Pinchas: A Path to Follow

Our masters taught: The man gathering was Zelophehad. Thus is is said, “And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks of wood upon the Sabbath day….and they stoned him with stones, and he died” (Num. 15:32 and 15:36); while elsewhere the daughters of Zelophehad said, “Our father died in the wilderness” (Num. 27:3). Just as in this instance Zelophehad is meant, so, too, Zelophehad [is meant] earlier. Such was R. Akiva’s opinion. But R. Judah ben Betera said to him, “Akiva, in either case you will have to justify yourself: if you are right, then you have revealed the identify of a man whom the Torah shielded; and if you are wrong, you are casting stigma upon a righteous man.”
–from B. Shabbat 96b and quoted in Bialik/Ravnitzky Legends of the Jews (p. 699 #104)

For more discussion on what should and should not be repeated — about someone in or outside the pages of the Torah — see both sources noted above. Shabbat 97a continues with a similar story of rabbis effectively “telling tales” on Aaron in discussing Miriam’s leprosy reported Numbers/Bamidbar 12:9; Bialik/Ravnikzy offer a host of sources on “Slander and Disclosing Another’s Secret,” as well as other topics concerning guarding the tongue (shmirat ha-lashon). Many references in both places.

For more on Zelophehad and his sin, one place to begin is the Jewish Encyclopedia, which offers many references to follow.

Published by


Virginia hosts "Conversations Toward Repair" on We Act Radio, manages, blogs on general stuff a and more Jewish topics at and

One thought on “Pinchas: A Path to Follow”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s