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Parashat Pinchas

Saturday 15 July 2017 Tamuz 21 5777

Numbers 25:10-29:40; 1 Kings 18:46-19:21; John 2:13-25


God’s holy place is called the tent of meeting or the Tent of Appointment – Oheil HaMoed. His holy times are called the appointed times. The reason is to teach you that the Sabbath and the holy days are like tabernacles pitched in the flow of time. When we enter the appointed times, we enter a holy temple made of time.

In Numbers chapters 28 & 29, the Lord warns israel, “you shall be careful to present my offering…at their appointed times.” (28:2) Numbers 28–29 is an ancient priestly calendar, a detailed list of the prescribed temple sacrifices for each festival day. The verse refers to the Sabbath day and the biblical festivals as moadim, i.e. Appointed or Set Apart times. They are HaShem’s appointed times for meeting with man. They are also appointed times for sacrifice. Since we are without the holy temple, the laws of numbers 28–29 are not actually applicable to us. They are a list of sacrifices, and the bible forbids us from making sacrifices outside of the temple. Although we are forbidden from offering a sacrifice, we are still obligated to keep the appointed times.

The word translated as “careful” in numbers 28:2 is the Hebrew verb shamar, the same word typically translated as “observe.”

Num 28:1-2 2 "Command the children of Israel, and say to them, 'My offering, My food for My offerings made by fire as a sweet aroma to Me, you shall be careful to offer to Me at their appointed time.'

For example, the famous passage that says “the sons of Israel shall observe the Sabbath, to celebrate the Sabbath,” translates the same verb as “observe.” Thus we learn in this passage that we are to be scrupulously careful to keep the appointed times at the appointed times.

It is all too common to take a rather sloppy attitude about matters of faith and observance. It is often said, “it doesn’t matter which day we keep the Sabbath, as long as we keep ‘a Sabbath.’” or someone might say, “our seder isn’t on the seder night, but at least we are doing a seder.”

This kind of loose and casual attitude toward G-d’s commandments is sometimes misconstrued as being more ‘spiritual’ in that it is more concerned with the intent of the law then with the actual details. But this is arrogance in the extreme.

Who are we to determine the intent of HaShem’s laws? Who are we to disregard the specific details of his commandments on the basis that we deem them irrelevant? Should we expect him to bend his schedule to meet ours? If we can make the appointment whenever it is convenient for us, then it is really not god’s appointed time.

For example, if i was to agree to meet you at a certain coffee shop, at a certain time of day, this coming Tuesday, but then I decided that Wednesday would work better for me, and showed up on Wednesday instead of Tuesday, I would not actually be keeping the appointment, would I? You would have been there on Tuesday. I would have been there on Wednesday. We would never have met as we were supposed to meet.

It is much the same with G-d’s appointed times. We are to be ‘careful’ to ‘observe’ them in their ‘appointed times.

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