Dear Friends,

 

There is a Yiddish expression which asserts that “everything that is overdone is no good.” There are so many applications of this truth, and especially when we see those who are overly zealous on behalf of their cause.

 

This week’s Torah portion tells that as the Israelites were encamped near the land of the Midianite, that the Midianite women would go to the Israeli camp to lure the men to their religious festivals-fertility cult celebrations which no doubt included sexual orgies and idol worship. The Torah relates the account of Pinchas who, in his zeal for God, took it upon himself to attack and kill Zimri, the head of the tribe of Simeon, together with his consort, Cozbi, the Midianite princess.  He had brought her back to his tent and supposedly had “relations” with her. So it was Pinchas’ sense of “righteous indignation” against one who supposedly displayed immoral conduct that motivated his harsh action.

 

But what of such righteous indignation and the actions to which it often leads? I think especially of ISIS and the violence it continues to perpetrate in the name of religion and their perception of holiness. Torturing and murdering people, destroying antiquities of an earlier age-all of it justified by their understanding of what God expects from them. Yes, our world is a threatened place today because of those who are so passionate in their beliefs; countless brainwashed young people, prepared to kill and to die, for a cause they deem worthy.

 

We Jews: let us cherish our religious heritage which places so much value upon thinking and questioning. And we Reform Jews: let us know and appreciate that one of the core ideals of Reform Judaism is our emphasis upon diversity and our right to choose the way in which we will interpret and live our Jewish religion. No, I do not condone Zimri, but neither do I condone the violence of Pinchas, as both lead to the demise of our religious ideals.

 

For Judaism, “blind faith” in any cause is recognized as dangerous. For it is in our ability to think reason and question that we are “created in the image of God.” 

 

Shabbat shalom,   

         Rabbi David Greenberg