Rewarding Pinchas for his zealous actions, God instructs Moshe Rabbeinu, “לָכֵן אֱמֹר הִנְנִי נֹתֵן לוֹ אֶת־בְּרִיתִי שָׁלוֹם/Therefore say to him, I am hereby giving him My covenant of peace.” (Bamidbar 25:12) What exactly is the “covenant of peace” that God granted Pinchas? We know that at this time, Pinchas was admitted into the priesthood. The covenant of peace seems to be an addition. What is it?
Peace – שָׁלוֹם – implies completeness – שְׁלֵימוּת. This is more than a semantic connection. Peace and completeness go hand in hand. One implies the other. For example, when a system is complete, every component doing its job, the system can be said to be at peace.
Peace means that there is no lack. Completeness in this world is not possible without God’s intervention as Koheles teaches us, “כִּי אֵין צַדִּיק בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה־טּוֹב וְלֹא יֶחֱטָא/For there is no man on earth so righteous that he does only good and never sins.” (Koheles 7:20) The hook that sin requires is incompleteness. Chazal tell us that the word Shlomo in Shir HaShirim refers not to the king Shlomo but rather to God. Shlomo means “His peace.” Chazal explain that peace belongs to God. According to the Sfas Emes, Chazal are teaching us exactly this. Peace/Completeness is only possible within the will of God.
And when God grants completeness, nothing, no sin, no kitrug/spiritual accusation, can take it away. This is what happened when God chose us as a nation. When God’s love for us is revealed, we are protected. We are complete. We are at peace.
Shlomo HaMelech alludes to this in Shir HaShirim (8:7), “מַיִם רַבִּים לֹא יוּכְלוּ לְכַבּוֹת אֶת־הָאַהֲבָה ... אִם־יִתֵּן אִישׁ אֶת־כָּל־הוֹן בֵּיתוֹ בָּאַהֲבָה בּוֹז יָבוּזוּ לוֹ/Many waters cannot extinguish the love … should a man give all the property of his house for love, they would utterly despise him.” Chazal explain that the waters and the man in this pasuk refer to the nations of the world. Nothing can extinguish God’s love for us. We are protected. A pasuk in Mishlei says the same thing regarding sin, “... וְעַל כָּל־פְּשָׁעִים תְּכַסֶה אַהֲבָה/… and love covers all offenses.” (Mishlei 10:12)
Chazal relate that Aharon HaCohen loved peace and pursued peace. Therefore, God granted Aharon the priesthood. This included the ability to awaken God’s love for the nation and with it His protection. Significantly, the priestly blessings end with the words, “... וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם/… and may He grant you peace.” (Bemidbar 6:26) Aharon, and by extension all the priests, is a vehicle through which we receive peace/completeness.
This is why Chazal teach us that God gave us the clouds of glory, which protected the nation in the desert, in the merit of Aharon. When Aharon passed on the pasuk relates, “וַיִּרְאוּ כָּל־הָעֵדָה כִּי גָוַע אַהֲרֹן .../The entire community saw that Aharon had died …” (Bemidbar 20:29) Through a play on the word for “see”, Chazal translate this pasuk homiletically as, “The entire community was frightened because Aharon had died.” They knew that they were protected in his merit.
Shabbos, as well, is a manifestation of God’s love for us as we say in the Kiddush, “.. וְרָצָה בָנוּ וְשַׁבָּת קָדְשׁוֹ בְּאַהֲבָה וּבְרָצוֹן הִנְחִילָנוּ ..../… and he wanted us and He bequeathed us with desire and love, His holy Shabbos …” The prophet Hoshea also said, “... אֹהֲבֵם נְדָבָה .../… I will love them for free …” (Hoshea 14:5) The manifestation of God’s love for us is an expression of completeness that we are able to reach on Shabbos. For this reason we say specifically on Shabbos, “... הַפּוֹרֵס סוּכַּת שָׁלוֹם עָלֵינוּ וְעַל כָּל עַמוֹ .../… He spreads a canopy of peace upon us and His entire nation …”
What is true for the nation as a whole is true for each one of us as individuals. When God’s desire for us is revealed, even on an individual level, all power is taken from the kitrugim. We become complete and vessels that are able to contain God’s blessing.
The covenant of peace that Pinchas merited was more than the priesthood. Because he demonstrated his love for God and the nation through his zealous act, he received the ability to bestow peace/completeness upon each of us.