Friday, July 15, 2011

Parshat Pinchas - Turning from anger to peace

Num 25: 10 - 13. The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:  Phinehas the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron the kohen has turned My anger away from the children of Israel by his zealously avenging Me among them, so that I did not destroy the children of Israel because of My zeal.   Therefore, say, "I hereby give him My covenant of peace. It shall be for him and for his descendants after him [as] an eternal covenant of kehunah (priesthood), because he was zealous for his God and atoned for the children of Israel."

Haftorah: Kings 19:11-13. The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Why is the story of Pinchas split between two different parshiot? Last week we read that Pinchas killed two people engaged in idolatry. The parsha ends. We pick up again this week to learn that Pinchas’ zealous action is rewarded with an eternal covenant of peace and the priesthood.  What was Pinchas doing in that time between killing and receiving the covenant of peace?

Midrash tells us that Pinchas and Elijah were the same person. Therefore, the haftorah gives us a clue as to what Pinchas/Elijah was doing in the interlude. He was trying to move from anger to peace. To do so, he had to turn inward and listen intently. Did he hear the
sound of silence, the continuously gentle vibration of the energy of the universe?  From carefully and patiently listening to the calm stillness within, Pinchas was transformed.

The break in the story itself teaches us something more about the place of righteous anger.  It shows us that angry action, while sometimes needed, brings the story to a halt. Anger begets only an ending.  In contrast, peace is a beginning. Peace creates a power that flows continuously from generation to generation.  

May we be granted the discernment to take strong action when absolutely necessary, and the wisdom to then let go of anger, and listen intently to find and connect to the source of peace.

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