This week’s Torah portion includes the distressing story of the zealot Pinchas, who is rewarded by God for his zealotry. (You’ll find the episode in Numbers, chapter 25). 

It also includes the uplifting story of the daughters of Zelophehad, who ask to inherit their father’s estate. Moses consults with God and God changes the law so that daughters can inherit (Numbers, ch 27)

Both stories have to do with changing the status quo, changing a current reality for a better one.

Early in the Torah portion there is a tiny change to one of the letters in the word shalom. In Hebrew, the word normally looks like this: שלום.  But in this Torah portion the vav, the letter that looks like a straight line, is broken. 

The presence of brokenness in the word for peace speaks volumes. To me, it represents our world today, where so much is broken, and even peaceful places and moments seem fragile, as if ready to snap at any moment. 

Many of us feel it is our responsibility to repair this brokenness. In Judaism, this nearly impossible task is called tikkun olam, which literally means repairing the world.

The broken vav is a reminder that we can start with the small things, knowing that the task itself is too large, too daunting. One tiny drop of ink can repair the vav. One tiny act of kindness can help another person through troubled times. One small donation can be added to thousands of others to work towards social justice. 

May we be blessed to remember to take the small, healing steps that each person can take towards wholeness. Every day. Because the task is indeed too large, too daunting, and too impossible. But our job is to work together to make possible what once was impossible.