Pinchas is the Torah’s “Dark Knight.” He is a vigilante who takes the law into his own hands. When the Israelites were seduced into a mass orgy by the Moabites, God and Moses are incensed. Pinchas is too and pushes the envelope by stabbing to death a prominent Israelite man and Moabite woman who are copulating in public. Parashat Pinchas begins with God rewarding Pinchas, grandson of Aaron the High Priest, with a Brit Shalom, a Covenant of Peace. The rabbis struggle to justify this reward when Pinchas acted outside of any legal jurisdiction to take such action. In the Jerusalem Talmud the rabbis go so far as to say that Pinchas should have been excommunicated were it not for God’s own intervention. Batman is a similarly complex figure who stands for justice but operates outside the established legal system. A Batman tie, therefore, seems apt this week.
Balak, King of Moab, seeks a cost-efficient means to destroy the Israelites and hires Balaam, wizard extraordinaire, to curse Israel. However, every time Balaam goes to curse the Israelites, out of his mouth come warm blessings. Balaam is not pleased by his performance that God has caused, and he takes his frustrations out on his donkey–who talks back to him! You can read the dramatic exchange below. As you do, take a look at my tie of the week. You may want to picture in your mind Shrek (voiced by Mike Meyers) as Balaam and the donkey (as voiced by Eddie Murphy)–as the donkey!
21 And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.
22 And God’s anger was kindled because he went; and the angel of the Lord stood in the way as an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.
23 And the ass saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand; and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field; and Balaam struck the ass, to turn it to the way.
24 But the angel of the Lord stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side.
25 And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, it pushed itself to the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall; and he struck her again.
26 And the angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.
27 And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, it fell down under Balaam; and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the ass with a staff.
28 And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and it said to Balaam, What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?
29 And Balaam said to the ass, Because you have mocked me; I wished there was a sword in my hand, for now would I kill you.
30 And the ass said to Balaam, Am not I your ass, upon which you have ridden ever since I was yours to this day? Was I ever wont to do so to you? And he said, No.
31 Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand; and he bowed down his head, and fell on his face.
32 And the angel of the Lord said to him, Why did you strike your ass these three times? Behold, I went out to withstand you, because your way is perverse before me;
33 And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times; if it had not turned aside from me, surely now also I would had slain you, and let her live.
34 And Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, I have sinned; for I knew not that you stood in the way against me; now therefore, if it displeases you, I will go back again.
Yes, this tie is back. It is in honor of the sacrifice of the Red Heifer described in Numbers 19, the beginning of this week’s Parashat Hukkat. One could not enter the precincts of the Tabernacle or Temple in a state of ritual impurity. Only being sprinkled with the ashes of the red heifer would remove defilement from having had contact with the dead. As Professor Jacob Milgrom wrote, the Temple is a place to affirm life. Associations with death are not welcome.
As far as the tie goes, the Chicago Bulls may already be dead for this year, but basketball fever is still in the air.
Korach is grumpy about something. This Levite is jealous of the power and prestige of his cousins Moses and Aaron and stages a rebellion. With an assist from God, the rebellion fails miserably, and Korach and his comrades are swallowed by the earth. A few years ago during a family trip to Disney World, in one of the shops I found this tie featuring Grumpy from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It occurred to me that I coukd wear it for Parashat Korach whose namesake is the grumpiest person in the Torah. To be fair, Grumpy the Dwarf is not a sinister character; his name reflects more his disposition than his character. Still, one gets the sense Korach was an unhappy–and most especially grumpy person. Shabbat Shalom–and be happy!