I've intersected with parashat Pinchas numerous times over the years, though I no longer remember each of these. My oldest recollection takes me back over 45 years ago, perhaps 47, when, along with a friend with whom I long ago lost contact I made an uninvited visit to a temple in Los Angeles on a Friday night. I can admit to being happy, perhaps relieved, that I no longer remember the details. I'm sure that I wouldn't be overly proud of them. What I do remember is that we felt that American Jewish identity was seriously lacking in the fervor we felt was necessary for meaningful survival, and I guess that we wanted to express this to a large and wealthy congregation. I do remember that we were not only viewed as uninvited guests, but as trespassers who clearly hadn't come in good faith. We were helped to leave. The fact that the parasha of that Shabbat was Pinchas allowed us to see ourselves as zealots representing a more legitimate form of Jewish identification than the congregation we had "attacked".
A number of children of friends and relatives celebrated their bnei mitzvah on parashat Pinchas, and these celebrations gave me the opportunity to write, and reflect, on how my take on zealotry has changed over the years.