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Parshat Pinchas

In a quote: "Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else." - Margaret Mead

In last week's parsha we read about the fatal stabbing of a leader of the tribe of Shimon who was engaged in prohibited acts with a Midianite woman. A man named Pinchas was the person who killed the Midianite woman and the leader of the tribe, resulting in the cessation of a plague.

Although Pinchas is lauded for his actions, we must ask ourselves the question, are extreme actions like this acceptable and what place does zealotry (extremism) have in our society?

We may find an answer in this week's parsha:

לָכֵ֖ן אֱמֹ֑ר הִנְנִ֨י נֹתֵ֥ן ל֛וֹ אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֖י שָׁלֽוֹם׃

וְהָ֤יְתָה לּוֹ֙ וּלְזַרְע֣וֹ אַחֲרָ֔יו בְּרִ֖ית כְּהֻנַּ֣ת עוֹלָ֑ם תַּ֗חַת אֲשֶׁ֤ר קִנֵּא֙ לֵֽאלֹהָ֔יו וַיְכַפֵּ֖ר עַל־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

Say, therefore, ‘I grant him My pact of friendship.It shall be for him and his descendants after him a pact of priesthood for all time, because he took impassioned action for his God, thus making expiation for the Israelites.’”

Rather than punishing Pinchas, God in fact rewards Pinchas for his actions. However the commentators aren't so sure. It is suggested that rather than punishing Pinchas outright, God decided to bring Pinchas closer to holy work to ensure that his passion and fire were utilised in a positive way rather than risking further zealous actions. In this way God recognized the strengths and weaknesses of Pinchas and found a suitable role for him within Jewish life.

We too must adopt this approach. We must accept people and all of their complexities, no simply accommodating individuals but facilitating growth via specific roles that maximize each person's strengths and improve each person's weaknesses. As leaders for a diverse group of chanichim, we must remember to find a place for all within our organisations, we must help our chanichim grow and create a unique place for each and every person.

Shabbat shalom.

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