Shir Shel Shavua : Issue 11

June 30, 2023

Parasha Pinchas

Dear Friends,

Rabbi Jacobson-Maisels comments on this week’s parasha of Pinchas by offering that just before this Torah portion begins, Israelite men have begun sleeping with foreign women. These relations have brought the Israelites to worship foreign gods and have caused, in response, a Divine plague to break out in the Israelite camp. Hashem and Moshe then command the Israelites to slaughter the idol worshipers among the Israelites.

In the very next verse, we learn that Zimri ben Salu (an Israelite) and Kozbi bat Tzur (a Midianite) publicly display their relationship as Zimri takes Kozbi back to his tent to sleep with her. Our Torah portion opens with the conclusion of the tabooed tryst, as Pinchas graphically slaughters both Zimri and Kozbi with a single violent thrust of his sharpened spear. Consequently, the divine plague concludes.

Ironically, as a reward for his prototypical act of religious zealotry, the text bestows upon Pinchas an eternal covenant of peace! Close readers of the text however note that the word שלום is deficient in its spelling, lacking the third letter “vav.”

Commentators suggest that this strange spelling hints that whereas the process of peace may sometimes involve unexpected actions, complete and fullness of שלום can only exist in a world of respectful discourse, holy motivation, and profound humility.

With that in mind, please enjoy the following English/Hebrew setting of the well-known liturgical text of עושה שלום sung by my friends and colleagues Cantor Ozi Schwartz and Cantor Shira Lissek. The phrase Oseh Shalom originally appears in the Book of Job and, as the biblical character’s life teaches, peace can sometimes be a difficult and painful process.

May the week ahead lead us, the State of Israel and all of humankind, one step closer to ultimate and full peace.

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