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Pinchas the son of Elazar the son of Aaron the Kohen has turned My anger away from the children of Israel by his vengeance for Me among them, so that I did not destroy the children of Israel in my vengeance. Therefore tell him that I give him My covenant of peace. (Bamidbar 25:11,12)
In this week’s parsha we learn how Hashem granted Pinchas the gift of shalom in reward for his actions. The posuk continues to explain that Pinchas and his descendents were appointed priests. In a Sefer Torah the word shalom is spelled with a broken vav. What is the significance of this?
Rav Zevin explains that a broken letter intimates that the word in which it appears can be read as if it is absent.
The letters shin, lamed, mem with a vav, spell shalom. The three letters without a vav spell shalaim. Both words, loosely translated as “peace” and “complete” connote completeness, but there is a difference. The word shalom with a vav describe the joining of two different people or objects. Even when joined each person or object retains its unique identity. They join together only to achieve a purpose. This is symbolic of the letter vav which is commonly used in grammar to join disparate items. On the other hand, shalaim without the vav connotes a greater degree of completeness. Here the two individual items completely unite with each one giving up their own identity to merge into one new complete unit.
Kohanin serve two functions. First, they follow in the way of the first kohen Aaron, who loved peace and brought peace between one man and another. They serve in the capacity of shalom with a vav. When people join together they each retain their unique identity. Second, the kohanim serve as teachers of the Torah. Here they bring harmony and completeness to the world through the Torah. In this capacity they serve as shalaim without a vav.
Pinchas was rewarded with the blessing of shalom with the broken vav, alluding to the shalom with and without the vav. Pinchas and his descendents were to serve in the role of the priesthood that fulfilled both functions that are required of kohanim.
A Sefer Torah was one discovered to have been written with a complete vav. The Sefer Torah was brought to a scribe to be fixed. The scribe refused to fix the Torah by explaining that there is an opinion that holds that the word shalom is the name of Hashem and it is forbidden to erase even a small portion of His name. The scribe acknowledged that we are generally not concerned for this minority opinion but still did not want to get involved due to the severity of the prohibition. The Sefer Torah was then brought to another scribe where the same scenario occurred. Finally the problem was presented to Rav Sholmo Zalman Aurbach zt”l. He instructed the scribe to extend downward the letters shin, lamed and mem so that the vav in contrast would appear shorter. At the bottom of the vav at the margin of the other extended letters a small dot should be added. Such a technique would give the vav its proper appearance. Rav Aurbach’s zt”l brilliant solution was to fix the word by adding ink without erasing any part of the vav.
Many times we find ourselves in a situation where the peace we have with others is less than ideal. We find ourselves at a level of shalom (with a vav) when we would prefer shalaim (without a vav). We are convinced that the only way we can move up to next level is if the other party would desist from behavior or conduct that we find offensive. We firmly believe that the only way to go from shalom to shalaim is through erasure. We learn from the above that this is incorrect. Sometimes to go from shalom to shalaim we must add. We many need to overlook and accept things the way they are.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5765/2005