The Logos is the Head of the Body (Parsha Pinchas)

This weeks Torah reading is Parsha Pinchas (Num. 25:10-30:1). This Parsha includes the account of Moses appointing Joshua as leader:

[12] And the LORD said unto Moses, Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel.
[13] And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered.
[14] For ye rebelled against my commandment in the desert of Zin, in the strife of the congregation, to sanctify me at the water before their eyes: that is the water of Meribah in Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.
[15] And Moses spake unto the LORD, saying,
[16] Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation,
[17] Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd.
[18] And the LORD said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him;
[19] And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight.
[20] And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient.
[21] And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the LORD: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.
[22] And Moses did as the LORD commanded him: and he took Joshua, and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation:
[23] And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses.
(Numbers 27:12-23 KJV)

Philo of Alexandria sees an allegory in this account, by which the head of the Assembly of Israel represents the Logos:

(44) And this man himself prays that the flock may not be left without a shepherd, meaning by the flock the whole multitude of the parts of the soul; but that they may meet with a good shepherd, who will lead them away from the nets of folly, and injustice, and all wickedness, and conduct them to the doctrines of learning and all other virtue; for, says Moses, “Let the Lord the God of spirits and of all flesh look down upon man and upon this Assembly.” (Num. 27:16.) And then, a little further on, he adds, “And the assembly of the Lord shall not be like sheep who have no shepherd.”
(On Husbandry 44)

(67) But every flock which has not a shepherd to govern it does of necessity meet with great disasters, inasmuch as it is not able, of its own power, to repel what is injurious to it, and to choose what will be advantageous; in respect of which Moses says in his prayer, “Let the Lord, the God of spirits and of all flesh, look out a man who shall be over this assembly, who shall go out before their faces, and who shall come in, and who shall bring them out, and who shall bring them in, and so the synagogue of the Lord shall not be like unto sheep which have no Shepherd.” (Num. 27:17.) (68) For when the president, or superintendent, or father, or whatever we like to call him, of our composite body, right reason (Logos), is departed, having left the flock that is in us, it being neglected and suffered to go its own way, perishes and the loss to its master is great. But the irrational and wandering flock, being deprived of its shepherd, who ought to admonish and instruct it, strays away to a great distance from rational and immortal life.
(On the Posterity of Cain and his Exile 67-68)

Philo sees the Assembly of Israel as an allegorical “body” and its leader as the “head” of that body, and likened to the Logos which should be head over the emotions.

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The Middle Way of Logos is the Royal Road (Parsha Hukkat)

This week we have a double Torah reading in Parsha Hukkat (Num. 19:1-22:1) and Parsha Balak (Num. 22:2-25:9). Included in this reading is this message sent by Moses to the King of Edom:

[14] And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us:
[15] How our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us, and our fathers:
[16] And when we cried unto the LORD, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and hath brought us forth out of Egypt: and, behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border:
[17] Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king’s highway, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders.
(Numbers 20:17 KJV)

Philo of Alexandria comments on this verse saying:

(101) But Moses does not think it right to incline either to the right or to the left, or in short to any part of the earthly Edom; but rather to proceed along the middle way, which he with great propriety calls the royal road, (Num. 20:17.) for since God is the first and only God of the universe, so also the road to him, as being the king’s road, is very properly denominated royal; and this royal road you must consider to be philosophy, not that philosophy which the existing sophistical crowd of men pursues (for they, studying the art of words in opposition to truth, have called crafty wickedness, wisdom, assigning a divine name to wicked action), but that which the ancient company of those men who practised virtue studied, rejecting the persuasive juggleries of pleasure, and adopting a virtuous and austere study of the honourable–(102) this royal road, which we have stated to be true and genuine philosophy, the Torah calls the word and reason (Logos) of God; for it is written, “Thou shalt not turn aside from the word which I command thee this day, to the right hand nor to the left,” So that it is shown most manifestly that the word (logos) of God is identical with the royal road, since Moses’ words are not to depart either from the royal road, or from this word, as if the two were synonymous, but to proceed with an upright mind along the middle and level road, which leads one aright.
(The Posterity and Exile of Cain 101-102)

Philo sees this passage as, by way of allegory, teaching us the virtue of temperance and moderation, as a middle path which is “true and genuine philosophy” embodied in the “word and reason” (Logos) of the “upright mind.”

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Temperance and Personal Sacrifice (Parsha Korach)

This weeks Torah reading in Parsha Korach (Num. 13=6:1-18:32). This Parsha includes a series of commandments concerning maintenance of the Temple and Priesthood:

[8] And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Behold, I also have given thee the charge of mine heave offerings of all the hallowed things of the children of Israel; unto thee have I given them by reason of the anointing, and to thy sons, by an ordinance for ever.
[9] This shall be thine of the most holy things, reserved from the fire: every oblation of theirs, every meat offering of theirs, and every sin offering of theirs, and every trespass offering of theirs, which they shall render unto me, shall be most holy for thee and for thy sons.
[10] In the most holy place shalt thou eat it; every male shall eat it: it shall be holy unto thee.
[11] And this is thine; the heave offering of their gift, with all the wave offerings of the children of Israel: I have given them unto thee, and to thy sons and to thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: every one that is clean in thy house shall eat of it.
[12] All the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, and of the wheat, the firstfruits of them which they shall offer unto the LORD, them have I given thee.
[13] And whatsoever is first ripe in the land, which they shall bring unto the LORD, shall be thine; every one that is clean in thine house shall eat of it.
[14] Every thing devoted in Israel shall be thine.
[15] Every thing that openeth the matrix in all flesh, which they bring unto the LORD, whether it be of men or beasts, shall be thine: nevertheless the firstborn of man shalt thou surely redeem, and the firstling of unclean beasts shalt thou redeem.
[16] And those that are to be redeemed from a month old shalt thou redeem, according to thine estimation, for the money of five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs.
[17] But the firstling of a cow, or the firstling of a sheep, or the firstling of a goat, thou shalt not redeem; they are holy: thou shalt sprinkle their blood upon the altar, and shalt burn their fat for an offering made by fire, for a sweet savour unto the LORD.
[18] And the flesh of them shall be thine, as the wave breast and as the right shoulder are thine.
[19] All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer unto the LORD, have I given thee, and thy sons and thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: it is a covenant of salt for ever before the LORD unto thee and to thy seed with thee.

[31] And ye shall eat it in every place, ye and your households: for it is your reward for your service in the tabernacle of the congregation.
(Numbers 18:8-19, 31 KJV)

Philo of Alexandria wrote concerning these verses:

(97) What, then, is the lesson which he gives us about this origin of all vices? There are two things of a most comprehensive nature, meat and drink. He, then, has not left either of them unrestrained, but has bridled them with especial commands most calculated to lead them to temperance and to humanity, and to the greatest of all virtues, piety; (98) for he commanded men to offer first fruits of corn, and wine, and oil, and cattle, and other things; (Numbers 18:12.) and to distribute the first fruits among the sacrificers and the priests; among the sacrificers because of the gratitude due to God for the abundance and fertility of all things, and to the priests because of their sacred ministrations about the temple, and therefore they were worthy to receive wages for their services in respect of the sacred Ceremonies. (Numbers 18:31.) (99) And he utterly forbids any one to taste of anything, or to take any portion of anything, before separating off the first fruits, wishing also by this injunction to inculcate the practice of most useful temperance; for he who has learnt not to throw himself greedily on all the abundance which the seasons of the year have brought, but to wait till the first fruits are consecrated, is likely to be able to restrain the restive obstinacy of the passions, making them gentle and manageable.
(Special Laws IV, 97-99)

Philo teaches us that these commandments requiring us to set aside the best part for the maintenance of the laborers of the Temple , teach us the virtue of temperance through personal sacrifice.

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