Among the issues addressed in this week’s Parsha is the Aaronic blessing which Hashem commanded Moshe to teach to Aaron and his sons that they might bless the children of Israel and put Hashem’s Name upon them.
In Hebrew, the priestly blessing begins with the word “bless” and ends with the word “peace” or Shalom.
This prompted the Sages who composed the Prayer Service after the destruction of the Temple to also end the ‘Amidah’, prayed daily by Jews for centuries, with a petition for peace. As they said, the Torah is also for the purpose of promoting peace, as it is written, “Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace.” Proverbs 3:17
Just as Moshe is remembered as the Law-giver, Aaron his brother is remembered as a man of peace. It was in his very nature to be about the business regularly of making peace between people. Jews today who have this same tendency are sometimes referred to as “sons (or daughters) of Aaron.”
Peace with Hashem, peace with others and very importantly, peace with one’s self — all are extremely important to a life of spirituality and maturity.
We need to make an important distinction here while talking about peace. There is a vast difference between a peace-keeper and a peace-maker. Peace-keepers, such as the UN troops stationed in various places and called “peace-keepers” are military personnel who oversee a troubled region in foreign countries with the express task of preventing the outbreak of armed and bloody conflice. Charged with restricting the outward expression of internally held hostilities, they go to great lengths to keep the situation calm externally but the problems continue to simmer beneath the surface. In relation this to ourselves, we have all known people who will do almost anything to “keep the peace.”
They have a severe distaste for conflict and will work hard at preventing it from occurring.
Peace-makers on the other hand may dislike conflict just as much but they understand that avoiding the causes of conflict or pretending there is no conflict serves no good and lasting purpose and certainly will not promote a healthy community or healthy families and individuals.
Peace-makers are courageous people, even bold at times. They are willing to give voice to the hard questions, to face straightforwardly the most difficult of issues. They are persistent in the face of obstacles and determined in the face of setbacks.
A peacemaker will listen for hours, talk late into the night, beseech, persuade, exhort, correct, encourage and pray until the desired end is achieved: real peace, not just the cessation of conflict.
Peace-making is wisdom; it brings people together in honesty and humility. It does away with pretense and hypocrisy, works through issues that support hostility, makes way for forgiveness and reconciliation, fosters mercy, compassion and restoration.
It is not easy, the way of the peace-maker. It demands enormous patience, extreme unselfishness, deep commitment.
It is the way exemplified by Aaron, the high priest, the brother of Moses. Therefore it was to him and his sons that Hashem gave the privilege of blessing the children of Israel.
The Dalai Lama said once, “Until we make peace with ourselves, we will never be able to make peace in the world.” And there is a Russian proverb that says, “Make peace with men; make war with your sins.”
In Tune with Torah this week: How is your inner peace? Do you routinely criticize yourself, find fault with yourself? Have you been able to accept yourself and cultivate peace within your soul?
If not, this Shabbat is a great time to meditate on this personal need we all have and seek Hashem’s help in resolving this issue.