Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Parsha Pinchas – Acting Decisively for Peace

I’d like to dedicate this dvar Torah to a very happy couple, my daughter Malka and husband Tzvi Sontag, who recently gave birth to a baby girl!

Harmony in the home leads to great blessing. Let’s explore together.

A 30-year-old Sefardi woman had been dating for many years without a match. She was a successful lawyer and decided to take a year off to spend with friends in Eretz Yisrael. She rented an apartment in Yerushalayim, and one day a friend invited her for Shabbat in Tel Aviv. She was reluctant, but her friend was convincing. “It’s nice here. Please come for Shabbos. I am sure you will be thankful for coming.” She agreed. On Shabbos morning, the single lady remembered it was her grandmother’s yahrzeit. “I have a custom to sponsor a kiddush l’iluy nishmas my grandmother on her yahrzeit. Can that be arranged?” They asked their shul’s gabbai who readily agreed.

After Shabbos, the gabbai, who was single, inquired about the lady who sponsored the kiddush and asked if it would be possible to arrange a date. This was an Ashkenazi shul, but the gabbai was …Sefardi. They went out and sure enough it was a match. Amazing! This lady had been dating for years in America and Hashem arranged for her to go to Tel Aviv for Shabbos, sponsor kiddush in an Ashkenazi shul and there meet the Sefardi gabbai who would be her match! Hashem puts us where we need to be.

In truth, every match works that way. Hashem puts people from different places together. In addition, if Hashem orchestrates the couple to meet and marry, then Hashem also wants them to stay together.

A healthy and happy Jewish marriage is a key concept depicted in Parshas Pinchas. When the Torah relates the zealous act of Pinchas killing Zimri and Kozbi, who brazenly consorted with Midianite women, it traces Pinchas’ lineage to Aharon Hakohen. The Nesivos Shalom explains that the Torah is emphasizing that Pinchas was rooted in peace, like his grandfather Aharon.

But what was peaceful about Pinchas killing those two individuals?

I believe the answer lies in defining the nature of shalom/peace within Aharon. When Aharon died, the Gemara tells us that 80,000 children all named Aharon participated in the levaya (funeral). They were named after Aharon for he was known as the peacemaker who was constantly helping married couples maintain harmony and peaceful relationships. If we make a calculation of 40 years in the desert and 80,000 children, that means Aharon counseled between five and six couples a day! (Likely, there were many more, as the number doesn’t include the baby girls…)

The brazen behavior of Zimri and Kozbi gave a stamp of approval for married Jewish men to have illicit relations with the Midianite women. That had to be stopped. A marriage is a sacred commitment, not a casual relationship. Zimri was initiating a total breakdown of the Jewish home and the future of klal Yisrael. He was creating chaos. Pinchas acted decisively. He thus restored the concept of the sanctity of marriage and peaceful relationships, just like his grandfather Aharon. For this, he was blessed with peace.

Klal Yisrael enjoyed three special miracles each day in the desert. The mun was in the merit of Moshe, the wellspring of water was in the merit of Miriam, and the “clouds of glory” were in the merit of Aharon because of his devotion to shalom in klal Yisrael. Upon Aharon’s death, the clouds of glory protecting the Jewish nation for 40 years dispersed, leaving the nation vulnerable to attack.

At times, couples will disagree, but they must be very careful not to let it develop into a full-fledged argument. The Hebrew word for such an argument is machlokes. The Shelah expounds on the letters of machlokes: mem, ches, lamed, kuf, tav. These letters show us how arguments start and fester. Usually, arguments start with something small like the letter mem, which is entirely closed and has only a little split on the bottom—as arguments start with a little rift. If not stopped, arguments expand like the bottom of the letter ches, which is entirely open. They then develop into full feuds, as signified by the tall letter lamed—as the flames of argument go flying to the sky. Next is the letter kuf where the leg extends downward, signifying that arguments bring us way down. The last letter is tav, which has two feet strongly standing on the ground, signaling an argument that is not going away.

Peaceful relationships give stability and joy to our lives. They do need purposeful nurturing and care. Hashem put us together and wants us to have shalom bayis—harmony in the home—which will serve as the bedrock for a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael, a happy home that is faithful to Jewish traditions.

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