The second half of Parashat Pinehas relates the different sacrifices which are brought every day, Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh and each of the festivals. Of the various sacrifices, our Parasha relates two bulls are brought as burnt offerings עולה on Rosh Chodesh, each day of Pesach and Shavuot; one is brought on Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur as well as Shemini Chag Atzeret. However, on Succot, 13 are brought on the first day, 12 on the second and so on finishing with seven of the seventh day which is Hoshana Rabba making 70 in total.
Our rabbis suggest that the 70 bulls represent the 70 nations of the world. It would seem therefore that we are considering the welfare of all peoples. It is not always appreciated that when the temple stood, sacrifices were not only brought by Jews or on behalf of Jews, non-Jews could also bring burnt offerings.
On Shemini Chag Atzeret we go back to one bull allowing us to be intimate so to speak with the Almighty and reassert our chosen status. So the question which begs to be asked is what type of relationship should we be seeking with other nations. Do we want to have an exclusive relationship with God or one which includes our fellow human beings?
Rabbi Alan Brill in his 2010 book entitled “Judaism and other Religions: Models of understanding” identifies four approaches providing sources from the Tanach, the Talmud and Jewish commentators and philosophers from medieval times through to the modern day.
One model he relates is “exclusivism” suggesting only ours is the true religion (Rashi, Maharal, Ari, Ramchal, Tanya). Secondly, “inclusivism” which purports that Judaism is best but others have part of that truth (Halevi, Rambam, Abarbanel, Radak, Rashba, Arama, Seforno). Thirdly, “universalism” where other religions  also believe that the truth is in the One albeit in a different way. (Saadiah, Ibn Gebirol, Ibn Ezra, Rambam (again)). Finally, and most controversially that all major world religions have part of the truth (mainly contemporary orthodox Jewish thinkers).
How should we behave in the face of such seemingly conflicting approaches? The answer is straightforward. There are matters which the Torah mandates us to act separately (קדוש) as a holy nation. These include marriage, food and drink, Shabbat, Torah learning, burial etc. Otherwise just as Yirmiyahu the prophet (Jeremiah 29:7) encouraged the exiled Jews in Babylon after the first Churban, we have to seek the welfare and success of the society we find ourselves in.  Further, there may be no greater kiddush Hashem than a Jew holding to his or her values and behaving impeccably in society at large.
In addition to a complete redemption of the Jewish people, the messianic goal is for the world to be one in its belief in Hashem. As Zechariah (14:9) says והיה ה׳ למלך על כל הארץ ביום ההוא יהיה ה׳ אחד ושמו אחד “And Hashem will be as a King over the whole world; on that day Hashem will be One and his name One”. Especially now that we have entered the three weeks of semi-mourning between the fasts of the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha BeAv, we should strive that our actions bring this day closer. שבת שלום.
Download Sedra Sheet Here