- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On July 10, 2020
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, our weekly reflection as we make our way towards Shabbat.
The Torah scribes sometimes deliver a message to us in the way they used their calligraphy to form of a word. It happens in this week’s Torah portion, Pinchas, with the word, Shalom, a most familiar word and concept. But, the scribes did something to it as a visual sign for those who will encounter it for the generations to come.
It started in last week’s portion with the dramatic and traumatic story of misbehavior of the Israelites with the Moabites. Their actions incensed God who declared the participating Israelites should be punished with their lives. Just then, a descendant of Aaron, the High Priest, whose name was Pinchas, responded zealously and by his own command drove a spear through an Israelite and his Moabite partner, killing them. It was a violent act performed out of a zealous desire to turn back God’s wrath.
As this week’s Torah portion opened, God spoke to Moses in response to what Pinchas did:
Pinchas, son of Eleazar son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the Israelites by displaying among them his passion for Me, so that I did not wipe out the Israelite people in My passion. Say, therefore, ‘I grant him My pact of friendship. It shall be for him and his descendants after him a pact of priesthood for all time, because he took impassioned action for his God, thus making expiation for the Israelites.’
Where we might assume punishment for the violence, God provided a brit shalom instead.
Commentators go to great length to understand what a brit shalom could be and mean in this context. Many explain the priesthood not as a reward but as a response that will insist he manage his anger. Or perhaps it would allow him to atone for his devastating conduct. Another commentator explained the brit shalom as God’s way of moving Pinchas toward a propensity for peace.
None of these explanations work for me.
It is the scribes who provided the most valid commentary by altering the way they scribed the word, Shalom. They broke one of the letters in the word in half by not completing it fully. Destructive behavior breaks peace. It tears it apart. When this kind of behavior happens Shalom is mutilated. That is why they made it broken.
The lesson in this story is through a negative example. The scribes also made another visual comment by the way they wrote Pinchas’ name. They made the Hebrew letter, yud, much smaller. Pinchas’ actions diminished himself. And since the Hebrew letter, yud, often connotes that which is sacred and divine, Pinchas lessened his own status by what he did.
The extreme behaviors will come back to haunt those who engage in them. History and those who write it will not look favorably on those who allow their passion to destroy others. Their names will be diminished as will their status. They will be known as those who mutilated peace.
- Together as a congregation we enter into a new chapter of the magnificent musical history of our community. With the past as inspiration, we look to the future with fresh harmonies to initiate new endeavors and possibilities. Let’s join together tonight to welcome Cantor Alicia Stillman into the Temple Israel family. Qabbalat Shabbat begins at 6:00 p.m. We can pray together HERE on the Temple Israel website, or HERE on Zoom, or even HERE on TI’s Facebook page. Or, just find it all on the website www.tisrael.org/TogetherWithTI . We all look forward to sharing Shabbat with you.
- Riverway gathers for ReCharge from 7:30 – 8:30 p.m. HERE.
- The Village gathers at 5:00 p.m. for a Shabbat story and blessings HERE.
- Torah study engages everyone. We start with a short Shabbat morning service at 9:00 a.m. with Torah reading and then launch into a provocative discussion. BYOBagel! To join the conversation interactively, access HERE to Zoom. You will be amazed by how well and easy it is to participate and comment. You can also watch HERE on Temple Israel’s website or HERE on TI’s Facebook page.
- Celebrate Shabbat as a family with TGIS with Wayne Potash at 10:00 a.m. HERE.
- Mark the end of Shabbat together with Havdalah at 8:00 p.m. Join us interactively HERE on Zoom, or watch along on the website HERE, or on Facebook HERE.