The sedra Pinchas highlights the story of a young zealot, who took drastic action when leadership was weak. Moses, nearing the end of his illustrious career, failed to take decisive action to prevent his flock engaging in sexual orgies with the Midianites, an activity which was threatening the foundation of his newly born society, a foundation based on the purity of family life.

Rabbinical commentators have been reluctant to accept the drastic action but what alternatives were there? Jewish literature is not full of alternative approaches to the problem.

Another theme of the sedra is the claim of the Zelaphehad sisters for the family land entitlement in the land soon to be conquered. Not only is their claim an unprecedented manifestation of female rights, but it illustrates the the strength of the link between the land and its people.

Finally there is the election of a solid well known man “with spirit”, to succeed Moses, rather than an up-and-coming member of the younger generation, such as Pinchas.

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