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Pinchas (parsha)

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Pinchas, Pinhas, or Pin’has (פנחס — Hebrew for “Phinehas,” a name, the sixth word, and the first distinctive word, in the parshah) is the 41st weekly Torah portion (parshah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the eighth in the book of Numbers. It constitutes Numbers 25:10–30:1. Jews in the Diaspora generally read it in late June or July.

As the parshah sets out laws for the Jewish holidays, Jews also read parts of the parshah as Torah readings for many Jewish holidays. Numbers 28:1–15 is the Torah reading for Rosh Chodesh on a weekday (including when the sixth or seventh day of Hanukkah falls on Rosh Chodesh). Numbers 28:9–15 is the maftir Torah reading for Shabbat Rosh Chodesh. Numbers 28:16–25 is the maftir Torah reading for the first two days of Passover. Numbers 28:19–25 is the maftir Torah reading for the intermediate days (chol hamoed) and seventh and eighth days of Passover. Numbers 28:26–31 is the maftir Torah reading for each day of Shavuot. Numbers 29:1–6 is the maftir Torah reading for each day of Rosh Hashanah. Numbers 29:7–11 is the maftir Torah reading for the Yom Kippur morning (Shacharit) service. Numbers 29:12–16 is the maftir Torah reading for the first two days of Sukkot. Numbers 29:17–25 is the Torah reading for the first intermediate day of Sukkot. Numbers 29:20–28 is the Torah reading for the second intermediate day of Sukkot. Numbers 29:23–31 is the Torah reading for the third intermediate day of Sukkot. Numbers 29:26–34 is the Torah reading for the fourth intermediate day of Sukkot, as well as for Hoshana Rabbah. And Numbers 29:35–30:1 is the maftir Torah reading for both Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

Tissot Moses Sees the Promised Land from Afar

Moses Sees the Promised Land from Afar (painting by James Tissot)


After the sin of Baal-Peor

God announced that because Phinehas had displayed his passion for God, God granted Phinehas God’s pact of friendship and priesthood for all time. (Numbers 25:10–13.) God then told Moses to attack the Midianites to repay them for their trickery luring Israelite men to worship Baal-Peor. (Numbers 25:16–18.)

Another census

Population Change Between the Two Censuses
Tribe Numbers 1 Numbers 26 Change  % Change
Manasseh 32,200 52,700 +20,500 +63.7
Benjamin 35,400 45,600 +10,200 +28.8
Asher 41,500 53,400 +11,900 +28.7
Issachar 54,400 64,300 +9,900 +18.2
Zebulun 57,400 60,500 +3,100 +5.4
Dan 62,700 64,400 +1,700 +2.7
Judah 74,600 76,500 +1,900 +2.5
Reuben 46,500 43,730 -2,770 -6.0
Gad 45,650 40,500 -5,150 -11.3
Naphtali 53,400 45,400 -8,000 -15.0
Ephraim 40,500 32,500 -8,000 -19.8
Simeon 59,300 22,200 -37,100 -62.6
Totals 603,550 601,730 -1,820 -0.3

God instructed Moses and Eleazar to take a census of Israelite men 20 years old and up, and Moses and Eleazar ordered it done. (Numbers 26:1–4.) The census showed the following populations by tribe (Numbers 26:4–51):

Philippoteaux The Numbering of the Israelites

The Numbering of the Israelites (engraving by Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux)

totaling 601,730 in all.

The text notes parenthetically that when Korah’s band agitated against God, the earth swallowed them up with Korah, but Korah’s sons did not die. (Numbers 26:9–11.) God told Moses to apportion shares of the land according to population among those counted, and by lot. (Numbers 26:52–56.) The Levite men aged a month old and up amounted to 23,000, and they were not included in the regular enrollment of Israelites, as they were not to have land assigned to them. (Numbers 26:57–62.) Among the persons whom Moses and Eleazar enrolled was not one of those enrolled in the first census at the wilderness of Sinai, except Caleb and Joshua. (Numbers 26:63–65.)

The daughters of Zelophehad

The daughters of Zelophehad approached Moses, Eleazar, the chieftains, and the assembly at the entrance of the Tabernacle, saying that their father left no sons, and asking that they be given a land holding. (Numbers 27:1–4.) Moses brought their case before God, who told him that their plea was just and instructed him to transfer their father’s share of land to them. (Numbers 27:5–7.) God further instructed that if a man died without leaving a son, the Israelites were to transfer his property to his daughter, or failing a daughter to his brothers, or failing a brother to his father’s brothers, or failing brothers of his father to the nearest relative. (Numbers 27:8–11.)

Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bibel in Bildern 1860 064

Moses Views the Land of Israel (woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld from the 1860 Bible in Pictures)

Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bibel in Bildern 1860 063

Moses Names Joshua To Succeed Him (woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld from the 1860 Bible in Pictures)

Moses’s successor

God told Moses to climb the heights of Abarim and view the Land of Israel, saying that when he had seen it, he would die, because he disobeyed God’s command to uphold God’s sanctity in the people’s sight when he brought water from the rock in the wilderness of Zin. (Numbers 27:12–14.) Moses asked God to appoint someone over the community, so that the Israelites would not be like sheep without a shepherd. (Numbers 27:13–17.) God told Moses to single out Joshua, lay his hand on him, and commission him before Eleazar and the whole community. (Numbers 27:18–20.) Joshua was to present himself to Eleazar the priest, who was to seek the decision of the Urim and Thummim on whether to go out or come in. (Numbers 27:21.)


God told Moses to command the Israelites to be punctilious in presenting the offerings due God at stated times. (Numbers 28:1–2.) The text then details the offerings for regular days, the Sabbath, Rosh Chodesh, Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Shmini Atzeret. (Numbers 28:3–30:1.)

In classical rabbinic interpretation

Numbers chapter 25

Figures Moab Leads Israel into Sin

Moab Leads Israel into Sin (illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible)

Rabbi Johanan taught that Phinehas was able to accomplish his act of zealotry only because God performed six miracles: First, upon hearing Phinehas’s warning, Zimri should have withdrawn from Cozbi and ended his transgression, but he did not. Second, Zimri should have cried out for help from his fellow Simeonites, but he did not. Third, Phinheas was able to drive his spear exactly through the sexual organs of Zimri and Cozbi as they were engaged in the act. Fourth, Zimri and Cozbi did not slip off the spear, but remained fixed so that others could witness their transgression. Fifth, an angel came and lifted up the lintel so that Phinehas could exit holding the spear. And sixth, an angel came and sowed destruction among the people, distracting the Simeonites from killing Phinheas. (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 82b.)

Rabbah bar bar Hana said in Rabbi Johanan's name that had Zimri withdrawn from his mistress and Phinehas still killed him, Phinehas would have been liable to execution for murder, and had Zimri killed Phinehas in self-defense, he would not have been liable to execution for murder, as Phinehas was a pursuer seeking to take Zimri’s life. (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 82a.)

Putiel (Jethro)
daughter of Putiel

The Gemara told that after Phinehas killed Zimri and Cozbi, the Israelites began berating Phinehas for his presumption, as he himself was descended from a Midianite idolater, Jethro. The Israelites said: “See this son of Puti (Putiel, or Jethro) whose maternal grandfather fattened (pittem) cattle for idols, and who has now slain the prince of a tribe of Israel (Zimri)!” To counter this attack, the Gemara explained, God detailed Phinehas’s descent from the peaceful Aaron the Priest in Numbers 25:11. And then in Numbers 25:12, God told Moses to be the first to extend a greeting of peace to Phinehas, so as to calm the crowd. And the Gemara explained Numbers 25:13 to indicate that the atonement that Phinehas had made was worthy to atone permanently. (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 82b.)

A midrash interpreted Numbers 25:12, in which God gives Phinehas God’s “covenant of peace,” to teach that Phinehas, like Elijah, continues to live to this day, applying to Phinehas the words of Malachi 2:5, “My covenant was with him of life and peace, and I gave them to him, and of fear, and he feared Me, and was afraid of My name.” (Numbers Rabbah 21:3.)

Reading the words of Numbers 25:13 that Phinehas “made atonement for the children of Israel,” a midrash taught that although he did not strictly offer a sacrifice to justify the expression “atonement,” his shedding the blood of the wicked was as though he had offered a sacrifice. (Numbers Rabbah 21:3.)

Numbers chapter 26

A midrash taught that the Israelites were counted on ten occasions: (1) when they went down to Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:22); (2) when they went up out of Egypt (Exodus 12:37); (3) at the first census in Numbers (Numbers 1:1–46); (4) at the second census in Numbers (Numbers 26:1–65); (5) once for the banners; (6) once in the time of Joshua for the division of the land of Israel; (7) once by Saul (1 Samuel 11:8); (8) a second time by Saul (1 Samuel 15:4); (9) once by David (2 Samuel 24:9); and once in the time of Ezra (Ezra 2:64). (Midrash Tanhuma Ki Sisa 9.)

Noting that Numbers 26:1 speaks of “after the plague” immediately before reporting that God ordered the census, a midrash concluded that whenever the Israelites were struck, they needed to be counted, as a shepherd will count the sheep after a wolf attacks. Alternatively, the midrash taught that God ordered Moses to count the Israelites as Moses neared death, much as a shepherd entrusted with a set number of sheep must count those that remain when the shepherd returns the sheep to their owner. (Midrash Tanhuma Pinchas 4.)

Holman Destruction of Korah Dathan and Abiram

The Destruction of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (illustration from the 1890 Holman Bible)

Rava found support in Numbers 26:8 for the proposition that sometimes texts refer to “sons” when they mean a single son. (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 143b.)

A Tanna in the name of Rabbi deduced from the words “the sons of Korah did not die” in Numbers 26:11 that Providence set up a special place for them to stand on high in Gehinnom. (Babylonian Talmud Megillah 14a, Sanhedrin 110a.) There, Korah’s sons sat and sang praises to God. Rabbah bar bar Hana told that once when he was travelling, an Arab showed him where the earth swallowed Korah’s congregation. Rabbah bar bar Hana saw two cracks in the ground from which smoke issued. He took a piece of wool, soaked it in water, attached it to the point of his spear, and passed it over the cracks, and the wool was singed. The Arab told Rabbah bar bar Hana to listen, and he heard them saying, “Moses and his Torah are true, but Korah's company are liars.” The Arab told Rabbah bar bar Hana that every 30 days Gehinnom caused them to return for judgment, as if they were being stirred like meat in a pot, and every 30 days they said those same words. (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 110a–b.)

Abba Halifa of Keruya asked Rabbi Hiyya bar Abba why Genesis 46:27 reported that 70 people from Jacob’s household came to Egypt, while Genesis 46:8–27 enumerated only 69 individuals. Rabbi Hiyya reported that Rabbi Hama bar Hanina taught that the seventieth person was the mother of Moses, Jochebed, who was conceived on the way from Canaan to Egypt and born as Jacob’s family passed between the city walls as they entered Egypt, for Numbers 26:59 reported that Jochebed “was born to Levi in Egypt,” implying that her conception was not in Egypt. (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 123b24a.)

The Gemara taught that the use of the pronoun “he (hu)” in an introduction, as in the words “These are (hu) that Dathan and Abiram” in Numbers 26:9, signifies that they were the same in their wickedness from the beginning to the end. Similar uses appear in Genesis 36:43 to teach Esau’s enduring wickedness, in 2 Chronicles 28:22 to teach Ahaz’s enduring wickedness, in Esther 1:1 to teach Ahasuerus’s enduring wickedness, in 1 Chronicles 1:27 to teach Abraham’s enduring righteousness, in Exodus 6:26 to teach Moses and Aaron’s enduring righteousness, and in 1 Samuel 17:14 to teach David’s enduring humility. (Babylonian Talmud Megillah 11a.)

The Gemara asked why the Tannaim felt that the allocation of the Land of Israel “according to the names of the tribes of their fathers” in Numbers 26:55 meant that the allocation was with reference to those who left Egypt; perhaps, the Gemara supposed, it might have meant the 12 tribes and that the Land was to be divided into 12 equal portions? The Gemara noted that in Exodus 6:8, God told Moses to tell the Israelites who were about to leave Egypt, “And I will give it you for a heritage; I am the Lord,” and that meant that the Land was the inheritance from the fathers of those who left Egypt. (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 117b.)

The Daughters of Zelophehad

The Daughters of Zelophehad (illustration from the 1908 Bible and Its Story Taught by One Thousand Picture Lessons)

Numbers chapter 27

Chapter 8 of tractate Bava Batra in the Mishnah and Babylonian Talmud and chapter 7 of tractate Bava Batra in the Tosefta interpreted the laws of inheritance in Numbers 27:1–11 and 36:1–9. (Mishnah Bava Batra 8:1–8; Tosefta Bava Batra 7:1–18; Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 108a–39b.)

Rabbi Joshua taught that Zelophehad’s daughters’ in Numbers 27:2–4 petitioned first the assembly, then the chieftans, then Eleazar, and finally Moses, but Abba Hanan said in the name of Rabbi Eliezer taught that Zelophehad’s daughters stood before all of them as they were sitting together. (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 119b.)

Noting that the words “in the wilderness” appeared both is Numbers 27:3 (where Zelophehad’s daughters noted that their father Zelophehad had not taken part in Korah’s rebellion) and in Numbers 15:32 (which tells the story of the Sabbath violator), the Rabbis taught in a Baraita that Zelophehad was the man executed for gathering sticks on the Sabbath. (Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 96b.)

Rabbi Hanina (or some say Rabbi Josiah) taught that Numbers 27:5, when Moses found himself unable to decide the case of the daughters of Zelophehad, reports the punishment of Moses for his arrogance when he told the judges in Deuteronomy 1:17: “the cause that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.” Rav Nahman objected to Rabbi Hanina’s interpretation, noting that Moses did not say that he would always have the answers, but merely that he would rule if he knew the answer or seek instruction if he did not. Rav Nahman cited a Baraita to explain the case of the daughters of Zelophehad: God had intended that Moses write the laws of inheritance, but found the daughters of Zelophehad worthy to have the section recorded on their account. (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 8a.)

Mei, Bernardino - David and Bathsheba

David and Bathsheba (painting by Bernardino Mei)

A Baraita taught that Zelophehad’s daughters were wise, Torah students, and righteous. (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 119b.) And a Baraita taught that Zelophehad’s daughters were equal in merit, and that is why the order of their names varies between Numbers 27:1 and Numbers 36:11. (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 120a.) According to the Gemara, they demonstrated their wisdom by raising their case in a timely fashion, just as Moses was expounding the law of levirate marriage, or yibbum, and they argued for their inheritance by analogy to that law. (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 119b.)

Figures Moses Names Joshua To Succeed Him

Moses Names Joshua To Succeed Him (illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible)

The Gemara implied that the sin of Moses in striking the rock at Meribah compared favorably to the sin of David. The Gemara reported that Moses and David were two good leaders of Israel. Moses begged God that his sin be recorded, as it is in Numbers 20:12, 20:23–24, and 27:13–14, and Deuteronomy 32:51. David, however, begged that his sin be blotted out, as Psalm 32:1 says, “Happy is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is pardoned.” The Gemara compared the cases of Moses and David to the cases of two women whom the court sentenced to be lashed. One had committed an indecent act, while the other had eaten unripe figs of the seventh year in violation of Leviticus 25:6. The woman who had eaten unripe figs begged the court to make known for what offense she was being flogged, lest people say that she was being punished for the same sin as the other woman. The court thus made known her sin, and the Torah repeatedly records the sin of Moses. (Babylonian Talmud Yoma 86b.)

Noting that Moses asked God to designate someone to succeed him in Numbers 27:16, soon after the incident of Zelophehad’s daughters, a midrash deduced that when the daughters of Zelophehad inherited from their father, Moses argued that it would surely be right for his sons to inherit his glory. God, however, replied (in the words of Proverbs 27:18) that “Whoever keeps the fig-tree shall eat its fruit; and whoever waits on the master shall be honored.” The sons of Moses sat idly by and did not study Torah, but Joshua served Moses and showed him great honor, rose early in the morning and remained late at night at the House of Assembly, and arranged the benches and spread the mats. As he had served Moses with all his might, he was worthy to serve Israel, and thus God in Numbers 27:18 directed Moses to “take Joshua the son of Nun” as his successor. (Numbers Rabbah 21:14.)

Offerings for the Festivals in Numbers 28:9–29:38
Festivals Verses Bulls Rams Lambs Goats Totals
Sabbath Numbers 28:9–10 0 0 2 0 2
New Month Numbers 28:11–15 2 1 7 1 11
Passover (Daily) Numbers 28:16–25 2 1 7 1 11
Shavuot Numbers 28:26–31 2 1 7 1 11
Rosh Hashanah Numbers 29:1–6 1 1 7 1 10
Yom Kippur Numbers 29:7–11 1 1 7 1 10
Sukkot Day 1 Numbers 29:12–16 13 2 14 1 30
Sukkot Day 2 Numbers 29:17–19 12 2 14 1 29
Sukkot Day 3 Numbers 29:20–22 11 2 14 1 28
Sukkot Day 4 Numbers 29:23–25 10 2 14 1 27
Sukkot Day 5 Numbers 29:26–28 9 2 14 1 26
Sukkot Day 6 Numbers 29:29–31 8 2 14 1 25
Sukkot Day 7 Numbers 29:32–34 7 2 14 1 24
Shemini Atzeret Numbers 29:35–38 1 1 7 1 10
Annual Totals+ Numbers 28:9–29:38 113 37 363 30 543
+Assuming 52 Sabbaths, 12 New Months, and 7 days of Passover per year

Numbers chapter 28

Tractate Tamid in the Mishnah and Babylonian Talmud interpreted the laws of the regular offerings in Numbers 28:3–10. (Mishnah Tamid 1:1–7:4; Babylonian Talmud Tamid 2a–33b.)

Tractate Beitzah in the Mishnah, Tosefta, Jerusalem Talmud, and Babylonian Talmud interpreted the laws common to all of the Festivals in Exodus 12:3–27, 43–49; 13:6–10; 23:16; 34:18–23; Leviticus 16; 23:4–43; Numbers 9:1–14; 28:16–30:1; and Deuteronomy 16:1–17; 31:10–13. (Mishnah Beitzah 1:1–5:7; Tosefta Yom Tov (Beitzah) 1:1–4:11; Jerusalem Talmud Beitzah 1a–; Babylonian Talmud Beitzah 2a–40b.)

Tractate Pesachim in the Mishnah, Tosefta, Jerusalem Talmud, and Babylonian Talmud interpreted the laws of the Passover in Exodus 12:3–27, 43–49; 13:6–10; 34:25; Leviticus 23:4–8; Numbers 9:1–14; 28:16-25; and Deuteronomy 16:1–8. (Mishnah Pesachim 1:1–10:9; Tosefta Pisha 1:1–10:13; Jerusalem Talmud Pesachim 1a–; Babylonian Talmud Pesachim 2a–121b.)

Numbers chapter 29

Tractate Rosh Hashanah in the Mishnah, Tosefta, Jerusalem Talmud, and Babylonian Talmud interpreted the laws of Rosh Hashanah in Leviticus 23:23–25 and Numbers 29:1–6. (Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 1:1–4:9; Tosefta Rosh Hashanah 1:1–2:18; Jerusalem Talmud Rosh Hashanah 1a–; Babylonian Talmud Rosh Hashanah 2a–35a.)

Tractate Yoma in the Mishnah, Tosefta, Jerusalem Talmud, and Babylonian Talmud interpreted the laws of Yom Kippur in Leviticus 16 and 23:26–32 and Numbers 29:7–11. (Mishnah Yoma 1:1–8:9; Tosefta Kippurim (Yoma) 1:1–4:17; Jerusalem Talmud Yoma 1a–; Babylonian Talmud Yoma 2a–88a.)

Tractate Sukkah in the Mishnah, Tosefta, Jerusalem Talmud, and Babylonian Talmud interpreted the laws of Sukkot in Exodus 23:16; 34:22; Leviticus 23:33–43; Numbers 29:12–34; and Deuteronomy 16:13–17; 31:10–13. (Mishnah Sukkah 1:1–5:8; Tosefta Sukkah 1:1–4:28; Jerusalem Talmud Sukkah 1a–33b; Babylonian Talmud Sukkah 2a–56b.)


According to Maimonides


Maimonides cited verses in the parshah for 12 positive and 6 negative commandments:

AlphonseLévy Shofar

blowing the shofar (by Alphonse Lévy)

(Maimonides. Mishneh Torah, Positive Commandments 39, 41, 42, 45, 47, 48, 50, 51, 160, 164, 170, 248; Negative Commandments 157, 325,326, 327,328, 329. Cairo, Egypt, 1170–1180. Reprinted in Maimonides. The Commandments: Sefer Ha-Mitzvoth of Maimonides. Translated by Charles B. Chavel, 1:50–53, 55–60, 170–71, 173–74, 179–80, 256–57; 2:148–49, 298–301. London: Soncino Press, 1967. ISBN 0-900689-71-4.)

According to Sefer ha-Chinuch

According to Sefer ha-Chinuch, there are six positive commandments in the parshah.

  • The precept of the laws of inheritance (Numbers 27:8.)
  • The precept of the regular olah offering, sacrificed every day (Numbers 28:3.)
  • The precept of the musaf offering on the Sabbath (Numbers 28:9.)
  • The precept of the musaf offering on Rosh Chodesh (Numbers 28:11.)
  • The precept of the musaf offering on the Shavuot Festival (Numbers 28:26.)
  • The precept of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah (Numbers 29:1.)

Sefer HaHinnuch: The Book of [Mitzvah] Education. Translated by Charles Wengrov, 4:171–203. Jerusalem: Feldheim Pub., 1988. ISBN 0-87306-457-7.)


When parshah Pinchas comes before the 17th of Tammuz, the haftarah for the parshah is 1 Kings 18:46–19:21. When the parshah falls after the 17th of Tammuz, Jews read for the haftarah the first of three readings of admonition leading up to Tisha B'Av, Jeremiah 1:1–2:3.

Daniele da Volterra 001

The Prophet Elijah (painting by Daniele da Volterra)

1 Kings 18:46–19:21


The haftarah in 1 Kings 18:46–19:21 tells the story of the prophet Elijah’s flight from King Ahab, his theophany, and his anointing of Elisha. God’s hand was on Elijah, and he ran from King Ahab to Jezreel. (1 Kings 18:46.) Ahab told Queen Jezebel how Elijah had killed all the prophets of Baal, and Jezebel sent a messenger to tell Elijah that she intended to have him killed by the next day in recompense. (1 Kings 19:1–2.) So Elijah ran for his life to Beersheba in the Kingdom of Judah, left his servant there, and went a day's journey into the wilderness. (1 Kings 19:3–4.) Elijah sat down under a broom tree, asked God to take his life, and lay down and slept. (1 Kings 19:4–5.) An angel touched Elijah and told him to arise and eat, and Elijah found at his head a cake and a jar of water, and so he ate, drank, and went back to sleep. (1 Kings 19:5–6.) The angel again touched him again and told him to arise and eat, and he did and on the strength of that meal journeyed 40 days and 40 nights to Mount Horeb, the mount of God. (1 Kings 19:7–8.)


Elijah (painting by Jusepe de Ribera)

When he came to a cave and lodged there, God asked him what he was doing there. (1 Kings 19:9.) Elijah said that he had been moved by zeal for God, as the Israelites had forsaken God’s covenant, thrown down God’s altars, and killed God’s prophets, leaving only Elijah, and they sought to kill him, too. (1 Kings 19:10.) God told Elijah to stand on the mount, and God passed by. A great wind rent the mountains, and broke the rocks in pieces, but God was not in the wind. Then an earthquake came, but God was not in the earthquake. (1 Kings 19:11.) Then a fire came, but God was not in the fire. And then came a still small voice, which asked him what he was doing there. (1 Kings 19:12–13.) Elijah repeated that he had been moved by zeal for God, as the Israelites had forsaken God’s covenant, thrown down God’s altars, and killed God’s prophets, leaving only Elijah, and they sought to kill him, too. (1 Kings 19:14.) God told him to go to Damascus and anoint Hazael to be king over Aram, to anoint Jehu to be king over Israel, and to anoint Elisha to succeed Elijah as prophet. (1 Kings 19:15–16.) God foretold that any who escaped the sword of Hazael would be killed by Jehu; any who escaped the sword of Jehu would be killed by Elisha; and God would leave alive in Israel only the 7 thousand who had not bowed to Baal. (1 Kings 19:17–18.) So Elijah found Elisha, who was plowing with one of his 12 yoke of oxen, and Elijah cast his mantle on Elisha. (1 Kings 19:19.) Elisha left the oxen, asked Elijah for permission to kiss his parents goodbye, killed the oxen and distributed their meat to the people, and went to follow Elijah. (1 Kings 19:20–21.)

Connection to the parshah

The parshah and haftarah both address protagonists who showed zeal on behalf of God against apostasy by the Israelites. Numbers  25:11 and 13 report that God laud’s Phinehas’s zeal for God (be-kan’o ’et kin’ati and kinnei’ le-’lohav), while in 1 Kings 19:10 and 13 Elijah tells God of Elijah’s zeal for God (kanno’ kinnei’ti la-YHVH). Immediately before the parshah (in Numbers  25:7–8), Phinehas killed Zimri and Cozbi to stem the Israelites’ following of Baal-Peor in the Heresy of Peor, while immediately before the haftarah (in 1 Kings 18:40), Elijah killed the prophets of Baal to stem the Israelites’ following of Baal. Targum Jonathan to Exodus 6:18 thus identified Phinehas with Elijah.

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 064

Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem (painting by Rembrandt)

Michelangelo Buonarroti 027

Jeremiah (fresco by Michelangelo)

Jeremiah 1:1–2:3


The haftarah in Jeremiah 1:1–2:3 begins by identifying its words as those of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, a priest in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom God’s word came in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah the son of Amon as king of Judah, in the reign of Josiah’s son Jehoiakim, and through the eleventh year of the reign of Josiah’s son Zedekiah, when Jerusalem was carried away captive. (Jeremiah 1:1–3.)

God’s word came to Jeremiah to say that before God formed him in the womb, God knew him, sanctified him, and appointed him a prophet to the nations. (Jeremiah 1:4–5.) Jeremiah protested that he could not speak, for he was a child, but God told him not to fear, for he would go wherever God would send him, say whatever God would command him to say, and God would be with him to deliver him. (Jeremiah 1:6–8.) Then God touched Jeremiah’s mouth and said that God had put words in his mouth and set him over the nations to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant. (Jeremiah 1:9–10.) God asked Jeremiah what he saw, he replied that he saw the rod of an almond tree, and God said that he had seen well, for God watches over God’s word to perform it. (Jeremiah 1:11–12.)

God’s word came to Jeremiah a second time to ask what he saw, he replied that he saw a seething pot tipping from the north, and God said that out of the north evil would break forth upon all Israel. (Jeremiah 1:13–14.) For God would call all the kingdoms of the north to come, and they would set their thrones at Jerusalem’s gate, against its walls, and against the cities of Judah. (Jeremiah 1:15.) God would utter God’s judgments against Judah, as its people had forsaken God and worshipped the work of their own hands. (Jeremiah 1:16.) God thus directed Jeremiah to gird his loins, arise, and speak to the Judean people all that God commanded, for God had made Jeremiah a fortified city, an iron pillar, and brazen walls against the land of Judah, its rulers, its priests, and its people. (Jeremiah 1:17–18.) They would fight against him, but they would not prevail, for God would be with him to deliver him. (Jeremiah 1:19.)

God’s word came to Jeremiah to tell him to go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem that God remembered the affection of her youth, her love as a bride, how she followed God in the wilderness. (Jeremiah 2:1–2.) Israel was God’s hallowed portion and God’s first-fruits, and all that devoured Israel would be held guilty and evil would come upon them. (Jeremiah 2:3.)

Kaufmann Haggadah p 014

A page from the Kaufmann Haggadah

In the liturgy

The Passover Haggadah, in the concluding nirtzah section of the Seder, perhaps in a reference to the listing of festivals in Numbers 29, calls Passover “the first of all festivals.” (Joseph Tabory. JPS Commentary on the Haggadah: Historical Introduction, Translation, and Commentary, 125. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2008. ISBN 978-0-8276-0858-0.)

The Weekly Maqam

In the Weekly Maqam, Sephardi Jews each week base the songs of the services on the content of that week's parshah. For parshah Pinchas, Sephardi Jews apply Maqam Saba, the maqam that symbolizes a covenant (berit). It is appropriate, because in the very opening of this parshah, God told Phinehas that due to his heroic acts, he was granted an eternal covenant of peace with God.

Further reading

The parshah has parallels or is discussed in these sources:




Early nonrabbinic

Classical rabbinic

  • Mishnah: Pesachim 1:1–10:9; Yoma 1:1–8:9; Sukkah 1:1–5:8; Beitzah 1:1–5:7; Rosh Hashanah 1:1–4:9; Taanit 4:2; Megillah 3:5; Sotah 7:7; Bava Batra 8:1–8; Sanhedrin 9:6; Shevuot 1:3; Zevachim 10:1; Menachot 4:2–3, 8:7–9:2; Tamid 1:1–7:4. Land of Israel, circa 200 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-300-05022-4.
  • Jerusalem Talmud: Berakhot 43b; Sheviit 5b; Orlah 2b; Pesachim 1a–; Yoma 1a–; Sukkah 1a–33b; Beitzah 1a–; Rosh Hashanah 1a–. Land of Israel, circa 400 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Yerushalmi. Edited by Chaim Malinowitz, Yisroel Simcha Schorr, and Mordechai Marcus, vols. 1, 6a, 12, 22. Brooklyn: Mesorah Pubs., 2005–2009.
First page of the first tractate of the Talmud (Daf Beis of Maseches Brachos)


Rashi woodcut



  • Rashi. Commentary. Numbers 25–30. Troyes, France, late 11th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Rashi. The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated. Translated and annotated by Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg, 4:319–67. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1997. ISBN 0-89906-029-3.
  • Judah Halevi. Kuzari. 2:25–26, 80. Toledo, Spain, 1130–1140. Reprinted in, e.g., Jehuda Halevi. Kuzari: An Argument for the Faith of Israel. Intro. by Henry Slonimsky, 101, 133. New York: Schocken, 1964. ISBN 0-8052-0075-4.
  • Numbers Rabbah 21:1–25. 12th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Numbers. Translated by Judah J. Slotki. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
Thomas Hobbes (portrait)


  • Zohar 3:213a–241b. pain, late 13th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., The Zohar. Translated by Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon. 5 vols. London: Soncino Press, 1934.


Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch




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