Parashat Pinhas: We Never Lose By Performing a Misva
Parashat Pinhas begins with G-d promising great reward to Pinhas, who ended the plague that had killed thousands among Beneh Yisrael because of their sins. The people had begun sinning with the women of Moav, and then a prominent member of the nation, Zimri, who was the leader of the tribe of Shimon, took a woman from Midyan for the sake of committing a forbidden act. Pinhas promptly arose and killed both Zimri and the woman, and this ended the plague. G-d told Moshe that He would be rewarding Pinhas for rescuing Beneh Yisrael, as had it not been for his act, G-d would have annihilated the nation. And the reward Pinhas would be receiving was "Beriti Shalom" – G-d’s "covenant of peace."
What exactly is this "covenant of peace"?
The Nesiv (Rav Naftali Sevi Yehuda Berlin of Volozhin, 1816-1893) offered an explanation based on the concept that human nature is affected by a person’s actions. Growing accustomed to acting a certain way has the effect of molding our characters. Thus, for example, the Rambam writes that it is preferable to give a small amount of charity each day than to give one lump sum on rare occasions, since the act of giving impacts upon one’s character and makes him more selfless and generous. The very act of taking a coin from one’s pocket and putting it in a charity box has an impact, and makes a person more kindhearted.
Therefore, given the effect that our actions have upon our characters, Pinhas may have feared that his courageous act of slaying two sinners would negatively affect his nature, and make him a somewhat violent person, or make him less sensitive and kind to other people. To allay these concerns, G-d promised Pinhas His "covenant of peace," guaranteeing that he would remain a peace-loving, kindhearted person despite the violent act he had just committed. Since this marked a rare, extraordinary occasion when killing constituted a Misva, the violent act would have no effect on Pinhas’ nature, and he would continue to be a peaceful, kind, gentle person.
This insight is an example of the broader concept that we never lose by performing a Misva. Sometimes, parents feel uneasy about setting rules and guidelines for their children, fearful that they might become mean people. But if the rules and guideline are appropriate, and are instituted for the sake of properly educating their children, then they have nothing to fear. Businessmen are often afraid to take time out from their work in the afternoon to recite Minha, as they are busy with customers and with managing their enterprise. Many people are reluctant to make time for Torah study because of their busy schedules. We need to remember that we never lose by performing Misvot. Taking time from work for a Misva can only benefit us. Even when it seems as though we are sacrificing by performing a Misva, we are, in truth, doing the best thing we could ever do for ourselves, something which yields immeasurable rewards and benefits for all eternity.