Thursday, July 9, 2015

Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1)

In last week’s Parasha we read, “Israel settled in the Shittim and the people began to commit harlotry with the daughters of Moab” (Num 25:1). This hope of enticing the male Israelites into sexual immorality was the end result of Balaam’s plot after his utter failure to curse Israel. Balaam know that if he could get Israel to sin in this way and not to operate in line with God’s will, that the ultimate reality would be to arouse God’s wrath against Israel (v-3). It’s in the final verses of last week’s Paracha that we see the brazenness of a male Israelite bringing a Midianite woman into the camp to commit acts of immorality in the sight of the whole assembly. Because of all these sinful acts, a death plague against Israel is the result of God’s judgment and punishment towards Israel. It’s when Phinehas, who is seen as a zealous Israelite acting on behalf of God, takes matters in his own hands to kill the man and woman (who are sinning) and is able to halt such a plague upon the Children of Israel.

In the first parashot of this week’s Parasha we read,”The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Phinehas the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron the kohen has turned My anger away from the children of Israel by his zealously avenging Me among them, so that I did not destroy the children of Israel because of My zeal. Therefore, say, "I hereby give him My covenant of peace. It shall be for him and for his descendants after him [as] an eternal covenant of kehunah, because he was zealous for his God and atoned for the children of Israel." (Num 25:10-13). In Num 25:12 “I hereby give him My covenant of peace “we have a textual anomaly when the word “shalom” is written in the Hebrew. The oddity of the letter Vav is that it is written down in an imperfect form, which is traditionally written with a small break in the stem, thus it’s called “Vav Kete-ah” or broken vav in English. This broken vav has brought much attention within Messianic believers, as we will see why. I would like to share some insights from what I discover about the why and reasons these words are kept in this unique form.

Writing a Torah scroll is a religious act. The parchment, the pen, the ink, the lines and the script have a lot of particular rules and traditions that must be followed. First and foremost, a kosher Torah scroll must be hand-written. Shape of letters must be right, paragraphs must be divided properly, and, required column length and width are to be followed. A sefer Torah contains 304,805 letters, all of which must be duplicated precisely by a trained sofer (scribe), a specially trained individual who is devout and knowledgeable in the laws governing the proper writing and assembling of a scroll, an effort which may take as long as approximately one and a half years. Qualifications pertain to skill and to piety. A sofer is to reproduce an accurate script of the Torah; in doing this, he may rely on memory, but, he must still follow a written copy, accessible to him at all times, so that precise specifications will be followed perfectly. An error during transcription may render the sefer Torah pasul (“invalid”). According to the oral law of the Jewish People, all scrolls must also be written on givel parchment (a form of skin made from the whole hide, after the hair is removed), that is treated with salt, flour and m’afatsim. This tells us that distinctive instructions are due when it comes to God’s Word. It is also very important to maintain its original structure properly.

Even though there’s strict rules for writing the letters in a perfect form, we see some textual anomalies in all the hand written sefer Torah that have been transcribed throughout the centuries. With some letters that are enlarged, some are written smaller than others and some aren’t in the perfect form. We should ask ourselves, “Why are some letters in the Torah scrolls written in an odd shape? Could it have been that the in the very first written scrolls, that the scribes made errors on them?  Or could it be that God put them there to draw special attention to a particular verse or word?” Well, Num 25:12 with the broken vav is one of those verses that stick out in the Hebrew text. Within some, if not most, Messianic believers believe that the connection to Phinehas is a picture of Yeshua. The association of the letter Vav, having a numerical value of 6 and representing man, relates to a man being broken as Yeshua was. The following verse 13 says, “... because he was zealous for his God and atoned for the children of Israel" showing us that atonement was made to the children of Israel just as Yeshua made an atonement for Israel. Rabbi Shaul tell us of this same type of reconciliation in Col 1:20, "and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross."  My conclusion would be that God’s providence has allowed the Jewish people to preserve these anomalies in the Torah and that God did put them within His Word to draw a special attention for us because every single word or dot has a meaning and a purpose. Yeshua said in Mat 5:18 “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

May HaShem continue to guide us and show us His ways, for His purpose and His Glory!

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