Roy Neuberger - Jul. 26, 2019

How does one merit “bris shalom … [the] covenant of peace?” (Numbers 25:12)


Every day, we end Shemoneh Esreh with the blessing of peace. Peace must be very important, because it is the culmination of our intimate conversation with the Master of the Universe.


Decades ago, in the days when my wife and I were lost in the wilderness of assimilation, we joined the “Peace Movement” during the Vietnam War. In fact, we could not have been further from peace. It was a turbulent era, in which many people broke loose from “traditional” values and the stage was being set for our current era, in which anything at all is acceptable in the world of morality. In fact, we never found peace until we found Shabbos.


In this week’s Torah Portion, we gain insight into the life of two eternal heroes, Pinchas ben Elazar ben Aharon ha Kohain and Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses).


In regard to Moshe Rabbeinu, I am referring specifically to the passage in which Hashem says, “Go up to this mountain …. You shall see [the Land] and you shall be gathered unto your people … because you rebelled against My word in the Wilderness of Zin ….” (Numbers 27:12-14)


What is Moshe’s reaction? “May Hashem … appoint a man over the assembly….” (ibid 27:16)


What strength! Moshe Rabbeinu ignored his own intense desire to enter the Land and, instead, implored Hashem to provide a new leader for his beloved Nation.  He clearly had worked on himself ceaselessly to achieve this monumental level.


And Pinchas ben Elazar ben Aharon ha Kohain?


Can one comprehend his spiritual height? He disregarded his reputation, his very life, in order to save his People from destruction. He stood in the path of the moral tsunami that was about to engulf  the Children of Israel. He stopped the flood, and he did it alone! His awesome achievement is called by the Torah “bris Shalom … the Covenant of Peace.” 


It is very difficult to take an unpopular position. “Other people will think I am a fool. What do I need it for?” Later on, with twenty-twenty hindsight, one realizes what he should have done, but then it is too late.


These two heroes brought peace to their Nation and indeed to the world because they were willing to sublimate their own reputation to the will of the Master of the Universe. Their actions represent a lifetime of constant self-appraisal, constant study of Hashem’s will, constant self-training in serving Hashem rather than serving their own desires.


They showed us that it can be done. They provided an eternal pathway for the Children of Israel.


Why does our world lack peace? Why are dissatisfaction, strife, anger, striking out at others, blaming others, sinas chinom (unwarranted hatred) … rampant? Why is there so much tzouris?


My friends, we owe it to ourselves to examine the lives of Moshe Rabbeinu and Pinchas ben Elazar ben Aharon ha Kohain. There can be peace in the world.


May we all soon see the day when Hashem “blesses His People Israel with peace.” (Shemoneh Esreh)


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