Parshat Pinchas: A Peaceful Encounter?
Rachel Blumenthal studied at Midreshet Lindenbaum from 2012 to 2013. She currently teaches Navi in Middle School at Westchester Day School in Mamaroneck, NY.
Sidrat Pinchas takes us on a long journey, beginning with Hashem’s promise to Pinchas that he will always have peace through the census of the nation, to land inheritance, and ending with the Mussaf (celebration) offerings.
At first glance, the Sidra appears to take us on a series of twists and turns as the Sefer comes to a close.
A nice, compact way of tying together the loose ends is by counting the people, as the Sefer reminds us that the nation is “עַל-יַרְדֵּן יְרֵחוֹ” (on the banks of the Jordan River, across from Jericho) (26:3). Just as the Sefer begins with a census, so too, the Sefer will end with a census.
However, perhaps the unifying theme of the stories in the Sidra are not to tie up loose ends, but rather to give words of Chizuk (empowerment).
The Sidra strangely begins after Pinchas acts in zeal and kills the sinners, an act we read about last week, in the Sidra of Balak.
So, why would this Sidra begin with the promise that Hashem is giving to Pinchas after all the actions occurs?
The Pasuk (25:12) reads:
“הִנְנִי נֹתֵן לוֹ אֶת בְּרִיתִי שָׁלוֹם.”
“Behold, I am giving to him my covenant of peace.”
After the nation ceases from its wrong doings and the plague ends, Hashem promises Moshe that Pinchas and his family will always be the beneficiaries of peace.
Strangely enough, this ברית שלום is not a concept with which we are familiar. In fact, it appears only three more times in the entire Tanakh – once in Yeshayahu and twice in Yechezkel.
In Yeshayahu 54:10, we read about better days: when those who are barren will have children, when uninhabitable lands will be inhabitable, and when we will rejoin Hashem. We will also receive the blessing “וּבְרִית שְׁלוֹמִי לֹא תָמוּט” (“and the covenant of my peace will not be removed”)–to have the covenant of peace beside us.
In Yechezkel 34, Hashem laments the shepherds who help themselves but not others. The helpless need help, says Hashem, and He will be the One to help them. His sheep, the nation, will be the recipients of “וְכָרַתִּי לָהֶם בְּרִית שָׁלוֹם” (“the binding with them of the covenant of peace”) (34:25).
In an enigmatic passage in Yechezkel, we read of the “Dry Bones” prophecy. At the end of the prophecy, Yechezkel is to tell the people that “וְכָרַתִּי לָהֶם בְּרִית שָׁלוֹם” (“the binding with them of the covenant of peace”) (37:26).
To bring this back to our Sidra, what is this “ברית שלום”? What is it exactly that Hashem is promising Pinchas?
At first blush, the promise is to give Pinchas and his family peace forever–peace from its enemies. As the Chizkuni says, Hashem is giving Pinchas the Bracha that he should withstand the hatred from the families of Zimri and Kasbi.
Perhaps, says the Chatam Sofer, Hashem is blessing Pinchas with the lineage of Kahuna, priesthood (stemming from the saying in Pirkei Avot that Aharon, the first Kohen Gadol, is peace).
But, with our close reading of “ברית שלום” in the other instances in Tanakh, the suggestions of the Chizkuni and Chatam Sofer do not seem plausible.
How could it be that Yeshayahu is blessing the nation with peace from the families of Zimri and Kasbi? How could it be that Yechezkel is blessing the dry bones with a strong priestly lineage?
The Netzi”v offers another view, which passes the test of the other instances. With regard to Pinchas, he says that as a reward for his actions, Pinchas is being blessed with the Middah (attribute) of Shalom (peace).
While it was a part of Pinchas’s nature to act with zeal and to wipe out injustice and wrongfulness in a moment, Hashem is blessing Pinchas to act with peace in the future. That no matter where life takes him, whether it be a census of the people or an argument about land inheritance, he should act with Shalom.
The Sidra begins not with the actions of Pinchas but, rather, with Hashem’s blessing to Pinchas that as he progresses on his journey throughout the desert and into the land that is promised to be our homeland, to always act with peace.
And while the journey of Sidrat Pinchas is perhaps winding and complex, we take with us the ברית שלום–to act with peace and loving kindness.