Parshas Pinchas
Numbers 25:10 - 30:1

When Looking The Other Way Is Not O.K. ©

By Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Paul Sakash, may he rest in peace.

At the conclusion of Parshas Balak, we have the story of Zimri the prince of the tribe of Simeonites and Cozbi a princess of Midian in a very shocking display of brazen sinfulness before Moshe, the elders and Kal Yisroel in front of the tent of meetings. Pinchas, a religious zealot, in response to their extreme, proud and defiant display against Hashem, the Torah, Moshe, the elders and the rest of Kal Yisroel pursued them, killing them with a spear.

Hashem commended Pinchas for his zealous and immediate response by stopping the plague, by commending him before Moshe and by giving him an eternal covenant of priesthood.

Just prior to this, Moshe was instructed to hang all the leadership before Hashem because of their sinfulness, because of prostrating themselves to Baal-peor and desiring to cohabitate with harlots of Moab.

I wonder, how did this series of problems reach such a critical state that Hashem found it necessary to instruct Moshe, “Hang all the leadership”?

Why doesn’t the Torah record the community’s objections to the leaders’ despicable acts? We read commentary on Pinchas’ objections but where were the other three million Jews?

“Hang all the leaders” is a very serious command and if followed it would appear as a very drastic action. The deplorable actions of the leaders were wrong but only Pinchas got involved.

Often in crisis situations like this confusion develops. People question, does something need to be done? If so, who’s responsibility is it? Should I get involved? In confrontation type situations it is easy to get bogged down with issues, become indecisive and look the other way.

Having a clear mind, being calm and collected, is not easy when a difficulty is developing right in front of you. Having the wisdom and courage to react in the proper frame of mind and in view of Torah observance can be very challenging.

Unfortunately many of us never get that far. Our thought patterns develop objections along the way. In addition, a contributing factor to our confusion may be that we were raised in a sheltered atmosphere and have continued sheltering ourselves from television, newspapers, movies, computers, the internet and other such forms of outside influence. As a result, it is possible that we, as well as our rabbium, are not in touch with issues defined by our government as a problem. In such cases we are products of our religion, our community, our schools, our family, our parents and our friends. In such situations Torah issues can get confused with government issues.

Let’s consider the following example from this week’s parsha. We have defined the problem as idolatry and as sexual. They may seem far apart but they are actually quite close. Idolatry is turning away from Hashem, the One and only true G-d to worship, by bowing down to an idol. Consorting with harlots for a married man is forsaking his wife to enjoy pleasure with another woman, a harlot. The problem we are discussing is a failure to be true to G-d and a failure to be true to one’s wife. The first is the more serious of the two, yet the second was the lure.

When considering the lure, there are three basic categories and many subcategories surrounding sexual problems. The basic categories are defined as: sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual assault.

What is the definition of sexual harassment? Do you know??? Does the view of our government and the view of the Torah conflict? Will a non-Jew condone behavior defined inappropriate by his government even though the Torah does not?

The government defines sexual harassment as: "Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature...”

Without going into detailed explanation, sexual harassment can be unwelcome patting, hugging, or touching of a person's body, hair, or clothing.

In brief, the Torah forbids adultery, touching a woman other than one’s wife and any acts of homosexuality.

Sexual harassment can simply be a male high school administrator or teacher grabbing the behind of a male student. The government views this as an unwelcomed sexual advance that carries a penalty of up to $50,000.00 fine plus possible jail time. The Torah essentially views this in terms of damages and awards accordingly.

If you were the parent of the violated student, how would you feel? Would you want the incident reported? Or would you prefer to look the other way?

DO NOT SIT IN AN IVORY TOWER SAYING SEXUAL ABUSE DOES NOT HAPPEN IN JEWISH SCHOOLS WHEN WE READ OF HASHEM SAYING “HANG THE LEADERS” WHO ENJOYED THE SEXUAL PLEASURES OF COHABITATING WITH HARLOTS. IN FACT, YIDDEN ARE NOT IMMUNE TO SEXUAL PROBLEMS. If the leaders of Kal Yisroel had these medos deficiencies and are generations closer to Har Sinai than us, then it is certainly possible that spiritual leaders far removed from Har Sinai as well as any other Jew in our society could falter, G-d forbid.

If we see inappropriate things happening, as Kal Yisroel did in this week’s parsha, we should be careful not to excuse ourselves because we’re required to give a Jew the benefit of the doubt.. because two witnesses were not present... because the offender was not informed by two witnesses...because we don’t want to get involved...or because it was the leader of our tribe. How could we approach someone on that level?... This is not the way Hashem intended it to be, the proverbial crick in the neck.

There are times that IT IS NOT ALL RIGHT TO LOOK THE OTHER WAY...Jewish or not, witnesses or not, warnings or not... leader or not...respect or not.

Pinchas reacted! His reaction is shocking. He killed a sinful leader and a harlot in front of Kal Yisroel. I am not suggesting that we kill people when we observe a problem. Yet I am stating we have a responsibility to respond!

Wishing you the best,

Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk

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