Parashat Pinchas Numbers 25:10-30:1
Haftarah: Jeremiah 1:1-2:3
In this week’s Torah portion immediately after the dismal matter at Baal Peor, Moses is instructed to take a new census of the Children of Israel. There were three qualifications for a man to be included in the census. Before dealing with those qualifications, it needs to be stated that to be included in the census represented being part of the family of G-d. Hence, every male should have wanted to be included in this census.
The qualifications seemed very basic at first glance, but each had a spiritual component. Here are these three qualifications:
1.) Had to be twenty years of age or older (Numbers 26:2,4).
2.) Had to serve in the army of Israel (Numbers 26:2).
3.) Had to come out of the land of Egypt (Numbers 26:4).
In regard to the first qualification, that one had to be at least twenty years of age; one learns that while all Jewish Law places the age of responsibility on a male at thirteen years of age, the Torah states twenty. In other words, by the age of twenty a male is expected to be mature enough to fully participate in all the responsibilities that an adult has to his community and to HaShem. Failure to present oneself before the census once arriving at the age of twenty would lead to excommunication.
The second qualification is extremely relevant for the modern Nation of Israel. One learns from the Torah that every male who reaches twenty years of age is required by G-d to serve in the Army. This principle is so clear, yet sadly the vast majority of Israel’s Heredi community refuses to serve. Today, there is taking place within the Israeli parliament a major debate on terminating the law which exempts religious men from serving in the Israeli Defense Force. According to the Torah, a male who is twenty and refuses to serve in the army should be cut off from the nation. Please also notice that it is impossible for one to be Torah observant and a pacifist.
The third and final requirement to be part of the census and thereby part of the family of G-d is to have come out of the land of Egypt. Most commentaries understand this to have a spiritual connotation. In other words, it is not that one had to have literal lived in Egypt and have had physically taken part in the first Passover, rather it alludes to those who have made a commitment not to live under the authority of the world influences which Egypt represented, but rather to live under the authority of HaShem. Naturally this has implications for us as believers in Messiah Yeshua. In many places in the New Covenant the follower of Yeshua is commanded to stop behaving as the world behaves, but to walk in faith and embrace the standards of the Kingdom and thereby manifest G-d’s glory. I think of Paul’s words to the Ephesians,
“Behold this, I say and proclaim in the L-rd: do not walk any longer as the rest of the Gentiles, who walk in the vanity of their mind.” Ephesians 4:17
Also Peter instructed,
“For enough time in the past we have spent doing the will of Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, drunkenness, works of the flesh, partying, and forbidden idolatries.” I Peter 4:3
These verses echo the same words of John in the book of Revelation, who admonishes the people of faith to come out of Babylon which represents the sinful elements and ways of the world (See Revelation Chapter 18).
Serious words for the serious times in which we are living.
Please note that the term “gentile” can refer to one who has no covenant relationship with G-d.
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