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Parshas Pinchas (5769)

PINCHAS, THE PEACEFUL ZEALOT

In last week's action-packed Torah portion, we found the Jewish superhero Pinchas saving the day for the Jewish people, by publicly executing the Jewish tribal head, Zimri, and his Midianite girlfriend, Cuzby. Those two had defied G-d and his Torah by having sexual relations in plain view of Moses and the entire Jewish leadership. (I guess you could say it was the very first "Cuzby show"!). So Pinchas acted to quickly repair this public desecration of G-d's Name.

This week, G-d rewards Pinchas for his act of zealousness by giving him "a covenant of peace". The Midrash says this means that Pinchas became Elijah the Prophet, who achieved immortality, and who will ultimately be the one to proclaim the arrival of the Messiah and to usher in a new era of peace on earth. Isn't it strange that the very same Pinchas who, just one week ago, was running after two sinners with a spear (kids, donít try this at home!), should now be rewarded with a covenant of peace, and should usher in an era of peace? He doesn't seem like a very peaceful kind of guy! And we let him into our homes every Passover Seder to sip the wine?!

Maybe in order to understand what's really going on here, we have to redefine the word "peace". The big word in the Sixties was "peace". Remember that? Ö. Well maybe youíre too young. What were the Sixties all about? Freedom, rebellion, live and let live, hippies, a sexual revolution .... you get the picture. Basically, that generation's idea of "peace" was that you do what you want and I do what I want, and everything's cool! You want to take a Midianite woman and publicly cohabit with her in front of the entire Jewish leadership? Sure, go ahead! It's groovy with me! Peace, brother!

Well, that's a long, long way from the Torah's definition of "peace". Peace, in G-d's view of things, has to be understood on two levels - the individual and the universal.

On the individual level, peace means that all of our differing character traits and physical/emotional drives are in sync with one another. We know exactly when to employ our anger, such as when the children need some discipline, and we know exactly when to show compassion, such as when a friend is going through hard times.

If you think about it, most of the trouble we have with being at peace with our parents, siblings, children, boy/girlfriends etc., comes from our not really being at peace with ourselves. If we were totally emotionally balanced and all our character traits were in sync, we would be able to handle all those difficult relationship situations much better.

The problem is, though, how do know when is the right time to employ different aspects of our complex personalities? Well, that's where the Torah kicks in. The Torah teaches us when it's important to get angry, when we should act humbly, and when we should stand up for our rights with great pride, etc. And when we are disciplined like that, we greatly reduce the stress in our lives and achieve true, inner peace - a peace that G-d can be at peace with, too.

Pinchas was the grandson of Aaron, the High Priest, who was known as a "man of peace", so he had peace and compassion in his genes. At the same time, he knew when to act without compassion, if that's what the Torah calls for.

The Talmud in Kesubos 105b states: "Any Rabbi who is extremely popular among his congregants - it is not a testament to his greatness as a person and a leader, but, rather, is a sign that he doesn't reprove his congregants when they do the wrong thing". Every Rabbi wants to be politically correct and a man of peace. But, according to the Talmud, that's not what Rabbis are for. Rabbis are supposed to promote truth - the truth of the Torah. Sometimes that Torah calls for peace and compassion, and sometimes that Torah calls for taking a tough stance on a difficult issue (Obviously, it doesn't always call for using a spear, save in Pinchas' situation, which was a rare exception). That's what separates the men from the boys.

Pinchas had perfectly balanced his character so that all his emotions and drives were in sync. He was truly a man of peace. And that's why he merited living forever as Elijah the Prophet. All machines eventually break due to friction between the various cogs and other parts that fall out of place. If a machine were to be perfectly balanced with all its parts working in total harmony, it might never stop working. The same thing applies to our bodies, as well. The constant emotional and psychological wear and tear takes a toll on our bodies. Pinchas had no such "emotional friction", and, as a result, he achieved immortality.

The second level of peace - the "universal peace" of the Messianic Era - is also greatly misunderstood. It is not merely a time of peaceful coexistence for all of humanity. (Although that itself is a major accomplishment!) It is a time when mankind will understand everything that has transpired since the beginning of time. It is a time when Ė as we sing in the Aleinu prayer at the end of the Prayer Service each day - all will come to realize and recognize the truth of G-d and the Torah, and will learn to synthesize its beautiful lessons into their lives, thus enabling them to attain perfect harmony and balance.

Only then, after G-d will reveal Himself and the Divine plan which He has orchestrated for humanity, will there be true peace. Letís hope we all live to see it!

[Sources: Daas Chochma UíMussar Vol. III p. 210]

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