Covenant of Peace (Not)

Covenant of Peace (Not)
crow rising up in flight near a chain link fence; photo has a sense of motion not a sense of peace

No early morning peace in our neighborhood! Instead, there’s intense bird drama. A neighbor got some chickens. So—at dawn, of course—a hawk comes by to see if it can breach the coop. Then, crows sound the alarm for hours.

It’s been going on for days. So, I do hope this hawk will take the hint. Not just so I can sleep until sunrise. But also because this crow family is a bold crew. Last week, I saw them bash into an eagle. (Yes, the eagle left in a hurry.)

The crew leader, I think, is an oddly sensitive crow. He flies at people’s heads all year round. Not just during fledging season, like a normal crow. He’s bashed my head and my daughter’s head. Also the head of some random stranger who stopped to complain to me.

One day I offered this odd crow some cheese. He ate it all, then asked for more. And I haven’t been hit since.

Let’s just say: I made a covenant of peace with him.

That’s what God does with Pinchas, the zealous Levite. Pinchas sees a couple he doesn’t think should be together. So he runs after them. And then kills them while they are making love (Num 25:6-15).

Oh sure, there are a gazillion justifications for his savagery, in both Torah and commentaries. But it looks like God did not read them. Because God simply says, “See, even I’m calming down now! So let’s make a covenant of peace.”

This covenant of peace is probably not a reward.

Why do I think that? Not just because of my covenant with crazy crow. But because our sages put Pinchas and Jeremiah together on the reading schedule. Thus, they remind us: in biblical stories, God does not reward the faithful with peace.

Specifically, our sages chose Jeremiah’s prophetic call. “I knew you in the womb,” God says. “Before you were born. See, you’re good at prophecy! So go out there and knock ‘em down! Oh yes, they’ll fight you. But I will be with you” (Jeremiah 1).

Jeremiah’s a favorite, for sure. But God does not offer Jeremiah peace. Quite the opposite, in fact. Jeremiah will say true things. But few will want to hear. And Jeremiah’s heart will break.

Keep Jeremiah in mind when you reflect on your own unease. On how you hoped to make a difference. But no one reads your work, donates to your fundraiser, passes the by-laws you propose. You’re not at peace. But you speak truth, and you are loved.  

  1. Love it!! We have been watching the crows also chase the hawks!! I recently read that they have a memory….so I have to stop chasing them away from my yard! Stay well!

    1. Crows are _smart_ ! As well as a memory, for individual human faces, they have some pretty advanced “reasoning” ability.

      I wonder about Laura’s aggressive crow. Is he on the edge of paranoia? Is he trying to extort food from passers-by? Is he just nasty by nature, with strong territorial instincts?

      Her “peace offering” was a stroke of genius. It seems to have established a relationship between her and the crow, which was previously missing.

      On Jeremiah and the wages of righteousness, a rabbi of mine used to tell the story of a man who would stand at the gates of a city, shouting at the inhabitants about how evil their ways were.

      A visitor said “Why do you bother? They’ll never listen to you.”

      And he replied “I don’t do it for them! I do it for myself, to remind me not to become as they are.”

      1. Thanks, Betsy and Charles, for chatting here. Yes, crows are very good at recognizing human faces.

        We have no idea about this crow. I mean, it takes all kinds, and we know for sure some people are touchy. Or mischievous without knowing their own strength…

        I love the teaching story about the self-referential utility of preaching…

  2. Thank you for your reminder of God’s love and the nature of Divine promises. It reminds me of my grandmother’s hugs when I was sad, “Life hurts sometimes, but you are always loved.”

    1. Thanks, Gwen. That’s a beautiful reflection.

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