Parashat Pinhas

The Pinhas Problem

Not everyone is happy with Pinhas' action and its reward.

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I realize that we can't expect to approve of all of the actions contained in an ancient saga about a group's journey to become a people. But I also realize that even if we agree that sometimes the ends can justify the means, we don't have to simply accept what is contained in the text and then act as apologists when see things with which we don't agree. 

There are still those among us who applaud Pinhas' actions, even if they would shy away from such a violent approach. Nonetheless, their underlying attitudes are the same. And if we are to be a people that welcomes in the stranger, as it teaches us in the same Torah that retells the story of Pinhas, then such attitudes have to change.  

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Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky

Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky is executive director of the Jewish Outreach Institute and the author of numerous books about Jewish spirituality.