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Parashat Pinhas: The Covenant of Peace

In the beginning of Parashat Pinhas, G-d speaks to Moshe and announces that He would be rewarding Pinhas for his bold action during the tragic event of Ba’al Pe’or. As we read in the final verses of Parashat Balak, Beneh Yisrael engaged in illicit relationships with the women of Moab, and worshipped Moab’s deity, in response to which G-d sent a deadly plague that killed many thousands among Beneh Yisrael. Pinhas ended the plague by killing Zimri – a leader of one of the tribes of Beneh Yisrael – as he committed a public sinful act with a woman from Midyan. G-d announced that He would be rewarding Pinhas, granting him "Beriti Shalom" – "My covenant of peace."

The Or Ha’hayim Ha’kadosh (Rav Haim Ben-Attar, 1696-1743) explains this verse amidst his discussion in Sefer Debarim of the Ir Ha’nidahat – the extraordinary law requiring killing all the inhabitants of a city that embraced idol worship. The Torah promises Beneh Yisrael that if they fulfill this command, and eliminate the people of such a city, then G-d "will grant your compassion, and have compassion on you" (Debarim 13:18). The Or Ha’hayim explains that G-d promises not only to treat the nation compassionately, but also that He would "grant you compassion" – ensure that the act of killing a city’s population would not engender a violent character. Normally, people who begin acting violently develop a violent nature. G-d assures Beneh Yisrael that when they are compelled to eliminate a city that worships idols (something which, incidentally, the Gemara tells never actually happened), He would see to it that this will not affect their compassionate personalities, and they will remain kind, loving and merciful people even after going through this experience.

The Or Ha’hayim explains G-d’s promise to Pinchas along similar lines. Although Pinhas committed an act of murder, he was guaranteed that this would not have an impact on his character. G-d granted Pinhas His "covenant of peace" – His guarantee that he would remain a peaceful, kind person despite having killed two people for the sake of G-d’s honor.

This insight teaches us that every action we perform impacts upon our character. Every slight inappropriate act makes us more likely to then commit another inappropriate act. If we are careful to perform all our actions sincerely for the sake of G-d, following His instructions and striving to fulfill His will, then we are guaranteed His "covenant of peace," that our actions will refine and elevate our characters, such that we continue to grow each day of our lives.

Kedoshim- The Reward for Honoring Parents
Parashat Ahareh Mot- Feeling Hashem’s Presence
Shevi'i Shel Pesah- Achieving True Freedom
Pesah: Remembering the Root Cause of the Egyptian Exile
Shabbat HaGadol: The Power of Mesirut Nefesh
Parashat Tazria: The Self-Destructive Power of Arrogance
Parashat Shemini: The Lesson of the Para Aduma
Parashat Sav- Accepting Criticism
Shabbat Zachor: Celebrating the Belief in Providence
Parashat Pekudeh: Empowering the Spirit to Subdue the Body
Parashat Vayakhel: The Precious Value of a Torah Home
Parashat Ki Tisa: Preserving the Eternal Bond
Parashat Tesaveh: Moshe and Noah
Parashat Termua: The Influence of Our Surroundings
Parashat Mishpatim: Humility and Scholarship
992 Parashot found