|In this week’s portion, we begin by finishing the story of “Pinchas?—Phineas.” In the story, the women and gods of Midian and Moab are leading the entire nation of Israel astray. Phineas, in his zeal, runs and kills a leader from among the Israelites who is engaged in this public immoral debacle, and by doing this, saves the entire nation from a plague.
Now in order to understand this week’s observation, we need to start at the very beginning. Going all the way back to Genesis 2, we read “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” The sages say that the day Man was created (Man’s Birthday) was the 1st of Tishri, also known as, “Rosh HaShanah—The New Year.” We actually read about this festival in this week’s Torah portion when it is mentioned in Numbers 29. It speaks of the sacrifices and ceremonies that ought to be conducted on the festival. One of the things it says is, “For you it is a day of blowing the trumpets.”
Why do we blow trumpets on this day? Because at the beginning of creation, on this day, everything was completed and “Adam HaRishon—the First Man” recognized God as his Maker and King. God “became” King on Rosh HaShanah because He was first recognized (by Adam) as King on Rosh HaShanah. The trumpet blast of coronation happened when Adam accepted and recognized God’s sovereignty over creation.
What was the first trumpet that sounded at creation? It was man himself. You see, just as a rams horn or silver trumpet is an inanimate object that needs breath blown through it in order to sound. So too, man was made from the “dust of the ground” and did not become a “Nefesh Chayah—A Living being” until God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” In a sense, humanity is the trumpet that announces, or, should announce God’s reign as King over all the earth! According to the website Hebrew4Christians, they say that there is a “…midrash, [that] Adam’s first words were ‘Hashem Melech Olam Va’ed—The Lord is King Forever and Ever.’”
|The very first thing ever proclaimed by man in creation was recognition of God’s reign over creation. And this idea of man (and eventually mankind) being/becoming God’s trumpet in the world is what I want to write about today.
One of the Sages once asked his students, “What language does God speak?” One student said, “Hebrew.” Another said, “All languages.” Yet another said “God is beyond languages.” The sage, Rav Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk then said, “Man is the language of God.” God expresses Himself to the world through people. The whole Bible is about God using people to bring about His purposes. Sometimes, people wait for God to speak to them rather than through them. It is our choice. Will we be trumpets for God, declaring His sovereignty in the earth? Or, will we be like inanimate objects with no breath flowing through us? All of creation praises God! Should we not praise Him also? For we have the very breath of God within us. There is a story in the Midrash about King David. David was out walking in his garden after having just completed gathering and writing the book of Psalms. David said to God, “Has anyone done as much as me to give You praise?” Just then a frog hopped along and laughed! He said to David, “You think you’ve done a lot for God with your psalms? With every croak that I make, I praise God!” It was then that King David went and wrote Psalm 150, where it says, “Kol HaNeshama Tehallel Kah—Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!”
King David recognized that our job as humans is to bring the entire world to a place of praising God! Whether it is the plant kingdom, or the animal realm or humanity! Everything in the world ought to praise God! Our job as trumpets is to bring the world to a place of recognizing and praising God for all the wondrous, great things He has done!
When we look at the creation story, there are two ways to look at the creation of mankind. God created man out of the “dust of the ground” and then, He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” Now this is a “Chicken and the Egg” question, but…which came first in order for this human being to come alive? Here is the best answer I have for the “Chicken and the Egg” question. You can’t have one without the other. Without man’s physical being, there would be no “container” to hold God’s breath, but with just a container and no breath-of-God, man is as inanimate as a sleeping log. It takes both, at the same time! What this means is that it takes the most base of the material realm filled with the most holy from the spiritual realm to make a “truly alive” human being. This is why each person has the ability to choose complete evil or total good. It is in the make-up of each individual person. We can view the creation story as if we were the pinnacle of creation or the lowliest of beings. Why did God save humans for His last creation? Maybe because we were His prized design, or perhaps, it’s because He knew we’d mess things up before He was finished…Either way, we all have the choice to follow our base nature or to follow the spirit of God within us. You cannot be completely spiritual, nor can you be completely physical, but one side must serve the other. As our Rabbi Yeshua said, “No one can serve two masters…”
These two fundamental natures within each human are what cause the struggle we each feel inside of us. Rav Shaul (the Apostle Paul) in the book of Galatians summed it up well when he wrote, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another…” In Rabbinical terms, we would call these two natures; Our “Nefesh Behami—Beastly animal soul” versus our “Nefesh Elokai—Divine Godly soul.” In more New Testament terms, we might call these two, “Our fleshly nature” versus “our Spirit man.” The main point in all of this is that these two natures are at war for dominance. One nature does not completely replace the other, rather, the dominant natures is simply the one that defines us as people.
Our job, besides being trumpets for God in the world, is to gain mastery over our physical bodies, even as Rav Shaul said “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection…” because “those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.”
We must put to death our animal nature and learn to have physical bodies fully enveloped by God’s indwelling Spirit. It is a constant process, but a worthwhile endeavor as we become more like the One whose Spirit dwells inside of us. Often times we may be tricked into thinking we have dealt with a certain issue in our life only to see it come back. Don’t allow the Beasts of the Flesh to trick you into a lackadaisical attitude. Remember, even the pig looks “Kosher—Clean” on the outside, but the inside is what matters most. A pig has cloven hoofs, but does not chew its cud, even as our “Animal nature” may look dealt with on the outside, but it is the inside that really counts.
When we totally break free from our own “beastly nature” then God can fully dwell within us, to the point to where we become “Merkavim—Chariots” for God in this realm. I believe chariot is the right term to use to describe our goal of drawing near to God. We don’t become “charioteers” rather, God is the Charioteer and we are the chariots—vessels that He rides upon/in. Because “Man is the language of God.” We bring Him into the world. If Yeshua can ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, how much more should we allow Him to ride upon the “beastly donkey nature” of our own hearts? May we become “yoke-ready” to plow and prepare the way for the Kingdom of God!
Through all of this, I want to say…don’t view your physical body and the material world as something bad, just recognize that the flesh must be submitted to the Spirit of God. Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshischa would always say, “Keep two pieces of paper in your pocket at all times. On one: ‘I am a speck of dust,’ and on the other: ‘The world was created for me.’” The trick is to know when to pull out which paper. Because, we all must be reminded at times, we are nothing, and yet, God made the entire universe for us! We must constantly be reminded of both realities so we don’t become puffed up and so we don’t sink into depression.
In this week’s portion we find two different characters. Phineas and Zimri. Phineas was a person who totally gave himself over to being a chariot for God and good in the earth. Zimri was one who gave himself over to the sensual, immoral, temporal pleasures of this world. In the end, Phineas was given God’s “Covenant of Peace” while Zimri died in the arms of sin “[leading] to the chambers of death.”
|We are all given the same choice: to choose the way of the flesh, or to choose the way of the Spirit. We are all given the same calling, to be trumpets for God in the world. Will we answer the call and hearken to the voice of the Spirit? Will we be the “Spirit and the Bride” in Revelation 22, calling the world to “Come?” Will we toot our own horn? Or will we play in the orchestral trumpet symphony that declares God as King over all the earth?
This struggle/battle between our “Animal Nature” and our “Godly Soul” is described in Hebrew as “HaMilchamah bein Yetzer haRa v’Yetzer haTov—The War between the Evil and Good Inclination.” However, the Talmud (Sukkah 52a) speaks of a time that is coming, when our “Animal Nature = the Yetzer haRa = the Evil Inclination” will be completely destroyed. It says, “God will bring the evil inclination and slaughter it in the presence of the righteous and in the presence of the wicked. For the righteous the evil inclination appears to them as a high mountain, and for the wicked it appears to them as a mere strand of hair…The righteous [will] weep and say: How were we able to overcome so high a mountain? And the wicked [will] weep and say: How were we unable to overcome this strand of hair?” There is coming a time when we will totally be free from the “Animal Nature—The Evil Inclination” but until that time, recognize that the seemingly impossible bonds that we all daily fight are merely wisps of hair-strands trying to keep us from our ultimate destiny. “[Fight] the good fight, [finish] the race, [keep] the faith.” At the end of days, you will be shocked at the mountain you will have climbed, just by taking things one day at a time, slow and steady. ‘Cause slow and steady…is what wins the race!Grace and peace from God’s bondservant,