What’s Needed to Achieve Peace

Yael Eckstein  |  July 18, 2022

Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites. Since he was as zealous for my honor among them as I am, I did not put an end to them in my zeal. Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. — Numbers 25:11-12

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Pinchas, which means “Phinehas,” from Numbers 25:10–30:1.

One of the most important moments in the history of the state of Israel was when the Israeli Air Force destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981. Iraq was ruled by the dictator Saddam Hussein, an avowed enemy of the Jewish state, who had promised to destroy Israel when he had the chance. Just imagine how history would have been different if Saddam Hussein had been able to develop nuclear weapons.

But at the time, Israel came under intense criticism for the attack. The world media described Israel as the aggressor, inflaming tensions in the Middle East. It was widely predicted that this action by Israel would lead to war.

But the opposite was true. Israel’s destruction of Iraq’s nuclear capabilities saved countless lives, not only in Israel, but in the subsequent conflicts in the region. Israel demonstrated that sometimes what’s needed to achieve peace and save lives is to take bold, even aggressive action.

What’s Needed to Achieve Peace

We see this lesson at the beginning of this week’s Torah portion. Right before these verses, we read about an outbreak of sexual immorality among the children of Israel. Many were swept up in the sinful behavior instigated by the daughters of Moab.

God became angry and brought a plague upon the Israelites. He further commanded Moses to kill those who were involved. But before Moses could act on that command, an Israelite named Phineas took the initiative and publicly killed a prominent tribal leader who was brazenly sinning with a Midianite princess.

At first glance, Phineas’ deed seems like aggressive vigilante justice that could have even resulted in an all-out civil war. But the opposite happened. The Bible tells us that as a result of what Phineas did, God’s plague upon Israel — and the widespread sinful behavior — was stopped.

To make sure that everyone understood the righteousness of Phineas’ bold action, God then blessed Phineas: “Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites. Since he was as zealous for my honor among them as I am, I did not put an end to them in my zeal. Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him.”

Phineas, who rose up and attacked immorality, was granted a “covenant of peace” with God. True peace is ensured when we stand up for righteousness and help good to prevail.

Your Turn:

Israel is regularly attacked in the media for defending good against evil. Speak up for Israel and share your support with others.

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