July 13, 2012
Kosher Sutra: “I hereby give him My covenant of peace. (Numbers 25:12)”.
Sometimes the battlefield is within. The greatest war is not that which is fought on the fields of Flanders, Iraq or Africa, but the battle in our own minds. We have various emotions which reveal inner conflict. Guilt shows that part of us would take one course of action, but we have chosen another. Regret demonstrates a similar split of intention. Sadness and anger tell us that we have not fully accepted something in our lives, wishing or wanting that reality could be other than it is.
Pinchas is the grandson of Aaron who sees a Hebrew man having intimate relations with a Midianite woman and plunges a spear through them whilst they are in the act - bringing a whole new meaning to ‘coitus interruptus’. He is rewarded with the Brit Shalom, a covenant of peace. Or according to some views he is in fact being rebuked by God by being effectively told ‘nice work on this occasion, you sent a clear message to the people as they were going off course, but don’t do it again’.
I won’t get into the hugely problematic issues with this, as the Rabbis have spent centuries doing intellectual backflips to justify Pinchas’ actions*. Rather, I’d like to invite you to take it deeper.
How does Pinchas represent a battle that you have experienced within your heart or mind? Have you ever taken or thought of taking actions that are completely off-course with your personality and what you believe – “I’d never usually do this…I’m not that sort of person…it was totally out of character…”…but you still did it? Of course it’s happened – we’re all human after all. Perhaps Pinchas is inviting us to recognise the hardcore zealot within us all, but also suggesting that we should aim to get to ‘a covenant of peace’ as quickly as possible. Some of the most powerful emotions we can experience are peace and joy, but we can use guilt, regret, sadness and anger as signposts to tell us we are getting off track.
The yogis, of course, will agree. The highest rung on the karmic ladder is samhadi, a kind of earthly enlightenment that is synonymous with joy, peace, acceptance, balance and lightness. The tribal war stories of the Bhagavad Gita complement those of the Torah and we need only look within to find the potential for battles of our own.
Today, choose peace.
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