Archive for the '4.07 Pinchas' Category

Prise de la Bastille: Noble Resistance

On the morning of 14 July 1789, the city of Paris was in a state of alarm. The partisans of the Third Estate in France, now under the control of the Bourgeois Militia of Paris, had earlier stormed the Hôtel des Invalides without meeting significant opposition. Their intention had been to gather the weapons held there. The commandant at the Invalides had in the previous few days taken the precaution of transferring 250 barrels of gunpowder to the Bastille for safer storage.  Amid the tensions of July 1789 the building remained as a symbol of royal tyranny. At this point, the Bastille was nearly empty, housing only seven prisoners: four forgers, two “lunatics” and one “deviant” aristocrat, the Comte de Solages.

The crowd gathered outside around mid-morning, calling for the surrender of the prison, the removal of the cannon and the release of the arms and gunpowder. Two representatives of the crowd outside were invited into the fortress and negotiations began, and another was admitted around noon with definite demands. The negotiations dragged on while the crowd grew and became impatient. Around 1:30, the crowd surged into the undefended outer courtyard. A small party climbed onto the roof of a building next to the gate to the inner courtyard and broke the chains on the drawbridge, crushing one vainqueur as it fell. Soldiers of the garrison called to the people to withdraw but in the noise and confusion these shouts were misinterpreted as encouragement to enter. Gunfire began, apparently spontaneously, turning the crowd into a mob. The crowd seems to have felt that they had been intentionally drawn into a trap and the fighting became more violent and intense, while attempts by deputies to organised a cease-fire were ignored by the attackers. The firing continued, and after 3 pm the attackers were reinforced by mutinous French Guard,  along with two cannons. A substantial force of Royal Army troops encamped on the Champs de Mars did not intervene. With the possibility of mutual carnage suddenly apparent, Governor de Launay ordered a cease-fire at 5 pm. A letter offering his terms was handed out to the besiegers through a gap in the inner gate. His demands were refused, but de Launay nonetheless capitulated, as he realized that with limited food stocks and no water supply his troops could not hold out much longer. He accordingly opened the gates to the inner courtyard, and the vainqueurs swept in to liberate the fortress at 5:30.

The Bastille was a symbol of abuses by the monarchy. The news of the successful insurrection at Paris spread throughout France. The Prise de la Bastille – Storming of the Bastille  was the flashpoint of the French Revolution.

Besides tomorrow being the 228th anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille, I was thinking about this moment when reading Pinchas, this week’s Torah Portion. In preparation for entering into the new land they had a lottery to determine who would get what property. There we read:

Then drew near the daughters of Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Tirzah.  And they stood before Mosche, and before Eleazar the priest, and before the princes and all the congregation, at the door of the tent of meeting, saying. ‘Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not among the company of them that gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah, but he died in his own sin; and he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he had no son? Give unto us a possession among the brethren of our father.’ ( Numbers 27:1-4)

The daughters of Zelophehad nobly presented their case to Mosche. Similar to the case of the Storming of the Bastille, there were very few people impacted by this miscarriage of justice, but it represented something symbolic that needed to corrected. Their resistance could have spelled the end of Mosche’s short rule of law, but instead of being inflexible Mosche found a solution. Throughout history following these lessons Halakha- Jewish law has evolved by fomenting and responding to many revolutions. As leaders we need to be open and listen to all issues regardless of few people might be marginalized by them. Like Mosche we will not survive imprisoned in our fortress. As citizens we need to follow the noble example of the daughters of Zelophehad and persist to resist in the name of justice.

 

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No Church in the Wild

I have been thinking about the end of last week’s Torah portion discussing the Israelites committing idolatry and harlotry with the daughters of Moav. There we read:

 And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moshe, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, while they were weeping at the door of the tent of meeting.And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from the midst of the congregation, and took a spear in his hand. And he went after the man of Israel into the chamber, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.( Numbers 25: 6-8)

In Pinchas, this week’s Torah portion,  we learn that he is praised “covenant of peace”. How can this be the case? Pinchas and his vigilante justice seems like the opposite of a “covenant of peace”. And what do we make of the fact that he was the son of Aaron. How does this depict the priesthood?

I was thinking about this when listened to No Church in the Wild by Kanye West, Jay -Z, and Frank Ocean.

Human beings in a mob
What’s a mob to a king?
What’s a king to a god?
What’s a god to a non-believer?
Who don’t believe in anything?

We make it out alive
All right, all right
No church in the wild

Tears on the mausoleum floor
Blood stains the coliseum doors
Lies on the lips of a priest
Thanksgiving disguised as a feast

I can imagine that there are circumstances when the ends justify the means, but it seems really hard to bring about a belief in God in the face of a mob through the lies (or in this case the aim) of a priest.

Temperamental Drink

In Pinchas, this week’s Torah portion, we read about all of the sacrifices. Starting with the Tamid, daily sacrifices, through the Shabbat, Rosh Hodesh, and all of the festivals we learn about all of the offerings. There about  the Tamid sacrifice we read;

And the drink-offering thereof shall be the fourth part of a hin for the one lamb; in the holy place you shall pour out a drink-offering of strong drink to the Lord. (Numbers 28:7)

What is this ” strong drink ” and why does this sacrifice need it?  On this Rashi  writes,” This is wine that intoxicates,to the exclusion of wine that comes directly from the wine-press. This daily sacrifice needs fermented wine, and not just grape juice. But what is the significance of fermented over juice?

I think it is interesting to realize that you cannot just whip up some wine. Fermentation demands preparation. Passover is s holiday during which we commemorate our not having planned ahead. We did not leave time for the bread to ferment. We procrastinated and now we are left with Matzah. In many respects I believe that we are the procrastiNation. In contrast to the Matzah, with the daily sacrifice they were instructed to make the needed preparation. To me it seems like an interesting lesson in the importance of planning ahead.  In terms of planning all I can say is that I married well. I know that my personal temperament is to shoot from the hip, but I know that this is something that I need to work on every day. For me planning is a daily sacrifice.

Problem Solving

A recent report by Daniel H Pink revealed that employees are faster and more creative when solving other people’s problems. Evidently people are more capable of mental novelty when thinking on behalf of others than for themselves In his article we read:

Over the years, social scientists have found that abstract thinking leads to greater creativity. That means that if we care about innovation we need to be more abstract and therefore more distant. But in our businesses and our lives, we often do the opposite. We intensify our focus rather than widen our view. We draw closer rather than step back.

There are a number of implications for this in terms of how we run our businesses and our lives. Obviously we need to find more diverse and interesting thought partners to help us to problem solving in our lives.

In Pinchas, this week’s Torah portion, we read about the seeming intractable issue of the Daughters of Zelophehad. Their father died in the desert leaving no male heirs. What are his daughters to do in terms of his inheritance? They bring their claim to Moses who in turn brings the matter to God. God is the most Other and the best at problem solving. In this sense God is the ultimate consultant or in this case Consultant. But where does that leave us in a world in which it is hard to relate to a personal God?

I think we can see an interesting model in this story itself. At the beginning of resolving the inheritance crisis we read:

1 Then drew near the daughters of Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Tirzah. ( Numbers 27:1)

Rashi draws our attention to the fact that they record them lineage all the way back to Joseph. Why not just stop with Manasseh? Rashi assumes that it is to teach us of their righteousness. As compared to the rest of the tribes, saying that the daughters of Zelophehad were of Joseph is to say that their investment in the land was in memory of Joseph who longed for his land or that they were one more generation removed from the land. Either way I think it is to teach us Daniel Pink’s message.

Pink teaches us that when partners aren’t an option, you need to establish distance for yourself. Create some psychological space between you and your project by imagining you’re doing it for someone else or contemplating what advice you’d give to another person in your predicament. Whether it was their ability to work in the name of Joseph or the distance they can place between themselves and the issue, the daughters of Zelophehad teach us how to be better problem solvers. Thank you.


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