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Weekly Parsha: Pinchas’ Zealotry and 600,000 Israelites

Last week’s Torah parsha was Pinchas. (Numbers 25:10-30:1)

Continuing from last week’s parsha, Balak, Pinchas begins with the conclusion of the story of the plague of Baal-peor (Numbers 25). Balak ends with the men of Israel falling prey to their lustful appetites for non-Isralite women.

They fornicate with them, marry them, and needless to say, Hashem is furious! He tells Moses to have the leaders impaled publicly, which leads to this Hollywood-esque finale (Numbers 25:6-9):

Just as Moses finishes telling Hashem’s orders to Israel’s officials, the Israelite Zimri son of Salu brings his Midianite woman, Cozbi daughter of Zur, to a chamber in view of Moses and everyone else around. They proceed to copulate in what has to be one of the most disgustingly public, brazen, and defiant sexual acts in human history. We can imagine Moses and those around him looking on, aghast.

But when Pinchas sees what is happening, he grabs a spear and stabs both Zimri and Cozbi in a single lunge. Continue reading