Thursday, July 05, 2007

Pichas 1

When I was growing up in Queens one man was a bit unpopular because every time he got an aliyah, he would find a problem in the Torah, or so it seemed. One Shabbos this fellow got an aliyah and noticed a split letter. So the Torah scroll was returned to the Aron Kodesh with the cloth belt wrapped around its velvet cover. Then another Sefer Torah was opened and this one oddly enough contained the same mistake. The way I heard the story, they took out a third Torah, and only then did they realize that the broken letter VAV of the word SHALOM at the beginning of Parshat Pinchas is the only letter in the Torah that is not invalid if it is split. In fact, this letter MUST be written with a space between its top and bottom half.

The Baal HaTurim points out that the word reads as SHLIM because the VAV looks like a YUD. He first cites the Gemora in Kiddushin that this may hint to, which discusses the requirement of a Kohen to be Shalem – whole and without blemish. Another possibility, he suggests, is that the allusion is to the completeness of the gift bestowed upon Pinchas, i.e. ten gifts in the Bet HaMikdash and ten outside the Bet HaMikdash. This is hinted to by the word SHALEM as well as by the YUD which equals ten (and by the gematria of the letter YUD when spelled out - Yud, Vav, Yud - which equals twenty).

The Baal HaTurim also cites the equation of Chazal of Pinchas with Eliyahu. Rashi points out in Beha'alotcha at the very end of the Tochacha that it is one of five times in the Torah that Yaakov's name appears with a VAV in it. Eliyahu's name is similarly written five times without a VAV. Yaakov took the VAV as security from Eliyahu until the latter announces redemption for Yaakov's children. This is one meaning of the pasuk - "Yagel Yaakov, Yismach Yisrael". YISMACH is an allusion to the fact that Yaakov will be happy when MASHIACH (same letters as YISMACH) arrives. Then Yaakov will return the VAV to Eliyahu and Eliyahu-Pinchas will be complete.

I noticed that this Parsha has four unusual pauses in it: First there is the fact that the entire story of Pinchas takes place in the previous Parsha. Then there is a significant space indicating a new Parsha, and only then are we told of Pinchas' reward for his action.

Next there is the break in the letter VAV of the word SHALOM. Then, in the first Pasuk in Perek Chaf Vav There is a space in the middle of
the Pasuk that begins with the words -"And it was after the MAGEFA".
Finally there is Shmini Atzeret which is explained beautifully by Rabbi SR Hirsch as a special kind of pause. Before returning to the "real" world after the holidays we heed G-d's request to "spend one more day with" Him. This is a time to stop, take a break, and attempt to glean something from the holy time that is about to slip away.

Perhaps the common theme here is to take a pause, a break, a moment of
thought. When actions are to be judged, the key is often time. Sometimes a righteous act is later exposed as rash, immature, or worse. Pinchas' reward was only after enough of a pause revealed the sincerity of his action. The break in the VAV may represent the fact that even at drastic times that call for drastic actions, there must still be some measure of pause and reflection. And the break in the pasuk which follows the MAGEFA may to teach us that when G-d reacts, as it were, it is not reflexive, but reflective - that punishment on G-d's part never occurs without pause. And finally, our overall relationship with G-d should never be by rote, should never be devoid of the element of stopping and thinking how we can stay with G-d a little longer in our daily lives.


Anonymous msb said...

"And finally, our overall relationship with G-d should never be by rote, should never be devoid of the element of stopping and thinking how we can stay with G-d a little longer in our daily lives."
This is so true! No one knows which day will be our last and therefore we need to maximize each day as if it could be. Life is too short and our work to be avdei Ha-shem and good people is massive.

July 6, 2007 at 2:46 AM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Thanks for appreciating and adding!

July 8, 2007 at 12:28 AM  

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