Torah Weekly

For the week ending 19 July 2008 / 16 Tammuz 5768

Parshat Pinchas

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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G-d tells Moshe to inform Pinchas that Pinchas will receive G-d's "covenant of peace" as reward for his bold action - executing Zimri and the Midianite princess Kozbi. G-d commands Moshe to maintain a state of enmity with the Midianites who lured the Jewish People into sin. Moshe and Elazar are told to count the Jewish People. The Torah lists the names of the families in each tribe. The total number of males eligible to serve in the army is 601,730. G-d instructs Moshe how to allot the Land of Israel to Bnei Yisrael. The number of the Levites' families is recorded. Tzlofchad's daughters file a claim with Moshe: In the absence of a brother, they request their late father's portion in the Land. Moshe asks G-d for the ruling, and G-d tells Moshe that their claim is just. The Torah teaches the laws and priorities which determine the order of inheritance. G-d tells Moshe that he will ascend a mountain and view the Land that the Jewish People will soon enter, although Moshe himself will not enter. Moshe asks G-d to designate the subsequent leader, and G-d selects Yehoshua bin Nun. Moshe ordains Yehoshua as his successor in the presence of the entire nation. The Parsha concludes with special teachings of the service in the Beit Hamikdash.


Latest News On The Peace Process…

“My covenant of peace.”(25:12)

I just finished reading an interesting book about a young Muslim, born and bred in “England’s fair and pleasant land,” who becomes a virulent Islamist and then does “teshuva,” and reverts to being a spiritual Moslem as opposed to a political one —i.e. dedicated to removing Israel from the map by peaceful means.

The overwhelming conclusion of the book is that not everyone wants peace.

Most of the world, however, wants to sit under its fig tree, secure that no one will come and take away their family and their money. Almost everyone wants peace and yet since the beginning of time, peace has been elusive and often illusory.

The Hebrew greeting Shalom is much more than a conventional method of address. The Talmud tells us that it is forbidden to wish someone Shalom in a bathhouse because Shalom is the name of G-d and a bathhouse is not a fitting place to utter G-d’s name.

In the story of Ruth, when Boaz comes from Beit Lechem, he greets the harvesters by using the name of G-d. From here we learn that a Jew may use the name of G-d as a greeting and it is not considered to be taking the Name of Heaven in vain. In fact, there is an opinion that we are obligated to greet each other with G-d’s name by saying “Shalom.”

Why should we be obliged to greet each other using G-d’s name, by saying Shalom?What’s wrong with “Good Morning!” or “Have a nice day!”?

When we greet someone with Shalom, we are blessing them that they should reach their perfection.

This world contains many wonderful things: truth, kindness, love, mercy — but perfection isn’t one of them. Perfection and completion are beyond the scope of this world, as it says, “He who makes peace in His high places, He will make bestow peace on us and upon all Israel.” True peace comes from above and beyond this world. This world is created lacking; that’s the way it’s meant to be.This world strives to arrive somewhere that is beyond itself to find its completion.

The word for the ‘Earth’ in Hebrew is aretz, which comes from the root rutz, ‘to run’. This world is always “running”, moving towards its completion.However its completion, its shleimut,can come only from above. Similarly, aretz is connected to the noun ratzon, meaning “will” or “desire.” This is a world of striving, or wanting, but not of arriving.

The word for ‘Heaven’ in Hebrew is shamayim, from the root sham, which means ‘there’. In other words, this world is always ‘running’, ‘striving’ to be ‘there’, outside and beyond itself.

This is why G-d’s name is Shalom. G-d is the Perfection of all the lacking of this world. That is why, of all words, Shalom is His name. He is the Perfection of everything this world lacks. Everything, every single thing in this world finds its perfection, its fulfillment, its completion, in Him. It’s not here. It’s above.It’s ‘there’.

That’s why we wish people “Shabbat Shalom!” Shabbat is the completion of the creation, its purpose and its fulfillment. When we say “Shabbat Shalom!” we bless each other that Shabbat itself should be shalom, that it should be the completion of all our lacking in this world to the greatest possible extent. For Shabbat is 1/60th of the Future World. Shabbat itself is shalom. Shabbat represents the ‘there-and-then’ in the ‘here-and-now’.

The purpose of Shabbat is to bring the whole world to Shalom, which is the name of G-d, since He is the completion of all that is lacking in this world.

That’s the real peace process.

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