Mostly on Rulebase Benchmarks, Politics, Religion and other "stuff" that you can't discuss in the workplace

Radicals and Messiahim – Zealots and Extremists

Extremism – it isn’t something that makes the ordinary person comfortable.  Today I was reading a post about the Torah on extremists in general and Pinchas in particular.  It caught my attention because in my college days (yes, I really did attend a decent university in my youth) I once had some friends named Pinkus, not the same spelling as above but close enough since it’s a Hebrew word that has been translated into English.  I didn’t know much about them nor their religion; they never offered and I never asked, even though I often had lunch or supper at their house.   Sometimes Jews think that everyone “just knows” that they are Jews because of their name.  Not really true in the USA amongst the younger folks since most young folks rarely think about things that are outside of their immediate realm of books, friends, cars, coffee and exploring the world.

Back to the subject:  Extremists make us uncomfortable because we really want to be extremists but we don’t want the pain that goes along with it.  Yeshua (called Jesus in English) was such an extremists.  Messiah is the Hebrew transliteration and Yasu (long a, long u) would have been the Greek pronunciation.   Isaiah was an extremists as was David and Daniel and many others of biblical fame.  Probably the most extreme person in the bible was Elijah, whose very name declares that “Adonai” (jah) is “G-d” (Eli).  He ordered more than 400 servants of the false god Baal killed on one day – probably within one hour after the one true G-d had lit the fires of the altar after the altar was doused with four dousings water until the water ran like a small creek around the altar.   See for more on the subject or just read your bible, I Kings, Chapter 18 or so.

Extremism:  WHY do they make us feel uncomfortable?  If we know that this person is right, then why are we so, so, SO uncomfortable around them?  Sometimes just hearing about them makes us uncomfortable?  Because, deep down, we wish that we could be like that Radical person, that Zealot, that Extremist.  And we want, deep down, to be holy, even as G-d has commanded us to be holy just as He is Holy.  There is a longing in our soul that cries out to G-d to help us to be holy even as He is Holy.  It’s why we weep openly at the death of a hero or a fallen soldier who has given up everything including his life for his cause.  We want so much to be a hero but there is that awful chasm of fear, that wide gulf of pain to cross to get there.  And we know that the extremists is the person who has given up on this life and is truly, totally, absolutely looking forward to the next life with his G-d and his Savior.  This desire for holiness is the reason that those seeking G-d at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem sometime can do nothing more than stand there and weep openly and unashamedly.

On the other hand, if that radical person is wrong, why not just ignore that person?  Because we know that this person could be dangerous to us and our way of life.  That person is no longer afraid of judicial punishment here on Earth but is looking forward to the next life.  Even if that person is wrong, that person STILL believes in what is being done.  Just like the Muslim extremist today – or the Christian Radical Right Wing (such as the KKK that is not Christian but they think that they are Christian) – we know that they are wrong and they are a real and present danger to us and our way of life, whether we are Jew, Christian, Islam, Atheist, Hindu, Buddhist, Agnostic, whatever…   

OK, then just who is this Pinchas person?  Pinchas (another spelling of Pinchus) is discussed in some detail, not a lot, at and is the middle of five Torah lessons in Numbers, those five being Chukat, Balak, Pinchas, Mattot and Massei.   Pinchas is sometimes called the “Prince of Peace” because in Numbers 25:11-12 G-d says, “Pinchas, son of Elazar, son of Aaron the Priest, turned away my wrath upon the Children of Israel in his zealousness.  Therefore say: I hereby give him My Covenant of Peace.”  So what did he do to earn this title?  If you read either the link or Numbers you’ll know – but I’ll save you the effort.  

The Torah forbids intermarriage between a Jew and anyone of the “nations” – goyim.  This is, in effect, to show the difference between the Holy and the profane, between those chosen of God and the rest of the world, a people who do not know one hand from the other.  (Kind of harsh sounding today, isn’t it?  What we would call “extremism” or “orthodoxy” in Judaism.)  So, when a Jew married a Midianite girl and took her into his tent in the very face of Moses and the rest of the congregation to consummate their marriage, all of Israel was stunned.  Even Moses just sat there.

But Pinchas, a mere lad, alone, but a majority of two (himself and G-d), picked up his spear, went into the tent and drove the spear through the two of them (both at once) while they were in the middle marital coitus.  He then dragged them out to show that the defilement of Israel and the blaspheming of the Law of the G-d of Israel would not be tolerated.  Even RAMBAM (Moses Maimonides) said in his code that this is still the law, though it has been watered down to being forty lashes.  And they can be killed only during the act of coitus itself, not something that can be talked about and then taken before the council.  (How wimpy all that sounds now compared to Pinchas.)  

Even the study of Pinchas is done alone of the five Torah studies in Numbers.  When Rebbe Kotzer was asked he replied, “Pinchas stands alone because Pinchas himself was an extremist.  Extremists always stand alone.”  So, if you are uncomfortable around extremists, that’s OK.  Maybe you won’t ever be extreme about anything.  If everyone one was extremists then there would not be a word for extremism, would there?  But you might give some though to doing your dead level best to always doing what G-d said to do and not tolerating those who would stray from His Holy Word and call it “pluralism” or “inclusion”.  More on the later…




July 18, 2008 - Posted by | Religion

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