Torah Weekly

For the week ending 11 July 2009 / 18 Tammuz 5769

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.


Processed Peace

"My covenant of peace"(25:12)

Everyone wants peace. Every person wants to sit under his fig tree, secure that no one will come and take away his family and his money. Yet almost since the beginning of time, peace has been elusive, and often, illusory.

If there’s one Hebrew word that everyone knows, it’s shalom. "Peace." Shalom is the Hebrew form of greeting. Why do we greet others with shalom?

The Talmud tells us that it is forbidden to say shalom in a bathhouse, because Shalom is G-d’s name, and thus not fitting to be uttered in a bathhouse.

What does it mean that G-d’s name is Shalom?

Real shalom doesn’t exist in this world because shalom means perfection, completion. This world was created lacking. That’s the way it’s meant to be. This world strives to arrive somewhere beyond itself for its completion.

The Hebrew word for the "earth" is aretz, from the root "ratz,""to run," because this world is always running, moving towards its completion. However its completion can come only from above, from Heaven. The word "Heaven" in Hebrew is shamayim, from the root "sham" which means "there." This world is always "running" to "there" — outside and beyond itself.

This world contains many wonderful things, but perfection isn’t one of them. Perfection is beyond the scope of creation.

This is why G-d’s name is Shalom. G-d is the Perfection of all the lacking of this world. Every single thing in this world finds its perfection, its fulfillment, in Him. It’s not here. It’s above. It’s "there."

The Peace Connection

In the Book of Ruth, Boaz greets the harvesters by using the name of G-d. From here we learn that a Jew may use G-d’s Name as a greeting, and it is not considered taking Heaven’s Name in vain. In fact, there is an opinion that we are obliged 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? What’s wrong with "Good Morning!" or "Have a nice day!"

Sometimes we look at other people and we think that we are a million miles from them. But no man is an island to himself. When two people meet, the essence of their meeting is to make each other more complete. The fundamental principle of interpersonal relationships is that when I meet my fellow being, I am coming to effect his or her shleimut (completion). That’s what I’m doing in this world.

G-d placed us in a world which demands to be perfected. Our whole relationship with the world and everything in it is a "Peace Process" — a process of bringing every person and every blade of grass to a state of shleimut — the true definition of peace.

In Parshat Vayetze, Yaakov lays his head down to sleep on some stones. The stones all vie to be the stone on which Yaakov will sleep. The result is that all the stones gather together and became one stone. What do we learn from this? The message of the stones is that completion results from the connection of disparate entities into a single whole.

When we connect with other people on whatever level, whether in business or in love, whether in school on the bus, our entire connection between ourselves and our fellow beings must be with the intention to bring the other person to a state of completion. That’s why a Jew is obliged to greet others with "Shalom!" For when we seek to bring each other to a state of completion, to shalom, the world reaches its ultimate fulfillment.

And that’s the real peace process.

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