Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Parshat Pinchas

It was After the Plague

After the apostasy at Baal Peor, God told Moshe: "Distress the Midianites, and you shall smite them" (Bemidbar 25:17).

However, before Israel could attack Midian, Moshe needed to organize an army. Therefore, the Torah relates the new census in Chapter 26. From this census an army was organized.

However, in between these two episodes are three Hebrew words, translated as: "It was after the plague" (ibid 26:1) that interrupt the flow of the story. What is this interruption trying to teach us?

In order answer this question, we first need to realize that the purpose of the census was not merely to organize an army. It was also to know the size of the tribes so that the land could be divided fairly.

After the census, the Torah writes: "Among these there was no man who had been [included] in the census of Moses and Aaron when they counted the children of Israel in the Sinai desert. For the Lord had said to them, "They shall surely die in the desert," and no one was left of them but Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun" (ibid 64-65).

This means that all the previous generation, the generation that were forbidden from entering the land, had already died out.

Perhaps, therefore, the words: "it was after the plague" teaches us that the plague finished off all those that had survived up until this point. The fact that the plague was over, meant that it was now the right time to count Israel again.

Last year's Sedra Short on Parshat Pinchas, entitled: "Zelafchad's Daughters and Feminism” appears at .

Another Sedra Short on Parshat Pinchas, entitled: "Moshe and Yehoshua” appears at

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