There are many boundaries and barriers in life. Some are very important for a healthy existence, and are established and promoted by the Torah. Other boundaries are more ambiguous, and the Torah itself will say they should be crossed, for the sake of higher ideals.

Our Parshah, too, tells us about the crossing of boundaries. Pinchas, the grandson of Aaron, provides the paradigm of a "zealot." The English word zealot comes from "zeal", enthusiasm. At the end of last week's Parshah Moses and Aaron were confronted with a situation in which they felt powerless. In a very public way, a Jewish leader, the head of one of the twelve Tribes, was flaunting the entire concept of Jewish identity, by openly consorting with a Midianite woman. Moses was weeping. Was this the end of the Jewish people?

Pinchas stepped forward with a spear, and seemingly took the law into his own hands. We see him apparently breaking the Jewish rules of careful trial, evidence and judgement. Yet at the beginning of our Parshah he is commended by G‑d for his action.

The Sages discuss this event, and present a slightly different picture. It is true that Pinchas crossed boundaries. However, he remained within Torah law. In Jewish thought there are certain courses of action which are described as within the bounds of the law, but which nonetheless cannot be suggested by the court of law ("It is indeed the law but one does not give this as an instruction").1 Pinchas' action was in this category. It was a desperate situation which required a desperate remedy, and Pinchas did the right thing. Hence in our Parshah he is commended by G‑d in a remarkable way.

What does this teach us about our own lives? The Rebbe suggests transferring this theme of breaking through boundaries into the realm of the positive, in expression of the ideal of Ahavat Yisrael, to love your fellow as yourself.

There is the normal, ideal structure of Jewish life: a warm, close community; an intimate family circle; a life immersed in typically Jewish activities. This is the goal for the committed, observant and knowledgeable husband and wife in the Jewish community.

The Rebbe suggests following the example of Pinchas: keep within Torah law, but break out of some aspects of this structure, because a Jew somewhere is in need. Invite a person to your Shabbat table, perhaps someone who has never experienced that before. Spend time with that person, helping him or her feel a sense of acceptance, rather than busily carrying out your more conventional Jewish duties. Perhaps even leave your comfortable community, and go and live in a place where there are Jews, but no kosher shop, no Jewish school, none of the ordinary advantages of Jewish communal life. You will help other Jews discover the meaning in being Jewish. Gradually, the kosher shop, the Jewish school and Jewish life will develop. Because you broke through barriers, because of your love.