Sfas Emes Blog
The beginning of this week's parsha relates that God gave Pinchas His covenant of peace, "... הנני נותן לו את בריתי שלום/… I am hereby giving him my covenant of peace." (Bamidbar 25:12) God's covenant of peace may be something we can all aspire towards. It represents closeness to God.
However, the Sfas Emes notes that it is not possible to achieve closeness to God without a prior struggle. In the holy Zohar (3:251b) we find that unleavened bread/מצה – alludes to a struggle with the evil inclination. The Aramaic word for struggle is matzusa/מצותא. The struggle/מצותא brings us to mitzvah/מצוה representing closeness to God.
Chazal encourage us to struggle with the evil inclination, "לעולם ירגיז אדם יצר טוב על יצר הרע/One should always incite the good impulse to fight the evil impulse." (Brachos 5a) What should one do if he struggled and failed? Chazal tell us that he should recite Kri'as Shma. What does it help to say Kri'as Shma? Reciting Kri'as Shma is a time when we are close to God. The Sfas Emes posits that even if we fail, there is merit in the struggle itself. This merit manifests at a time that is more conducive to closeness to God. So, one who struggled, even if he failed to overcome his temptations, will experience a different Kri'as Shma than one who never struggled at all.
The Sfas Emes sees this concept clearly in our activities during the days of the week culminating in Shabbos. Shabbos is certainly more conducive to experience closeness to God than the days of the week. Yet, struggling (and not struggling) with our evil impulses during the week directly affects our Shabbos experience. Struggling with our evil impulses during the week, even if we failed to always overcome them, will lead us to a more spiritual Shabbos than if we did not struggle at all.
The Sfas Emes sees this concept in the Chazal (Avos 4:3), "כל מחלוקת שהיא לשם שמים סופה להתקיים/Any argument that is for the sake of heaven will survive." Our fight with our evil impulses leads us to the plateau of closeness to God. The fight itself is the key.
Pinchas received this gift for free, as it were – without the struggle that is usually required. He received this gift because he was moved to anger and revenge for the sake of God's honor. He risked his life to avenge God's honor and in return God granted him His covenant of peace – closeness to Him.