The story of Pinchas is one of the most striking in the Torah, because of its apparent contradiction. Pinchas literally killed two people, one of whom was one of their leaders (Zimri, head of the tribe of Shimon). And how does G-d react? “Behold, I give him my covenant of peace!” Furthermore, Pinchas was elevated to be a Cohen — though he was Aharon’s grandson, he was born prior to the anointment of the Cohanim, and was not included as one of them until now (Rashi). As our sage Hillel told us, a student of Aharon “loves peace and pursues peace, and loves the created [meaning, all mankind]” (Chapters of the Fathers 1:12). Where does a killer fit into that picture?
I omitted the end of the quote from Hillel. Not only does a student of Aharon love the created, but he “brings them close to Torah.” A love of every person is not accompanied by a love of every ideology. The love of Aharon for every person was accompanied by an understanding that the Torah speaks to everyone, and can elevate each and every person. Sometimes, love is expressed by standing up for what is right and good. Pinchas was confronted by an individual who had heard the voice of G-d directly, and came forward with brazen rebellion. No one today is in the same circumstance or could respond as Pinchas did. Yet there is a timeless lesson… not always is the path of peace obvious. Not always do we know what is constructive, and what is destructive, based upon our own limited minds.
Recently, a recognized Jewish figure, someone feted by the Federations for his work with “interfaith families and the unaffiliated,” was quoted as saying, “your children’s Judaism will not be your Judaism.” This is precisely why so much of the Jewish world today is on the road to Jewish oblivion. This is how you create more “interfaith families and unaffiliated!”
If everything changes, it means the “core” is new and different — just tinted with influences picked up from mom and/or dad. At that point, do I share a bond of commonality with those tinted by the same influences, or with those who share my core values? If everyone chooses a different way to “be Jewish,” we end up taking our own interests and dressing them up in ethnic trappings, with all the authenticity of the “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” This is precisely why the number of interfaith families is burgeoning — and the number of Jews, collapsing.
Judaism is supposed to speak to what is common to all of us, as Jews. We must share a common core, not common trappings. The world we live in is totally different than that of 300 or 3000 years ago, but what keeps Judaism relevant is precisely that it is timeless. If we share the hope that our children’s Judaism will not be our own, it should be that theirs will be closer to that of Aharon and Hillel, and not because of what the media and their peers tell them is currently in vogue.