Pinhas 5777

D'var Torah | Numbers

Moshe Dayan, one of the dynamic young leaders that David Ben Gurion slated for political ascendancy along with Peres, Eban, Navon, and Kollek, recalled Ben Gurion’s list of six Jews who he believed represented the “fulfillers of Zionism.” Not included on the list were Theodor Herzl or Chaim Weizmann. Also absent from Ben Gurion’s list were the framers of the Zionist movement like Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Kalischer, Leon Pinsker, Moses Hess, and Yehudah Alaklai. The six that Ben Gurion did include – three Frenchmen and three Palestinian Jews – are relative unknowns.


The three Frenchmen were Adolphe Cremieux, a lawyer and statesman who abolished slavery in the French colonies, enfranchised Algerian Jews, attempted to rescue Jewish prisoners from the gallows following the Damascus Blood Libel of 1840, and established a system of day school education and self-defense for Jews in Arab lands; Charles Netter, who, in 1870, founded and directed Mikveh Yisrael, the first Jewish agricultural school in Palestine; and Baron Edmund de Rothschild, whose prodigious investments in farm settlements secure the future of the Jewish community in Palestine.


The three Palestinian Jews were the Hungarian born Joshua Stampfer and David Meir Gutman, and the Jerusalem born Joel Moses Solomon, who together, in 1878, founded Petah Tikvah, the first Jewish farm village in the modern history of the land of Israel. These three were observant Jews from Jerusalem, who were determined to redeem the land, as had their Biblical ancestors. Noteworthy is the fact that the first attempt to establish Petah Tikvah ended in failure.


All six were, at least to Ben Gurion, worthy spiritual descendants of Pinhas. Like this Biblical character who took risk and initiative in pursuing what he believed was necessary, the names on Ben Gurion’s list were Jews who led by example. Even with all the concerns attached to zealotry, Judaism always needs a corps of leaders with courage and passion.


Words to Live By

What lies behind you and what lies ahead of you pales in comparison to what lies inside you.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Rabbi Allen on Twitter