Like many young Jews in their 20s and 30s I deal with a huge problem. How much do I really like Matisyahu?
Do I think he is talented? Yes. Do I like his fairly original sound? Yes. Do I think it’s cool that he mixes Judaism and pop culture? Of course. But there is something about him that does not make me love his music. I do not download his songs on iTunes but I won’t turn off his songs when they come on the radio. But his recent song, Sunshine, has got me pretty hooked. So, I downloaded, yes, legally, and genuinely enjoy it.
The lyrics read, “It’s time for a champion, soothe the soul of the land, mend the heart from the sea and the sand, until the sun comes up again.”
These words reminded me of this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Pinchas.
The story of Pinchas actually began in last week’s parsha Balak when Pinchas slayed an Israelite man and Moabite woman for cohabiting (biblical terms). In parshat Pinchas, God praises Pinchas for his actions and says “I hereby give him My covenant of peace It shall be for him and for his descendants after him [as] an eternal covenant of kehunah, because he was zealous for his God and atoned for the children of Israel.” God crowns Pinchas the “champion and the one who will soothe the land” while we as human beings are felt puzzled.
How could it be that something so wrong found its way to be in God’s favor? Rashi writes, “Just as man owes gratitude and favor to someone who did him a favor, so here God expressed to him His feelings of peace.”
Sometimes the stories in the bible use extremes to teach us bold lessons. The lesson here, I believe, is less about murder and more about Pinchas’s devotion to the preservation of the Israelite people. In a time in which few Jews acted on God’s behalf, Pinchas took a stand and God recognized his intention. Therefore, Pinchas is blessed rather than punished.
When we think about our own lives, we are often faced with situations that have no correct answer. Our decisions might hurt people along the way or that we ourselves might battle with misfortune. Our hope is with a strong belief in God and good intentions; God will also find favor in us.
It is like Matisyahu writes, “Reach for the sky, keep your eye on the prize, forever in my mind, you’re my golden sunshine, fits raining in your mind, so push them clouds aside, forever by my side, you’re my golden sunshine. “ Make God like our own sunshine that we reach for and hope that our intentions win out.
Rabbi Jeremy Fine
p.s. Also, let’s hope Matisyahu has a few more songs like this in his back pocket.
p.p.s. Here’s the video for Matisyahu’s song…