the Midyanite idol: Baal Peor. GURL--- were they in trouble. G-d brough a plague and started killing our nation because of our bad behavior.
Pinchas was Aaron's grandson (famous brother of Moses), was a loyal friend to G-d and was on a mission to get the C-O-I to knock it off. But he didn't do it by talking. He took action.
Pinchas entered a tent where an Israelite, Zimri, was having an affair with a Midyanite Princess, Cozbi. Pinchas impaled Zimri and Cozbi with his spear. Pinchas showed a true act of zealotry: fighting for a cause and was then rewarded with a new title and renewed relationship with G-d. Pinchas got the plauge to stop, but still, 24,000 C-O-I perished.
So, good story, but what's the point? Well, we can learn a lot from the punishment of Zimri and Cozbi. Why did Pinchas just kill them and not everyone? Well, some people say it's because Zimri came from a really important family, the tribe of Shimon, and when you act poorly and you are a leader, you cause an even bigger disgrace. A leader of a tribe is expected to act according to the rules. But Cozbi never claimed to follow our rules, so why did she get punished. Well, some rabbis say, those that try and convince others to break the rules, or participate in others breaking rules, are just as guilty as the rule-breakers. After all... if you are in school and you stand by while someone is being bullied, maybe you are as guilty as the bully. Cozbi did help Zimri do something wrong and so she had to face a harsh punishment. And the two of them served as examples for all the rest of the C-O-I. I know when I've seen friends suffer strict consequences I have been scared straight. Pinchas, working for Hashem, had the same idea.