The parsha of Pinchas contains one of the anomalies in the script writing
of the Torah. God promises Pinchas the blessing that “My covenant of
shalom – peace” be with him and his descendants. The Hebrew word shalom as
written here in the Torah has a vav ktia – the Hebrew letter vav written
in the word shalom is split and incomplete. Usually a split or
incompletely written letter in the Torah renders the Torah itself as
unusable and needing repair. But here it is the tradition of the Torah
itself that the letter vav itself remain split and incomplete without this
affecting the usability and validity of the Torah scroll itself. I have
mentioned this matter in previous essays of mine on the parsha of Pinchas
but I now wish to concentrate on an insight that recently came to mind
regarding this split vav. We all know that there are endless faces and
depth to the words of the Torah and that therefore many insights are
always contained within one word or even one letter of the Torah. Thus all
insights into Torah, based on the framework of the Oral Law and the great
commentators of Israel throughout the ages are valid and instructive. The
idea that I wish to advance regarding the split vav is very simple but I
feel it to be the essence of truth. Namely, that peace is very fragile,
almost always difficult to maintain and it requires great effort to keep
it together. All of human history bears out this fact. True peace, whether
in the home, the family, amongst neighbors, in the synagogue, in the
community and certainly between nations, is very hard to achieve and even
more difficult to maintain.
The Torah wishes us to be aware of the difficulty in achieving and
maintaining peace. Peace is not achieved with glib phrases, populist
slogans or even just good wishes and sincere intents. It requires great
sacrifices, sensitivity to others, patience and vision as to the future
and the possible consequences of current behavior, speech and decisions.
And even if peace is achieved it is always a vav ktia – a fragile, split,
easily ruptured state of being. Pinchas’ act of zealotry hardly seems to
be the proper prelude for the Lord granting him the blessing of peace. But
the vav ktia teaches us that God warns Pinchas that this act of zealotry
is not to be a permanent policy of Jewish behavior. The self-same sense of
risk and sacrifice that Pinchas invested in his act of zealotry now has to
be channeled into the achievement of peace and its continued maintenance.
One has to realize how the peace in a family and a community is always
threatened by the petty things of life that taken too seriously rip us
apart and leave us without peace or serenity of soul and personality.
Pinchas will become the kohein gadol – High Priest – of Israel. His task
will be to emulate his grandfather, Aharon, to love peace and pursue
peace. He will be unable to do so successfully if he does not first
realize the difficulty and fragility of achieving and maintaining peace.
Only then will there be a reasoned and successful pursuit of peace become
Rabbi Berel Wein
Rabbi Berel Wein- Jewish historian, author and international lecturer offers a complete selection of CDs, audio tapes, video tapes, DVDs, and books on Jewish history at www.rabbiwein.com
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Berel Wein and Torah.org
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