This week we meet another varied and challenging Torah Portion. Pinchas kills a man engaged in immoral sexual acts and is rewarded with priesthood. The murder, we are told, saves the Israelites from being killed by a plague. The portion also contains the famous story of the Daughters of Zelophechad (27:1ff) as well as instructions on leadership and the transfer of power (27: 16.17) and another detailed review of the calendar (28 and 29). There is much to discuss in the portion, however, I want to return to the very beginning and to a phrase which, in many ways, relates to so many of us at this stage of life.
At the very beginning, Pinchas is rewarded for his action of killing Zimri and Cosbi with “My pact of friendship” (Plaut p. 1194). A comment notes that the Hebrew is “My covenant of peace”, which is what the Orthodox Art Scroll commentary and translation has. The “Etz Hayim” commentary from the Conservative movement also has “pact of friendship”. What struck me is the linkage between friendship and peace and the reminder of the power of friendship as we get older.
There is an old saying that while we may not be able to choose our families, we can choose our friends, and as many of us know, our friendship circle, in many ways, becomes even more meaningful than family. For the growing number of “solo-agers” that friendship network may very well be family. True friendship is non-judgmental and unconditional. When we lose one of those friends, especially now, that loss becomes even more profound. The bond between real friends is like a covenant (brit) and it can seem like a divine gift. It can bring a sense of “peace” like no other.
Think of the moments in our lives that have been shared with that really true friend. They are precious and a gift. If we are lucky, we have maintained those friendships over decades and, despite perhaps distance, when we get together time melts away. This idea of a “covenant/pact of friendship” (b’ritii shalom) is something special in life. It is sacred and holy and, as we get older, becomes ever more precious. It is a gift to be honored and it is a blessing to share
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.