Monday, July 11, 2011

Pinchas: Riots and Resolutions

Parshat Pichas
Bamidbar 25:10 - 30:1
14 Tammuz 5771 / July 15 – 16, 2011

Pinchas: Riots and Resolutions
by Boruch Huberman, MH Vancouver

When chaos threatens to burst the seams of an orderly society, peace between the warring factions can be understood in one of three ways. In the first way, the parties can agree to disagree and live in peaceful compromise. The second notion is one of surrender, where one of the factions, often the losing side, forgoes their battle cry, but does so without accepting the principals of the victorious party. The third and ultimate construct of peace is one where both sides accept a new outlook from which disagreement completely disappears. It is overarching and enlightens both parties.

The recent riot in Vancouver following their game 7 Stanley cup loss to the Boston Bruins resonates with the story recounted at the end of Parshat Balak and beginning of Parshat Pinchas.

Chaos ensues when the Jews, on the verge of entering Israel, engage in illicit sexual relationships with the daughters of Moab and worship the Moabite idols. Their behavior angers G-d, who kills 24,000 of the participants. The story culminates in Pinchas’s vengeful slaying of the Jewish leader Zimri, and the Moabite princess, Cosby, who were engaged in sexual conduct.  Pinchas’s unsanctioned decision to murder Zimri and Cosby had the effect of reverting society back to normalcy. As such, the act was considered supra-legal not illegal.  For demonstrating nerve in carrying out G-d’s wish for a moral society, Pinchas was rewarded with a “Brit Shalom”, an agreement for Peace with G-d, and the honor of having the Cohenic lineage descend from him.

The death of 24,000 and the arrest of hundreds at the end of the riots of ancient Israel and modern Vancouver respectively, were not optimal resolutions. Therefore, Pinchas is rewarded with a Brit Shalom, the ability to resolve conflict, not with murder or arrests, but with education and enlightenment. On the sobering morning following the riots, citizens had gathered to write notes of love on the remnants of destroyed storefronts. If only these notes had been written before hand, perhaps the riots would never have happened in the first place.


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