Tag Archives: Peace

Prayer for Peace by Rebbe Nachman of Beslov


A chassidic prayer of intention for peace and an end to war

Breslov Chassidim Singing

“Let there be a truly great peace between every person and their fellow…”

All over the world, our eyes are turned towards Israel as the region is once again thrown into war. This tense situation also having tragic repercussions in diaspora, with violent protests erupting on the streets of cities worldwide as people take sides in this dispute.

I must admit, I am overwhelmed with the crisis of the past few weeks. Everyone wants to debate who is right, and who is wrong. But I am already past that point. It is not that I do not stand with my people. It’s not that I’m not appalled by the violence. But all these recent events together, this is just not something that I can wrap my head around. It’s all too much. This is not something I can ever rationalize or even apologize for. I’m at a loss for words, and my mind is worn.

Do you feel the same way? Then I think it is time that we step away from trying to over-think it, and start doing some soul-work on this issue. As we all know that on a heart level every one of us wants all this crazy violence to end. Not just between Israel and the Palestinians, but also between all the fighting groups in the middle-east as I.S.I.S. militias push through the region. As well as in the Ukraine and Russia, where the situation is further escalating there as well. Our world needs peace!

At times like this, when I feel like I really need to do some deep soul-searching and when my emotions are pushed to the limit, I sometimes find that even my normal “rational” faculties to be insufficient or even broken. My familiar Chabad chassidut learning which focuses on higher intellect, it needs to be augmented. So then I step down from the lofty realms of Chachman, Binah, and Daat (Wisdom, Insight, and Knowledge, respectively); together refereed to by the acronym ChaBaD, which all relate to levels of higher understanding. Then I dig deeper – going down the kabbalistic tree, down from the head to the heart.

The Central Sefirot: Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet (ChaGaT)It’s at irrational moments like this when I focus on the basic principles of ChaGaT chassidut. Refocusing on the basics which look to the center of our being. I begin to look into the realms of Chesed, Gevurah and Tiferet; which are respectively described as Kindness, Severity, and Harmony. In doing this we look at our basic emotive tendencies and try to bring balance between the extremes. Neither being too kind or permissive, wantonly expressing Chesed. Neither being too strong and severe, which is an excessive expression of Gevurah. But instead work to attain balance and to be in harmony; as expressed by Tiferet, also refereed to a Rachamim, meaning Mercy. In this approach, the goal is to find the golden middle path between the extremes.

At this time I would like us all to let ourselves dig deep emotionally. Not just focus on the wars in this outside world, but also deal with the battles raging inside our hearts as a result of these conflicts. So that we can bring balance inside ourselves. And in order to not get dragged into the common tendencies of extremism. To overcome the reactive nature of the soul. So that we be nether driven by fanaticism nor cynicism, but instead be compelled by compassion.

Breslov Chassidim, doing Kiruv (outreach)Probably the most notorious of the ChaGaT schools are the Breslov chassidim. Followers of the legacy and teachings of Rebbe Nachman z”l (1773-1810), of Bratslav, Ukraine. He was the son of Feiga; the meritorious granddaughter of the Baal Shem Tov, the very founder of chassidut. The movement Rebbe Nachman headed, today it has thousands of emissaries and youth active in kiruv. Worldwide they are known for their joyous outreach campaigns, often cutely summed up by observers as the hippie chassidim. (see Breslov.org and Breslev.co.il)

Breslov Street OutreachThe following is a widely distributed prayer, attributed to Rebbe Nachman of Beslov. This prayer is so well-loved that versions of it have made its way into prayerbooks and services everywhere. Not just in chassidic and orthodox Jewish circles, but also in progressive Jewish siddurim and interfaith services (UNESCO, Vatican, etc).

This version is the widely recognized Hebrew text. The English text closely follows the common translation, though slightly modified. The frequently missing first stanza (אדון השלום) is included here. I also added a free-translation for the fourth stanza (ויהיה כל אדם), which has been curiously missing from all previous translations to date.

תפילה לשלום

Prayer for peace

“Lord of Peace, Divine Ruler, to whom peace belongs. Master of Peace, Creator of all things:

אדון השלום, מלך שהשלום שלו עושה שלום ובורא את הכל:

“May it be thy will to put an end to war and bloodshed on earth, and to spread a great and wonderful peace over the whole world, ‘so that nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.’ (Isaiah 2:4)

יהי רצון מלפניך, שתבטל מלחמות ושפיכות דמים מן העולם ותמשיך שלום גדול ונפלא בעולם ולא ישא גוי אל גוי חרב ולא ילמדו עוד מלחמה“:

“Help us and save us all, and let us cling tightly to the virtue of peace. Let there be a truly great peace between every person and their fellow, and between husband and wife, and let there be no discord between any people even in their hearts.

עזרנו והושיענו כולנו שניזכה תמיד לאחוז במידת השלום, ויהיה שלום גדול באמת בין כל אדם לחברו, ובין איש לאשתו ולא יהיה שום מחלוקת אפילו בלב בין כל בני אדם:

“And may it be that all people love peace and pursue peace, always in truth and with wholeheartedness, without holding on to any disputes ever again which would divide us against each other.

ויהיה כל אדם אוהב שלום ורודף שלום תמיד באמת ובלב שלם, ולא נחזיק במחלוקת כלל לעולם ואפילו נגד החולקים עלינו:

“Let us never shame any person on earth, great or small. May it be granted unto us to fulfill Thy Commandment to, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ (Leviticus 19:18) with all our hearts and souls and bodies and possessions.

ולא נבייש שום אדם בעולם מקטן ועד גדול ונזכה לקיים באמת מצוות ואהבת לרעך כמוך“, בכל לב וגוף ונפש וממון:

“And let it come to pass in our time as it is written, ‘And I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down and none shall make you afraid. I will drive the wild beasts from the land, and neither shall the sword go through your land.’ (Leviticus 26:6)

ויקוים בנו מקרא שכתוב ונתתי שלום בארץ ושכבתם ואין מחריד והשבתי חיה רעה מן הארץ וחרב לא תעבור בארצכם:

“Hashem who is peace, bless us with peace!”

יי שלום, ברכנו בשלום.

Attributed to Rabbi Nachman ben Feiga of Breslov, 1773-1810

רבי נחמן בן פיגא מברסלב

Text edited and partially translated by Shmuel Gonzales, July 2014. 
This is free and open-source to distribute, under Creative Commons Zero (CCO) licensing, no rights reserved.

 

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Parshat V’Zot haBerachah (2013)


Deuteronomy 33 -34

Let’s Choose To Put Our Heads Together This Year

During this time of holiday rest and reflection, let us also try  to put our heads together in unity

During this time of holiday rest and reflection, let us also try to put our heads together in unity

We are just coming through a week of much celebration, having many days of festivity back to back. First we started with the observance of Rosh haShanah – the head of the year, the New Year – and then it extended on with a conjoined Shabbat. But alas here we are at the rosh, (ראש) the head of the year. We have now begun to ready ourselves to head off on another fortuitous journey around the sun. Hopefully all these holidays are helping us recharge for the journey ahead of us.

Here in this final reading of our annual Torah cycle, in this narrative we are coming in right after the start of Moses’ ultimate blessing, just before he dies and the people ride off into the sunset towards the promised land without him.

There are two odd verses that are presented in our text. The first is actually a rather famous verse for religious Jews, but it’s just that it’s oddly dropped into place right here during this speech of Moses. “Torah tzivah lanu Mosheh / The Torah that Moses commanded us…” (Deut. 33:4) We aren’t exactly sure why it changes tone and perspective for just a verse. Why would Moses speak about himself in the third person? It’s hard to know, considering it comes in right after a highly stylized song like we saw in Parshat Haazinu last week (see Parshat Haazinu 2012). Poetic form might have a play in this matter.

The other verse is certainly hard to understand because of its poetic structure. And that is the verse the we are going to take a look at today. Let us continue on with the fifth verse:

He was king in Yeshurun,

when the heads of the people congregated

the tribes of Israel were together.”

| Vayehi viYeshurun melech

| behit’asef rashei am

| yachad shivtei Yisra’el

Deuteronomy 33:5

This verse falls into our text before the blessings of each tribe begins, as part of a poetic introduction of sorts. In the second verse of our parsha we have a speech begun that is traditionally understood to be fully in the voice of Moses. There are two preceding verses where G-d is understood as the “He” in this situation, in which He leads the people of Israel from Sinai and through the desert with a fiery law in hand. (see verses 2-3) From this point of view Moses is relating that G-d is really the one that has led them all along. That it is His words that they are going to eternally utter and at His feet they will now sit. This verse five steps back into the same orientation as verses 2-3. G-d is the “He” here in verse 5 too. He is the King spoken of.

Second problem that arises is this, a lot of people don’t understand the use of the name Yeshurun. This is a unique name that is only used three times in the Torah, with the other two occurrences also found here in Deuteronomy as well. (see Deut. 32:15; 33:26); and once in the book of Isaiah (see Isaiah 44:2). In Isaiah it is Israel (Jacob) that is identified as Yeshurun (or Jeshurun in English). This is a nickname for the people of Israel, which in my observations seems to apply when they are corporately together in one place or in one mindset.

There are a few things that further complicate the understanding of the verse, aside from the odd structure and unique nicknames. There seems to also be an odd use of a recognizable word as well. The word is rashei (ראשי). Rosh (the root of the word) means “head,” in this case of “rashei haAm” they are they “heads of the people,” or more precisely “the leaders of the people.”

Rashi suggests that the oddity of this verse is caused by it uses an idiom, a cultural expression.

We have talked about idiomatic phrases before, interestingly it has actually been about this type of phrase. (see Parshat Bemidbar 2012; Parshat KiTissa 2013) Simply put, we have seen how the Hebrew language of the chumash didn’t have a correct word for “census” for example. The closest they could do was describe the “taking a head count.” (se’u et rosh, see Numbers 1:2) This is done “ki tissa et rosh,” when you lift the heads of each person and count them individually among their ranks. (see Exodus 30:12)

Rashi further suggests that this far in the advancement of the language we are able to use the word “rashei” as a simple term for taking account of the people. The word “rashei” thus means “the sum of.” It applies to a whole congregated body of people. Therefore Rashi tells us to understand this verse to mean that when all the people are gathered together to be accounted for then G-d sits as King among Israel, and thus they are worthy of blessing (ראויין אלו שאברכם).

In these intermediate days between Rosh haShanah and Yom haKippurim we have been gathering for so many religious services dedicated to our annual accounting for our deeds and souls. This started with our selichot (penitential prayers) and will continue on until Yom haKippur. (this year Yom Kippur coincides with Shabbat) At this time we corporately atone and seek to have our deed to a good year sealed for us.

I must say that I’ve really been enjoying the holidays, worshiping with the people for whom I feel deeply for. As in most suburban cities, the congregations by me have a very diverse attendance. It’s wonderful to see so many people together for the solemn task of teshuvah (repentance). It is even more awesome when one sees all the people of different backgrounds and affiliations celebrating in peace and joy. People of all walks of Jewish life doing some soul-searching. This is very praise worthy! Truly we are worthy of the holiday birkat kohanim (the priestly blessing) when we determine to come together (b’yachad) as a people.

Rashi also offers us another insight. One that I think is very timely for this season. He suggests that in order to understand this verse it might be helpful if we change the key focus to the word “yachad” (together) and rebuild the verse from that position. His commentary thus reads:

Another explanation: When Israel is gathered together in a unified group, and there is peace among them, G-d is their King-but not when there is strife among them.”

דבר אחר, בהתאסף, בהתאספם יחד באגודה אחת ושלום ביניהם הוא מלכם, ולא כשיש מחלוקת ביניהם:

Deuteronomy 33:5

Rashi speaks a lesson to us that I hope all of us are considering as we approach these holidays. It is not enough that we just get together, though that is certainly praiseworthy in and of itself. (see Parshat Haazinu 2013) But in order for us to truly be worthy of a blessing, and in order for G-d to truly take His role as King over us, we need to be an “agudah echat / a unified society.” Rashi defines this as being a people who are at peace with each other. Only when there is peace among G-d’s people can He truly rule over us as King. This cannot be so when we are divided by “macholket / arguments.” If we want G-d to rule as King over us, and we want to be sealed for blessing, we need to start first with becoming a united people.

This year we have many more opportunities to congregate. Over the next couple weeks we also have Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah, etc. As we come together for our celebrations we should not just be content to be a nice sized group of people congregated together. It’s not about just getting together as a group, to stick our heads into shul and be counted. It’s also important that as we gather together in unity. With a determination to be a unified people, not divided by strife and bickering. That we put our heads together and be counted as one people.

This year I would like us to try to follow the advice of Rashi. We need to not just strive to be more active in communal life, but to also determine to help the Jewish community be an agudah echat, a single union.


Parshat Pinchas (2011)


Parshat Pinchas
Numbers 25:10 – 30:1

Convenant of Peace? The split Vav of the word “Peace” in Parshat Pinchas

I’m not sure that I really have the skills and learning to truly do justice to the wonder of Parshat Pinchas! Through Kabbalah we learn the great importance and holiness of this particular parsha and I feel so humbled taking up the task of trying to explain it. Sometimes a parsha leaves me with more questions than answers; this is one of those times. Is a peace which comes about through violence a truly complete form of peace or is there left a trauma which still remains?

Peace HandsThis weeks parsha, Parshat Pinchas, seems to begin very abrupty. It begins with G-d intervening in a mess of a situation. The complex situations at hand were so delicate that G-d speaks almost immediately in a seeming tone of urgency.

At the end of the preceding parsha, Parshat Balak, we learned that Balaam could not bring a curse upon Israel for King Balak of Moab and his Midianite allies. Balaam was unable to bring harm upon Israel because there was no moral defect in the people that he could use to his advantage. So in the beginning of chapter 25 the Moabites and Midianites enact a plan of bring the people into moral corruption through sexual immorality and idol worship, a plan suggested to them by Balaam our Sages tell us.

The men were said to “commit harlotry with the daughters of Moab.” (25:1) Thus we read “they invited the people to the feast of their gods (elohei’hen); the people ate and prostrated themselves to their gods.” (v.2) Because the wording is elohei’hen (their gods), feminine plural, we know that it was the women who were used to entice the men. This is how the men of Israel fell into idol worship, we read “Israel became attached to Baal-Peor, and the wrath of Hashem flared against Israel.” (v.3) The result was that a plague broke out among the people of Israel (v. 9, 18).

But this plague was not without remedy. However, the solution offered to Moses seems perplexing. G-d tells Moses to hang, or some say impale, the leaders of the people and the plague will stop. (v.4)

The situations seems more perplexing when we find that in response to this statement Moses calls the judges of Israel together and he says “Let each man kill his men who were attached to Baal-Peor.” (v.5) My personal understanding is that “roshei ha-am / leaders of the people” and “shoftei yisra’el / judges of Israel” are the same individuals; they are the patriarchal heads of families, meaning clan leaders. This shouldn’t be hard to understand as immediately after this incident the census is taken and the patriarchal heads are all mentioned. These topics bleed one into another because this is a story concerning clan leadership.

If my understanding of this is correct then one would be expecting Moses to be executing them, not calling a meeting. The reason for this strange move on the part of Moses I believe can be explained by stepping back further into Parshat Balak.

When Balaam approached Hashem on behalf of Balak to seek a curse we learn that he was unable to curse them. When Balaam went into a prophetic trance he instead ended up blessing Israel. In the second blessing of Balaam he says , “For there is no divination in Jacob and no sorcery in Israel.” This was the merit of Israel that afforded them a blessing, but now a plague from G-d was ravishing the people for engaging in just that!

Now the third blessing was based on “how goodly are your tents oh Jacob, your dwelling places oh Israel.” Rashi tells us that these words of praise are a result of Balaam looking at the arrangements of the tents of the camps of Israel and seeing that they were arranged so that the entrances did not face each other. Our Sages tells us this is because of Israel’s great modesty. Rashi cites one of the main reasons for this level of modesty is to prevent sexual immorality. We should understand that the camps were laid out with each family/clan grouped together as a family unit, with the openings of their tents facing each other in an inward arrangement; thus all the openings faced a central point like a courtyard at the center. However to the other families and tribes the openings of the tents were not visible. The reason was to protect their modesty of physical body and also to keep the private business of each clan to themselves. In this methodology each clan saw to protecting the image of their own and dealing with their own issues, and not even be tempted to be concerned with everyone else.

In essence what is going on in chapter 25 verses 5 and 6 is Moses saying to the clan leaders that they need to do their job and enforce sentence on their own that had done wrong, as Hashem was angry with their failed leadership. He was enacting a leniency giving them another opportunity to do their job, and thus remove the reason Hashem wanted them held responsible.

While he is speaking to them it says “v’hinei” which can be translated as “and / yet / however / nevertheless / behold!” Meaning to me, in response to Moses, “A man of the children of Israel came and brought a Midianite woman near to his brothers in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the entire assembly of the children of Israel. ” We learn that this person is Zimri, son of Salu; now Salu was a leader of a clan of the tribe of Shimon. How brazen he was to openly defy Moses and all the leaders!

What Zimri was doing cannot be looked upon lightly. Not only was he openly defying the leadership, and engaging in illicit sexual activity, but he was taking it one step further. He was 1) threatening the second and last remaining reason of Divine protection the Children of Israel had been afforded, 2) was exposing the rest of the people to sin in a way that even undermined the sensibilities of the people’s modesty. Even Josephus in “Antiquities of the Jews” goes out of his way to point out that the entire people were gathered together by Moses at this time; therefore everyone in the Nation was forced to witness his immorality.

Last night as I was reading the Rambam’s (Maimonides) “Guide for the Perplexed” I came across a reference to the worship of Baal-Peor. The Rambam says, “The mode of worshiping Peor, then very general among the heathen, consisted in uncovering the nakedness. The priests were therefore commanded to make breeches for themselves to cover their nakedness during the service, and, besides, no steps were to lead up to the altar, ‘That thy nakedness be not discovered thereon’ (Exodus 20:23).” Our Sages also tell us that worship or Baal-Peor was related to ritual practices of scatology, meaning use of bodily excrements!

How shocking it must have been to the people as Zimri comes into the camp with his Midianite women. Zimri and the Midianite women both show that they had lost their sense of shame about what they are doing, and prance in naked and start engaging in their intimate acts. His attack on modesty worked, because the next thing we read is “the Children of Israel therefore were weeping at the entrance of the Tent of meeting.” We can understand this two ways. The Ramban (Nachmonides) tells us this means that the people were caught up in discussion. Ibn-Ezra, however, suggest this means they were weeping in prayer; furthermore it can be understood as weeping in prayer because of the charge to kill those who worshiped Baal-Peor.

I believe their weeping is for two reasons, 1) people are dying of the plague, and 2) they are commanded to kill their own kin. I also believe that the reaction among the congregation of Israel was two fold, encompassing both the meanings of the Ramban and Ibn-Ezra; 1) those who feared Hashem were too busy praying to act, and 2) those who didn’t fear G-d were occupied with discussing the perversion they were seeing.

Zimri’s act, so bold, even bringing her “near to his brothers” was his act of pushing the envelope. He was daring the elders to punish him. Furthermore, he felt assured that his brothers would defend him; going all the way back to the massacre of Shechem in Genesis the tribe of Shimon was willing to kill and slaughter mercilessly in defense of family honor. And even more abhorrent was that he was tempting them to follows his ill example.

For this reason we find that Pinchas stands up in the congregation, takes a tent stake, follows Zimri and his paramour into a tent and impales them both in the act of intercourse. Thus the plague stops.

Notice the act of purging the people of idolaters never takes place, Rashi points out this fact as well; but why? The reason is simple, after that point not only were the seeds of a trend of open and shameless debauchery crushed, but no one dared join in worship of Baal-Peor again, nor did the whores of Midian dare return to the camp of Israel; thus there was no reason for the plague to continue.

Now this is where I have to point out that what Pinchas did was not something that was normative. It was not within his right to take the law into his own hands. Was Zimri culpable? Yes! Were the laws that pertain to capital punishment fulfilled? Not necessarily, you see he was warned and there were witnesses; but his judgment was not given by the court, the jury was still out so to speak.

For this reason Hashem had to intervene. What Pinchas did was enacting judgment without legal right, putting himself in danger. Had Zimri saw him coming and tried to kill Pinchas for his attack Zimri would legally be within his right to kill Pinchas in self-defense. Aside from putting himself in danger of retribution from the clans of Shimon, Pinchas was also was putting himself at risk of being judicially executed for the crime of murder. Here in the beginning of Parshat Pinchas we see G-d post-facto giving a pardon to Pinchas.

His pardon was based on his act being a true act of zealotry. Now the laws of zealotry are very complicated and lengthy to discuss; and a bit out of the scope of what I could do justice to in this study. So I’ll explain simply that Pinchas’ act was one of yirat shamayim (“fear of heaven;” meaning respect and reverence of G-d), and with total disregard for himself; he did not act out of his own ego, he even went as far as to jeopardize himself. He did so with perfect intentions.

Our sages tell us that us that the people of Israel did in fact question the intentions of Pinchas. They suggested that he was a naturally bloody person, that he was just using this incident as license to act out his own innate violent nature. To make the point that this was not the case, twice we have the text readings “Pinchas ben Elazar ben Aharon ha-Kohen / Pinchas son of Elazar the High Priest.” As we learned in Parshat Korach, Aaron was known as the great peacemaker, the perfect example of love and compassion in the Talmud; the Torah is upholding that he was a son of peace, not a person that was naturally predisposition to murder and violence.

“‘Phinehas, the son of Eleazar,

the son of Aaron the priest,

he turned back my wrath

from upon the Children of Israel

when he zealously avenged my vengeance

among them,

so I did not consume

the Children of Israel in my vengeance.”

פִּינְחָס בֶּןאֶלְעָזָר |

בֶּןאַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן, |

הֵשִׁיב אֶתחֲמָתִי |

מֵעַל בְּנֵייִשְׂרָאֵל, |

בְּקַנְאוֹ אֶתקִנְאָתִי, |

בְּתוֹכָם; |

וְלֹאכִלִּיתִי |

אֶתבְּנֵייִשְׂרָאֵל, בְּקִנְאָתִי: |

Number 25:11

Pinchas was being blessed by G-d in the beginning of Parshat Pinchas because he “bekan’o et-kin’ati / zealously avenged My vengeance.” The word “kana” can not only mean vengeance and jealousy (as in “I am a jealous G-d” for example), but it can also mean chauvinism regarding something. We should understand that kana here  means a demand for exclusivity, and this word in the Torah is only used in regard to Hashem alone. So we can understand that his act of kana’ut/zealotry was genuine, in that he was only acting exclusively in honor of Hashem to avenge G-d’s right to be honored exclusively.

Verses 12 and 13 read:

“Therefore, say:

Behold! I give him My covenant of peace.

And it shall be for him

and his offspring after him

a covenant of eternal priesthood,

because he took vengeance for his G-d,

and he atoned

for the Children of Israel.”

לָכֵן, אֱמֹר: |

הִנְנִי נֹתֵן לוֹ אֶתבְּרִיתִי, שָׁלוֹם. |

וְהָיְתָה לּוֹ |

וּלְזַרְעוֹ אַחֲרָיו |

בְּרִית כְּהֻנַּת עוֹלָםתַּחַת, |

אֲשֶׁר קִנֵּא לֵאלֹהָיו, |

וַיְכַפֵּר, |

עַלבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. |

Numbers 25:12-13

To me in Pinchas’ actions he showed what he was made out of, it verified him as a son of Aaron in not waiting but running immediately to make atonement for the people. He understood that he had to make a hard choice to stop the plague; a plague that killed over 24,000 people.

The Split Vav of the Word “Peace”

G-d makes a covenant of peace with Pinchas. Even the key blessing in this declaration of Hashem, shalom, meaning peace or friendship, shows a conflict that most people have in recounting this story. Namely that this peace was achieved through violence. In the sifrei Torah (our hand written Torah scrolls we keep in the ark at our synagogues), there is a strange phenomenon; the letter vav (ו) is split, as though it were cut in half. Understand this, if even one letter in a Torah scroll should be to be found defective the entire Sefer Torah would be rendered invalid! This strange occurrence must therefore be intentional for the purpose of revealing to us a specific truth.

The word shalom (שלום) has a Vav (ו) for purely grammatical reasons. If the letter were to be left out or nullified for defect it would have no bearing on the pronunciation at all; this vav is kin to a silent “e” in English or a silent “h” in Spanish. However, if one were to argue that the pronunciation should be altered to conform to the strict laws of grammar it would spell shalem; which means perfect, whole, complete or entire. We should understand that even the letters themselves testify that that even though Pinchas’ actions were accomplished through violence there was still peace, it lacked nothing. It was a seemingly broken peace, but it was peace none the less. Our Sages tell us that we await the coming of the King Messiah, when a true, pure and lasting peace will be established. Then the split Vav in the Torah will be made whole!

We should also take a good look at this “covenant of peace,” what was it exactly? Most assuredly this promise was a promise of priesthood, on that day he became eligible through Divine appointment to be worthy of being High Priest. And in fact he did become High Priest. Pinchas was the High Priest until the times of the latter judges (Judges 27:28), first serving at Elazar’s side and later serving as his successor. He was also promised that as long as he had offspring they would serve in the priesthood and they did. In fact it was the descendants of Pinchas that eventually served in the Beit haMikdash (the Holy Temple) as High Priests (1 Chronicles 5:30-40, 6:34-38).

However some suggest that the promise of priesthood was one part of a two-part promise; that the “covenant of peace” was a specific and independent blessing. Some suggest that this blessing of peace was peace from retribution from the Shimonites or other vigilantes. Others suggest that it was peace of mind. Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, the Nitzvi, suggests something even deeper; that this covenant of peace was a blessing to protect his moral character; that his moral fiber would not be corrupted through the act of killing that he had performed. How much more dramatic of a scene can there be in life other than experiencing death, somehow it tends to be a shocking eye opener that can strip one of their innocence; seeing death, let alone causing it! G-d here though this blessing is not only comforting Pinchas from any reason to feelings guilt, but also promising to protect him from being made cruel or hardened.

Pinchas, as a zealot, is one person whose shoes I’m glad I haven’t had to walk in. How terrible it must have been him having the stigma hanging over his head. Because of his loss of innocence here we see that later on as Israel is coming into the Promised Land he was the one that was sent to the front lines of battle. To me it seems reasonable that Hashem sent a person that could deal with the terrible task of carrying out the task of taking a life in times of war. We also see that it was him that was sent to deal with the city of idolatry and to deal with the Benjimites after their cruel act of dismembering a concubine.

However it seems to me that Hashem did in fact protect his moral fiber, as we see in Judges 19:28 he ask Hashem, “Should I go out again to make war against the children of Benjamin my brother or should I withdraw.” He never got hardened, trigger happy so to speak or lost respect for human life. You can almost hear that pain in his voice asking this question, does he have to go as far as be involved in an act of killing once again? How terrible a responsibility!

In fact it wasn’t until the people started settling into the land of Israel, and Joshua was not able bring peace between the tribes that Pinchas got the opportunity to settle the disputes between the tribes over land and brought them to peace with each other. Only then, towards the end of his life was he actually universally recognized as a man of peace by all Israel.


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