Numbers 25:10 – 30:1

(The Zealot)
Pinchas is a zealous priest who kills a Midianite woman and her Israelite lover at the entranceway to the Tent of Meeting. In this portion, Pinchas is rewarded for his actions and is given the covenant of Peace and eternal Priesthood for his descendants. Afterwards, a second census is taken of the Israelites. A group of women, the daughters of Zelephechad, demand from Moses the right to inherit land. Moses consults with God and God agrees with the women.

The portion concludes with a description of our daily and festival offerings.


AFTER PINCHAS kills the lovers in the act of defiling the Holy Sanctuary, God rewards him for his zeal. He is given the Divine Covenant of Peace and the gift of eternal priesthood. These are our blessings as well, when we acknowledge and integrate the archetype of the Zealot within us.

The zealot is the one who acts fearlessly, without hesitation, without stopping to ask permission. He translates the yearnings and guidance of the heart into bold decisive action. When the zealot inside us is not honored and given a place of respect within us, we fall into complacency, ambivalence or paralysis. We become the woman of the Song of Songs who hears her beloved knocking and hesitates, saying, “I have taken off my clothes, how can I dress again? I have bathed my feet, must I dirty them?” (Song of Songs 5:3) When finally she answers the door, he is gone. Our hesitation results in the tragic loss of the opportunity to meet Life, face to face, right now!

THE TORAH TELLS US that with his deliberate and powerful actions, Pinchas ended a plague. As this is the text’s first mention of this plague, we must conclude that it is a plague we didn’t even know we had (or that we suffered unawares).

The plague that Pinchas ends is the tragedy of our perceived powerlessness. This plague takes the form of an inability to act deliberately and decisively in the name of the love and righteousness inside us. As this plague ends, the blessing of eternal priesthood is bestowed upon us and with it, the Covenant of Peace.

OUR PRIESTHOOD gives us the power to stand courageously between Life and Death and embody the yearnings of the heart for the good of all. In overcoming our powerlessness and paralysis we receive the blessing of wholeness, which is the Covenant of Peace.

When our inner guidance and yearnings are connected with our outer actions, we breathe a sigh of relief, ending the plague of powerlessness, hypocrisy, ambivalence, and complicity. Opening to the blessing of this covenant, we receive the benefits of “Shalom,” which means both “peace” and “wholeness.”


JUST AS SOON AS the archetype of the Zealot emerges in our story, God commands that we take a census. Our spiritual challenge is to locate and integrate this powerful archetypal energy in the context of the whole. For when it is split off from the whole, the zealot becomes a dangerous and destabilizing force in the personality or in the community.

As focused, directed power emerges and is acknowledged, we must respond immediately by taking stock, widening the perspective and integrating that force of zealotry into the whole. As the voice of truth breaks forth, we call forth a memory of the whole, so that truth can be married to kindness, and its force can be turned to healing rather than destruction.

When we surround that force with values of compassion, mercy, tolerance and understanding, then the power of zealotry confers vitality and clarity upon those that experience it.

THE CENSUS THAT FOLLOWS our acknowledgement of Pinchas, the power of zealotry within us, gives us the opportunity to refine that power in the context of the whole. The results of the census show us that we have changed since leaving Egypt. The journey has transformed us.

As the census proceeds we can also begin to notice the parts of us that have been unfairly ignored or pushed aside. We can begin to challenge the accepted ways in which power has been distributed. Certain parts of myself have swollen in importance, while other parts have become all but invisible.

THIS CHALLENGE COMES FORTH in this portion of Pinchas in the form of the daughters of Zelephechad who demand to be noticed. The women challenge the laws of inheritance that favor sons over daughters and in doing so, they plant the seeds of challenge under the hardened soil of the status quo.

Our spiritual challenge is to give voice to the parts of us that have been denied and ignored. (Perhaps the power and chutzpah of Pinchas will inspire us as we step up to this challenge.)

TO UNDERSTAND THE CHALLENGE of integrating this aspect of Pinchas, I would share a vision I had.

In this vision I met a great, beautiful and powerful tiger. I asked the tiger, “What is the secret of your power?”

“I have three,” the tiger said. “First, I do not cherish anyone else’s opinion of me. Second, I attune myself to the cycles and rhythms of Nature. And third, when I need to act, I do so without fear or anger.”

These secrets of power, given to me by the tiger, are also the secrets of Pinchas. In this instruction we find the ideal by which to measure our own integration of the Zealot archetype.


This portion concludes with a detailed description of our daily and festival offerings. God describes these offerings as,”my food.” (Numbers 28:2) These are offerings of awareness — surrendered to the fire of our lives in order to feed that God-place within us. That God-place within us hungers for this “food” of awareness that we offer each day. Awareness, made manifest in our spiritual practice, is received by God (and the God-sense within us) as a sweet savor.

God, the Subtle-Reality-Underlying-Everything, revels in our attention and in our attunement with the seasons. We nurture the Divine Reality by paying loving attention to the turn of day and night, and to the renewal of the week with Shabbat. We nurture and pleasure the Divine Reality by honoring the cycles of the moon and sun, and by celebrating the seasons of planting and harvest.

Consecration Practice

DURING THIS WEEK OF PINCHAS, take a moment before each prayer, each blessing, each conscious practice you perform, and consecrate your intention as the food of God. Make your practice into an offering that sustains, nurtures and brings pleasure to the spark of God within you and to the energy that connects and enlivens all of Creation.

I SUGGEST WRITING SOME NOTES to yourself affirming this consecration to post around the house in the places where you do your practice — at your altar, on your kitchen table, or wherever blessings are said. It might read:

I dedicate the power of my spiritual practice
to nurturing the Divine spark in me and in the world.

Torah Journeys: The Inner Path to the Promised Land
©2006 Shefa Gold. All rights reserved.