11 - Situations - Be Of The Students Of Aharon

It is not enough to simply love peace. We must actively pursue it. Some people avoid confrontation but make no real effort to create harmony between themselves and others.

We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create z’chuyos for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.


Last week’s stretch of the week was:  Before reacting, take the time and energy needed to see a possible other explanation for something you see.

Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.

Situations Lesson #11


Be Of The Students Of Aharon

הוי מתלמידיו של אהרן 

Hevay MiTalmidav Shel Aharon 

Perek Aleph, Mishna Yud Bais Part 1

Story(based on a true story)

I like to be right.  It’s a character flaw, I know.  I like to be right, fairly.  I like it when people who are wrong admit they are wrong, or at least that they could be.  I also like to win, especially when I’m capable of it.  It is even difficult for me to strategically lose games to my children, even when I know it’s the right thing to do.  And when my older son got really good at strategy games, I found myself annoyed when he beat me at games I consider myself good at.  

When I went to seminary, I had some roommate difficulty.  I believe that Rivka and I would have been pretty good friends had we not been roommates, but I felt I had a right to certain things like shelf and closet space and quiet, and didn’t see the virtue of compromising something I felt I needed and deserved purely for shalom.  Why did I need to give up so she would be happy?   Sure, I could feel good about myself by giving in on things I didn’t really need, but the word mevater, giving in for peace, was literally not in my vocabulary.  Though I was raised religious, I heard that word for the first time after I got married.  

It was a great time because it’s when I really needed it.   Between my husband and my children, I’ve had plenty of chances to see how giving in can build what’s more important in the long term.  It certainly makes my home a more peaceful, secure and productive place when my kids are willing to give in on favorite chairs at the table or first computer time, so it would stand to logic that the world overall would benefit.  When my four year old came home from camp one summer with a note that the week’s midda to focus on was to be mevater, I helped her with it and then decided to focus on it myself.  It was very, very hard.

At first, I simply set out to do things against my nature.  For example, just because I could practically run out of the elevator to sign in at the pediatricians before the couple with the baby who had shared my ride up, didn’t mean I had to, even if my waiting longer in the office would delay dinner for my hungry kids.  I could let the other family go first and still manage somehow, and everyone would feel more peaceful.  When I started stepping back, it was because I knew it could bring more peace.  After working at it for a while, I could actually feel it.  The reduction of stress around me and in me brought more warmth and clarity, and the ability to make better decisions.

Sometimes it’s fairly easy- it’s obvious that the other person really needs what I give in on, like when we both approach a parking spot on a winter day and she’s got a small baby with her.  Or sometimes I don’t really need what I’m giving up, like when I let go when someone cuts ahead of me at the supermarket because I’m not in a rush.     

But sometimes, it is really hard, and I feel that I am falling behind trying to catch the elusive peace I’m seeking.  Sometimes, I’m rushing to get my kids to school on time and I need to catch the light, so I don’t stop to let that poor woman back out of her driveway like she’s been trying to do for the past five minutes.  Yes, she needs to get her kids to school, but so do I!  Sometimes I just can not let something hurtful my sister says to me go because of all the years of history behind us.  And sometimes I have to get rid of a habit so ingrained it never occurred to me that it might be a problem.

A few months ago, I flew to Florida with my husband.  Usually, when we have the kids, we get to board early and get situated, including claiming precious overhead compartment space.  But it was just the two of us and we were boarding almost last on a full flight, with the possibility of actually having to check our bags looming in from of us.  As I tend to do, I got up as they called the boarding groups before us and started hovering by the entrance.  That way, I could be the first one when they called our group.

I could hear my mother’s voice in my head from when I was a kid-“ Go stand there and save it for us; why should we be last?”  Unconsciously, I blocked that small avenue of entrance with my body, annoyed at each person who bumped me or tried to get in before me.  After all, I’m a paying customer, right?  I have as much right to space on the plane as all the other people.  Why shouldn’t I stake my territory?

My husband came up to me and gently said, “There’s no point in this.  Sit down, we’ll get on when we get on. We’ll get the space where we get space.   Why be all tense about it all?”  I looked around and realized that all of the people around us were watching a frum woman staking a position to be first and refusing to move.  I looked around at the handful of other people trying to do the same thing.  I felt the tension in by body, built up by me need to get what was due to me.  I left my spot and sat down, and felt the tension go.  I was more relaxed and less people would think negatively and carry their impressions of a frum woman home with them.

As I later settled into my seat after putting my bag into a bin five rows behind me, I thought, “Wouldn’t the whole travel experience be different with people working together instead of against each other?  Didn’t I feel so much less taxed when I let the ultimately unimportant things go?  And didn’t I cause way less chillul Hashem that way?

With all of my struggles with giving in for peace, the first jump was the hardest.  Once I could see the pervasive value of shalom, how it is so important that it’s presence makes everything better, I could love it.  And when you truly love something, you can work for it and make it happen.

Pirkay Avos:

"הלל ושמי קבלו מהם.  הלל אומר...הוי מתלמידיו של אהרן אוהב שלום ורודף שלום."

“Hillel v’Shammai ki’b’lu maihem.  Hillel omer, hevay mitalmidav shel Aharon, ohev shalom v’rodef shalom…”

“Hillel and Shammai received it from them.  Hillel said, be of the students of Aharon, love peace and pursue peace…” (Perek Aleph, Mishne Yud Bais).

No one fulfilled Hillel’s teachings as well as Hillel himself, for he was always pleasant and patient, radiating a spirit of reconciliation and peace. 

The P’nei Menachem, recalling Rabbainu Yonah’s interpretation, emphasized the enormous challenge in truly pursuing peace.  While anyone can love peace, in theory, and may even desire to act as a peacemaker, few of us are able to “pursue peace” by actively bringing enemies together as Aharon did.   

It is not enough to simply love peace.  We must actively pursue it.  Some people avoid confrontation but make no real effort to create harmony between themselves and others.  Aharon was not like that.  He worked persistently to implant true peace in the hearts of men.  He saw peace not as a pleasant state attained by the evasion of conflict but as an exalted value in itself.  His love of peace was his sole concern.  He had no interest in gaining recognition and appreciation of his work.

From the creative roles that Aharon played in reconciliations, we learn that one is allowed-at times obliged-to change facts in order to facilitate peace (Yevamos 65b).   Although truth is one of the three pillars upon which the world stands, peace is yet greater than truth.  

The Maharal teaches that the phrase “love peace” urges us to do all we can to avoid dispute; “pursue peace” means that we must attempt to restore peace even after a dispute has already broken out.  Since the latter is more difficult, one must actively pursue it.  In a similar vein, Midrash Shmuel states that we must pursue peace when the other party has no interest in it.  The word pursue also implies a need to rush to retrieve the peace before a dispute grows out of hand, for “dispute is like a canal-any crack will grow progressively wider” (Sanhedrin).  

Our sages teach that “the Holy One, blessed is He, found no vessel to contain blessing for the Jewish people but peace.  As the verse states, ‘HaShem will give His nation strength, HaShem will bless his people with peace’ (Tehillim 29:11)” (Uktzin 3:11).  Without peace, all other blessings fade into nothingness.  Health and wealth are consumed, status erodes, and all of our spiritual progress can disappear in the flames of contention.  But when there is peace, all blessings can rest upon us.  Thus, both the blessings before Shema and the Shemoneh Esray conclude with a request for peace, and the blessing of the Kohanim to the Jewish people also concludes with the fervent wish, “May He give you peace.”

(Reproduced from Rav Lau on Pirkei Avos and from Pirkei Avos with Ideas and Insights of the Sfas Emes and other Chassidic Masters, with permission of the copyright holders, ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications, Ltd.)

Discussion Question Options:

In what ways does shalom make our lives better and easier? 

How does being mevater promote shalom?

How has someone been mevater for you, and how did it affect you?

Stretch of the Week:

Be mevater.  Give in on something that you think will help bring peace.


Stretch Of The Week