Last week, we read about the fiasco of Baal Pe’or, where many Jews were seduced by Midianite women, and then persuaded to worship the idol Pe’or in the most detestable ways.
As the leaders of the nation assembled to sit in judgment over the guilty, the brazen Zimri paraded a Midianite princess around, in full view of the whole community, encouraging continuation of the reprehensible crime. The sight of such impudence, at the entrance to the Sanctuary — the sight of such heinous degeneracy at the site that was to safeguard the holiness of the people — reduced the nation, including its leaders, to helpless tears.
Only one man — Pinchas — summoned the strength for manly action. As a young man, he saw the tears of helplessness as a sign that Israel’s leaders had lost faith in their nation’s future. He took a spear in hand and slew the Jewish man and the Midianite woman in an act that spared the people the wrath of
Pinchas demonstrated that as long as there is even one person left on earth to champion the cause of
The converse is also true. One who does not stand up for truth, one who will not struggle to attain it, is also called a “hater of peace.” (Psalms 120:6) Only if people will respect truth, and endeavor to have their actions, desires, speech and actions correspond to that truth, will they be able to work together in harmony.
When it comes to our personal sphere of desires, rights and possessions, we are encouraged to pursue peace, at almost any price. If it is only our personal interest, property rights, or honor that is at stake, we should avoid even the most justified quarrel. But when the price for peace includes the values of humanity in general, and of the Torah in particular, it is too high a price.
In Scripture, when truth and peace are juxtaposed, truth ordinarily precedes peace. (Zecharia 8:19; 8:16) Truth comes first and peace only second. Peace, as Pinchas has taught us, is a product of truth. And this is why peace cannot be pursued at the expense of the truth.
Eternal priesthood is promised to Pinchas and to the loyal heirs among his sons because he was zealous on behalf of
- Sources: Commentary, Bamidbar, 25:12, Mishlei p. 196, Tehillim 120:6