Friday, July 18, 2008

Pinchas--The Not PC Torah Hero and Rabbi Akiva

The story of Pinchas really begins where the previous one ends. In the end of the Torah Portion of Balak, Pinchas takes the law into his own hands and executes a Jewish prince a Midianite woman, who were "in the act." This ended the plague which had killed 24,000 Jews, the same number of Rabbi Akiva's students who had also died in a plague.

There must be a connection.

For years I've had a problem with the adulation of Rabbi Akiva and his wife. I consider theirs a very peculiar and dysfunctional relationship. It is said that they lived apart in order to "allow him to learn Torah." But they were still living apart when he was a great rabbi. That sounds more like a Christian or Buddhist monk, not Torah people.

Nobody, including many rabbis who have listened to my thoughts, has been able to shake me of the firm belief that it was Rabbi Akiva's example of marriage which badly influenced his students and caused the punishing plague.

Shabbat Shalom U'Mevorach
May You Have a Peaceful and Blessed Shabbat


Esser Agaroth said...


Yes and no. The midrash states that this was one of the halachoth that Moshe Rabbenu forgot, when asked what should be done.

Pinhas remembered. Yes, he did implement it on his own. As the Ramba"m points [and others] out, this is one of the situations not requiring adjudication before a beth din. They fulfilled all of the requirements for the punishment to be implemented.

Batya said...

I'm not a big medrash fan.

But how would you connect those two numbers?

Esser Agaroth said...

I dunno.

I disagree with your supposition about Rabbi Aqiva and his wife.

Sources suggest the opposite.

Anonymous said...

According to the midrash, Moshe lived separate from his wife for many years, this seems to have been a necessary condition for prophecy (at his level at least).

But I don't think this a model for other people.

Batya said...

by-what sources?
shlomo, that's what Miriam was punished for talking about.

goyisherebbe said...

Rabbi Akiva and Moshe had a lot in common. Moshe Rabbeinu was raised in a non-Jewish environment, Pharaoh's palace, followed by many years in Ethiopia and Midian. Rabbi Akiva was a descendent of gerim, raised without a Torah education. They both needed an intensive period of Torah only in order to do what they had to do. The problem was that their behavior in this regard was neither intended to be an example for ordinary Jews, nor was it meant to be the subject of gossip. Miriam was therefore punished. Here and there in the Mishnah you find snide remarks by Rabbi Akiva's colleagues which seem to indicate unacceptable references to his past. Disciples often pick up characteristics from their rebbe in an indiscriminate way. Rabbi Meir was exceptional in that he learned from Elisha ben Avuya, who went off the derech, without being influenced by his character defects. But that is not the recommended course of action. One is required to find a rav of exceptional character and learn from him. This should not include slavish imitation. Unfortunately we find Lubavitchers who smoke Marlboro and talmidim of Rav Soloveitchik who copied his sharp wit at the expense of others. The balance between following a rav and independent thinking is admittedly very hard to achieve.

Batya said...

Goyish, great points.