Here's a tough challenge if you're a columnist: write an article about opinions.

Not about your opinion on a particular subject, but about opinions as a whole, about having something to say about something/anything/everything.

It's a double-edged sword. If you think opinions are a good idea, then everyone can be a blogger and you're out of a vocation; write negatively about all the "judgmental, talk-too-much knuckleheads" out there, and you're cast as a judgmental, talk-too-much knucklehead.

With risks acknowledged, here goes.

No one could argue that Phinehas had done wrong, so they did the next easiest thing: they criticized his motivesThis week's Torah reading, Pinchas, begins with Phinehas' noble lineage: He was "the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the Priest." But at the end of last week's reading, just a few verses earlier, the Torah had already stated that Phinehas was "the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest." Why the repetition now? And why the necessity to state who his grandfather was, when normally the Torah suffices with identifying a person by stating his name and that of his father?

Aaron the Priest was known as a loving, peaceful person: "a lover of peace, a pursuer of peace, one who loves the creatures and draws them close to Torah" (Ethics 1:12). By (again) identifying Phinehas as his grandson, the Torah intimates that Phinehas' heroic act of killing a Jewish prince in the act of cohabitation with a Moabite woman was motivated by his love for the Jewish people, who were being imperiled by the moral collapse all around them (hmmm, where have I heard that before – governors, presidents – but I digress). The Torah links Phinehas' act with his family tradition of love for the Jewish people.

This linkage was necessary because despite the clear justification of Phinehas' act, as well as the resulting cessation of the plague that killed 24,000 Jews, there were still critics. No one could reasonably argue that Phinehas had done wrong, so they did the next easiest thing: they criticized his motives. Everyone became Freud and pontificated upon Phinehas' subconscious motivation, the deep-seated rage he had as a result of his disturbed lineage.

They laid out a simple and convincing argument: Phinehas was a bloodthirsty hooligan seeking a legal outlet for his thuggery. He had inherited this from his maternal grandfather, Jethro, who, prior to his conversion to Judaism, had fattened cattle just to slaughter them in idolatrous ritual, a particularly cold-blooded behavior that undoubtedly scarred his progeny for all time.

And so the Torah assures us that Phinehas was motivated solely by his love for the Jewish people, a love he inherited from his paternal grandfather, Aaron, the lover and pursuer of peace.

Well, how were the people supposed to know which grandfather had influenced Phinehas? They had the right idea; he had in fact acted upon inborn impulses. It was a 50-50 shot as to which grandfather was the source of this action, and they guessed wrong. Oops. Was that so terrible?

In fact, they could contend that their presumption was the more logical one, as it is based on the principle that a son's soul has a special connection to that of his mother, and a daughter to that of her father (See Hayom Yom 28 Iyar). And thus, if Phinehas acted on impulses he inherited from a grandfather, it is more likely that it was his maternal grandfather, Jethro, who influenced him. So what did they do wrong?

Opinion can be developed through serious thought or it can be the salve for failureHerein lays the insight. Opinion can run in two directions. It can be developed through serious thought or it can be the salve for failure (a.k.a. sour grapes). Confronted with Phinehas' heroism, the people felt challenged: Why hadn't any of them stepped up as Phinehas had? Why hadn't they objected and acted with bravery?

And so the excuses began: "Me? I'm a lover, not a fighter." Torah's clarification intends not only to affirm Phinehas' legacy, but to quiet the critics, not because their "math" was wrong, but because they were wrong! They were wrong to criticize the motives of heroism as an excuse for their inaction. An opinion designed to excuse failure is the chatter of a "judgmental, talk too much knucklehead." All their bright ideas and clever deductions aside, they were out of line. Not for their opinion, but for having an opinion at all when they should have simply been grateful and awed.

So next time you think you think something—think again. Where is your opinion coming from?

That's my opinion!