לָכֵ֖ן אֱמֹ֑ר הִנְנִ֨י נֹתֵ֥ן ל֛וֹ אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֖י שָׁלֽוֹם׃
Say, therefore, ‘I grant him My pact of friendship.
If I had several lifetimes to keep learning, I would love to learn the scribal art of writing a sacred Torah scroll. Chanting the words in our Sefer Torah is one of the great honours of being a Cantor. I love the beauty of the Hebrew letters. At the best of times, the letters glow and dance on the page and inspire connections and meaning to everyday life. Even at times when the letters are at rest, their very construction reveals hundreds of years of discourse among our ancestors. Inside the Sefer Torah there are hidden treasures that invite us to question and ponder the human journey. This week's Torah portion, Pinchas, contains a great example of this. Above, I have included the source verse from the Torah and a picture of how the word 'shalom', in this verse, is calligraphed.
At the end of last week's Torah portion, Pinchas, grandson of Aaron and son of Eleazar, impaled an Israelite tribal chief and a Midianite princess for coupling. Pinchas wanted to save all the Israelites from being stricken with the plague that descended upon them since they were succumbing to the idolatrous practices of the Midianites, which included sexual relations. This act of zealotry did end the plague and God expressed approval of Pinchas' taking of these two lives as evidenced in the verse Numbers 25:12 cited above. God gives Pinchas a בְּרִיתִ֖י שָׁלֽוֹם, a covenant of peace.
Our sages discussed, debated, researched, imagined around this portion and this verse. Inspecting the word 'shalom' as it is pictured above, written in the Torah for this verse only, we notice a break in the letter 'vav'. In Kabbalah the letter 'vav' is represents the connection between heaven and earth. Here we see the connection is broken. Whatever happened in this week's Torah portion led to broken peace. As Jews we do not cry about the brokeness. We see it as an important part of the whole of life. As Leonard Cohen wrote, "there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in".
Cantor Paula Baruch