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.