July 24th, 2019

At the end of Balak and beginning of Pinchas we are given details of an episode involving the Israelites and the daughters of Moab that angered God, and resulted in a deadly plague. Only after the intervention of Pinchas — until then an obscure grandchild of Aaron, Moses’ brother — was the crisis finally averted.

There are many elements of the story that are puzzling and require unpacking, not least of which is the decision taken by Moses to ignore a direct order from God that would have ended the devastating plague. The intervention by Pinchas is also one of the least understood righteous acts recorded in the Torah, too often dismissed or glossed over as a one-off event. And yet it is enshrined in Jewish law, and he remains the only person in Jewish history who was ever awarded the “Covenant of Peace” by God.

Rabbi Dunner carefully dissects this fascinating narrative, offering a range of insights to reveal various subtexts, all of which have enduring relevance and contain powerful lessons about the dynamics of sin and penitence.

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