One of the Most Profound Paradigm Shifts in Jewish History

A biblical story marks the moment when Judaism turned from charismatic authority to institutional authority, and from the rule of judgment to the rule of law.

From Moses Sees the Promised Land From Afar, c. 1896-1902, by James Tissot. Jewish Museum.

From Moses Sees the Promised Land From Afar, c. 1896-1902, by James Tissot. Jewish Museum.

Atar Hadari
Observation
July 28 2016
About the author

Atar Hadari’s Songs from Bialik: Selected Poems of H. N. Bialik (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award. His Lives of the Dead: Poems of Hanoch Levin earned a PEN Translates award and was released in 2019 by Arc Publications. He was ordained by Rabbi Daniel Landes and is completing a PhD on William Tyndale’s translation of Deuteronomy.


To judge by its name, this week’s Torah reading of Pinḥas (Numbers 25:10-30:1) appears to be about its title character, the grandson of Aaron the high priest, whose heroic deed leads to a spectacular if ambiguous reward. But upon closer examination the reading turns out to be about something different entirely: namely, one of the most profound paradigm shifts in all of Jewish history.

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More about: Hebrew Bible, Moses, Religion & Holidays, The Monthly Portion