Thoughts from Amy Brookman in response to “Pinchas and the scary friend”
Writing the word “shalom” with a broken vav beats the sword of Pinchas into a plowshare. Your commentary doesn’t stop there, but goes on beating it until it emerges as a musical instrument. In other words you made me think of this poem that refers to the book of Micah.
An Appendix to the Vision of Peace
Tosefet Lachazon Hashalom
Don’t stop after beating the swords
into plowshares, don’t stop! Go on beating
and make musical instruments out of them.
Whoever wants to make war again
will have to turn them into plowshares first.
– Yehuda Amichai
p. 777, Kol Haneshemah (Wyncote, PA: The Reconstructionist Press, 1996)
And the many nations shall go and shall say:
Come, Let us go up to the Mount of the LORD,
To the House of the God of Jacob;
That He may instruct us in His ways,
And that we may walk in His paths.
For instruction shall come forth from Zion,
The word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
Thus He will judge among the many peoples,
And arbitrate for the multitude of nations, however distant;
And they shall beat their swords into plowshares*
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation shall never again know war;
But every man shall sit
Under his grapevine or fig tree
With no one to disturb him.
For it was the LORD of Hosts who spoke.
*More exactly, the iron points with which wooden plows were tipped.
— footnote from JPS 1999 Hebrew-English Tanakh
— Micah 4:2-4
The broken vav looks to me like iron points or plow tips.
My original plan, when I was assigned Parashat Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1) to offer a dvar Torah, was to skip over Pinchas and his spear and the matter of God and human vengeance. But that’s not how things worked out. I was drawn in to the Pinchas story first by a brief commentary:
And Israel attached itself unto the Baal of Peor [Numbers 25:3]. R. Eleazar ben Shammua said: Just as it is impossible for a wooden nail to be wrenched from a door without loss of some wood, so it was impossible for Israel to be wrenched from Peor without loss of some souls.
– from The Book of Legends (Bialik & Ravnitsky, 628:175)
— based on Babylonian Talmud Eiruvin 19a
Our masters taught: The man gathering was Zelophehad. Thus is is said, “And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks of wood upon the Sabbath day….and they stoned him with stones, and he died” (Num. 15:32 and 15:36); while elsewhere the daughters of Zelophehad said, “Our father died in the wilderness” (Num. 27:3). Just as in this instance Zelophehad is meant, so, too, Zelophehad [is meant] earlier. Such was R. Akiva’s opinion. But R. Judah ben Betera said to him, “Akiva, in either case you will have to justify yourself: if you are right, then you have revealed the identify of a man whom the Torah shielded; and if you are wrong, you are casting stigma upon a righteous man.” Continue reading