Parshas Pinchas - Self-Worship
Pinchas Son of Elazar, Son of Aharon The Kohein turned My anger away from
the Children of Israel (Numbers 25:11).
This week's parsha begins with the reward Pinchas receives for a deed he
did in last week's parsha. He took responsibility to avenge G-d's honor
from a couple who were involved in immoral behavior and idol worship.
The Torah calls the idol Ba'al Pe'or. It was served by the Moabites, and a
large group from the tribe of Shimon got involved in immoral behavior with
the Moabite women, and then began to worship Ba'al Pe'or. The sages explain
that the Moabite women made their consent conditional on the men serving
The Sages tell us that Ba'al Pe'or was served by defecating on the idol, a
most unusual way of serving a deity.
Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz, of blessed memory, asks how it is possible to pay
homage to a god in such a disrespectful fashion. In addition to that, how
did the Children of Israel sink so far? The answer he gives is extremely
relevant to us today.
The depth of this form of worship is that everything goes. One can even
defecate on one's god. The Talmud relates that a certain fellow actually
wiped himself on the idol's nose, and the priests lauded him for his
excellence and originality! In other words, there is no accountability!
This is the highest level of service of Ba'al Pe'or. One can do anything he
wishes, and never need to regret it. Now we can understand what the draw
was to join the growing membership of these particular congregations of
This is how the Children of Israel got involved with this idol worship.
Once they went over the line of immorality in regard to the Moabite women,
it snowballed quickly to manifest itself in the most lewd form of behavior.
Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz also explains that the view of these idol
worshippers is really a slight perversion of a proper world view. That is,
that mankind is very great and superior. The attitude that we have
greatness can bring a person to a lack of accountability - that he has no
one to answer to. In direct contrast - the Torah perspective - is also that
we are above all other aspects of the creation. Even angels, come from a
lower spiritual source than does the human soul. Consequently, it is an
immense responsibility to be on that lofty plain. The accountability is
manifold times more when so much more can be expected, and accomplished.
We see from here how easily a person lacking objectivity can err. Only with
intellectual integrity and objectivity will a person be willing to draw
correct conclusions from facts available to him. If a person is not
interested in doing the right thing, and he wishes to follow his eyes and
his heart - about him the prophet writes "For the ways of G-d are straight;
the righteous go with them, and the negligent will trip over them."
Text Copyright © 2000 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.