As far as I can tell, Pinchas is the most commonly read parsha of them all. We read from its final section on most of our holidays and every Rosh Chodesh. We turn to this specific section because it is here where the Torah outlines the specific sacrifices for these holy occasions.
But why is it here that God directs us to “Be punctilious in presenting to Me at the stated times the offerings of food due Me, as offerings by fire of pleasing odor to Me” (Bemidbar 28:2)? Why are these rituals – a reminder of how to serve God – detailed at this point in our story?
Immediately prior, God tells Moses that the time has come for him to be gathered to his kin. In response, Moses beseeches God to appoint a leader in his stead – saying, “Who shall go out before them and come in before them, and who shall take them out and bring them in, so that the Lord’s community not be like sheep that have no shepherd?” (Bemidbar 27:17).
With this in mind, our passage above has a different ring.
In the Broadway hit musical, Hamilton, George Washington sits Alexander Hamilton down for their final conversation. Washington knows that by refusing to run for a third term, he will set a precedent that the president must step down at regular intervals in order to guard balance, and allow for what President Obama called, “a Hallmark of our Democracy: the peaceful transfer of power from one freely-elected president to the next.” In the song One Last Time, Washington says, “If I say goodbye, the nation learns to move on. It outlives me when I’m gone. Like the scripture says, ‘Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid’ (Micah 4:4). They’ll be safe in the nation we’ve made.”
When the time comes for Moses to move on, he does not argue or dispute, but instead makes requests on people’s’ behalf. It feels only natural for him to fear that this time and again wayward nation will turn from his teachings and the path of God. It makes perfect sense then that the very next passage outlines sacrificial worship. In this way, it is not merely a strict command to serve God as She desires, but also an important reminder to not forget God amongst the shuffle of leadership.
In our increasingly dynamic and transient world, I find myself continually transitioning life styles and routines. It feels easy to get wrapped up in the new and exciting or lost in mourning the loss of the old – but parshat Pinchas is teaching me to keep the perspective that amongst it all, I must always remember to take time for myself and to be punctilious in serving Hashem.