A “Peace” That Is Really a “Pair of Errors”
The Torah relates the story of Pinchas and his heartless act of vengeance. (Numbers 25:6-15)
Zimri, a prince of one of the Israelite tribes, had entered the wilderness sanctuary with a foreign woman named Cozbi, and there he was being intimate with her, thus violating the norms of the community.
Moses did not take action, but Pinchas did. Acting alone, Pinchas entered the sanctuary carrying a spear, and he pierced the couple, thrusting the spear right through the body of Zimri into Cozbi’s stomach.
Superficially, the Torah seems to approve Pinchas’s zealotry and violence. God gives Pinchas “a covenant of peace.” But consider the text more closely. The Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom, spelled shin-lamed-vov-mem, but a Torah scroll is considered invalid unless, in this particular verse, the vov of the word shalom is broken in two. (See the above photo, third letter from the right.) Torah’s point is clear: Any “peace” gained by violence is a broken peace; it is a peace that is no peace. God, in other words, bestows upon Pinchas a covenant of imperfect peace, not one of true peace. And what is the precise nature of this imperfect peace?
The top part of the Hebrew letter vov forms a Hebrew letter yud. Hence, when the vov is broken in this verse, it appears as a yud (with a stray line beneath it). The word that actually appears in the Torah, therefore, is not shalom (shin-lamed-vov-mem), which means “peace”; rather, it is shalayim (shin-lamed-yud-mem), which means “a pair of errors.”
Pinchas, the violent zealot, killed two people (Zimri and Cozbi), and God bestowed upon him a “covenant of two errors.” Violence does not ever lead to the promise of peace; violence only leads to the promise of error.
The foregoing is taken from Torah Nondualism: Diversity, Conflict, and Synthesis in the Pentateuch.
To read the entire book, please click here.
Please “like” or “share” this website on Facebook:
You can also “like” or “share” this page of the website using these buttons:
Copyright © 2011 James H. Cumming