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Broken Peace – Parasha Pinchas

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on July 7, 2007


One of the most powerful commentaries on Pinchas’ act is written into the very fabric of Torah itself. The Masoretes – the 8th and 9th century rabbinic sages who codified the written Torah into the version we know today – instructed that the word “Shalom” in the term “Brit Shalom” should be written with a broken letter vav. As a result, every Torah scroll now bears this inner message: peace achieved through zealotry and violence is an incomplete peace – a “broken peace,” as it were.For an era beset by growing violence committed in “the name of God,” this one small pen-stroke makes a profound statement indeed… From Radical Torah

I cannot help but feel that this ties in with what I wrote last year on Parasha Shoftim and Parasha Ki Tavo.

If a Peace achieved by zealousness is considered a Broken Peace by Torah itself, then it raises the question what is a WHOLE Peace?

Perhaps the answer lies in what Pinchas failed to recognize in his zealousness – Chessed – Compassion – Justice, the righteous punishment for a crime cannot be meted out without Compassion. A willingness to look beyond the actions of the other and consider all the details of his or her motivations, rather than assume the actions are all there is to a person, or a nation.

Perhaps we need to step away from “G-D” for a while and not assume that just because we read it in Torah it’s the entire Truth? Or maybe we need a new way of reading Torah?

Again I am reminded of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov: “there is truth, the truth of the truth, and peace. Truth is: a kid stole an apple. The truth of the truth is: the kid was hungry. Peace is: Nobody stole anything; give the kid an apple!” (Heard from Reb Shlomo Carlebach)

Zealousness, like anger and love has a tendency to cloud our judgment. We are so caught up in the feelings of the moment that all we see is that something dear to us is being violated, and while Pinchas was right on principle, by the Letter of the Law, he lost sight of the Spirit of the Law, and that’s where his peace became a broken one – he forgot the truth of the Truth and Peace in his fervor for G-d.

In my later Blog Entries I have gone after Israel pretty badly. Quite honestly I feel that she deserves it. I love her, she is my Home, though I don’t live there, she is the one place in the World where I know I have a place, should I ever need it. But I also think she is way off base. There’s nothing wrong with her zealousness. She’s got Chutzpah alright – but she is forgetting Compassion. She has gotten stuck in the role of Pinchas, and while it might bring some sort of Peace and Salvation for the Jewish People, it won’t be a whole, lasting peace.

Shalom Shabbat!

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