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: When speaking with others, be sure that you only say what truly reflects who you are as opposed to fooling others into thinking someone you're not.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Situations Lesson #18
PIRKAY AVOS--ETHICS OF OUR FATHERS
The World Exists Due To Three Things: Justice, Truth , and Peace
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Al Sh’losha D’varim Ha’Olam Kayam, Al HaDin, Al Ha’Emes V’Al HaShalom
Perek Alef, Mishna Yud Ches
Story: (based on a true story)
It was a crazy time-my husband Shlomo was sitting shiva for his mother and there was so much to do. With the logistics of the shiva taken care of, I began working on notifying our friends and neighbors about the shiva. An announcement was made in our shul, and I began calling those who did not daven there and who I wanted to make sure knew. I began on the block and called house by house, leaving quick messages and accepting condolences and offers of food gratefully. Then I expanded to the next street, and the next.
About an hour in, I stopped short. The Kohns. They lived right next door to the family I had just called, so they should be next. But they would not be, because any relationship we had with them was severed four years ago.
The Kohns became friends of ours shortly after they moved in. Our kids were different ages, but Shlomo met Mr. Kohn in shul one night and invited the family for Shabbos lunch. There was no magic “we are the best of friends”, but we saw each other often and became close enough to send shalach manos and be invited to each others’ simchos.
Five years later, Shlomo and Mr. Kohn had a fight over something that happened in shul. Shlomo is one of the gabbo’im, and Mr. Kohn was upset about something to do with aliyos, or kibuddim, or I don’t know what. He spoke very harshly toward Shlomo, insulting him. Several days later when the incident had passed and the waters calmed a bit, Shlomo approached him and, in the course of a discussion, asked for an apology for the insult. It was not granted. Shlomo felt insulted all over again.
Mr. Kohn began davening in a different shul. I avoided Mrs. Kohn because it was awkward and I was upset. Our children were not the same ages, so we weren’t forced together, and we became more and more apart. They made a bar mitzva and we were not invited, which cemented the coldness between our families.
Four years later, here I was staring at the Kohn’s name in my phonebook. Over the years I had thought about picking up the phone numerous times but it always felt too weird. But this time, I knew I had to do something. My mother-in-law had been all about shalom, expending great effort to make sure family members were at peace with each other. Her shiva was a time for us to follow in her footsteps.
I reached out to a mutual friend and asked him to convey to Mr. Kohn that my husband was sitting shiva and would welcome his visit. He arrived at our home not the next day or the day after that but only hours after he received the call, and was able to truly provide a comfort to Shlomo. Later that night I reached out to Mrs. Kohn and apologized for my role in the conflict. And for the first time in many years, I truly felt internal calm and peace.
My mother-in-law had once again influenced me to put shalom above other factors. Whether we had been right or not did not matter. Years of conflict had taught me that a lack of shalom can kill you from the inside. Truth and justice are important, but a person who lives his life with just truth and justice, without the soothing blanket of peace, cannot stand.
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“Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel omer: Al sh’losha d’varim ha’olam kayam, al hadin, al ha’emes v’al hashalom…”
“Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says: The world exists due to three things: justice, truth , and peace…” (Perek Alef, Mishe Yud Ches).
The third pillar upon which the world depends is peace. Without it, the work of our hands, whether great or small, could not achieve blessing and success. That is why Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel lists peace last, for without it nothing cited earlier is of any worth.
When there is peace among men, then they are spared punishment for the most egregious sins. The Generation of the Dispersed, Dor Haflaga, challeneged HaShem directly, yet He did no more than scatter them across the face of the earth because, He stated, “They are one nation”, they were united.
Peace begins with the individual. “When a person loves peace, pursues peace, greets people with peace, and responds to them with peace, the Holy One, blessed be He, rewards him with the life of this world and of the World to Come as well.” (Derech Eretz Zuta, Perek HaShalom)
Tiferes Yisrael states that the qualities of justice, truth and peace are complementary, creating the foundation for the continued existence of the universe. The blend of these three qualities exists within each individual as well, corresponding to his deeds, speech, and thoughts.
Justice demands that we not deprive others of their rights. We must act to protect others from harm. Justice therefore corresponds to our deeds.
Truth demands that we do not hurt others with falsehood and slander. Truth therefore corresponds to speech.
Peace imbues all relationships with warmth and love. If we see others at odds, we must do what we can to restore harmony between them. We must help others, thus drawing the spirit of peace into their minds and hearts and, ultimately, into the minds and hearts of mankind. Peace thus corresponds to our positive thoughts.
It does not suffice to engage in good deeds and speak truthfully. We must empty our hearts of anger, vengefulness, and other vicious traits. In order that we may live in peace, we must train ourselves to think good of others and judge them favorably. In this way, we will be at peace with ourselves and with our environment.
The first chapter of Pirkei Avos seemingly ends prematurely, not having completed the list of nesi’im who descended from Hillel. But the redactor of Pirkei Avos thought it preferable to conclude the chapter with the word “peace”.
(Reproduced from Rav Lau on Pirkei Avos and from Pirkei Avos with Ideas and Insights of the S’fas Emes and other Chassidic Masters, with permission of the copyright holders, ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications, Ltd.)
Discussion Question Options:
How can lack of shalom affect a person’s life? How can it affect them inside?
How can we figure out when we need to give in for the sake of shalom?
What tools can we use to overcome the need for strict justice?
Stretch of the Week:
Look for an opportunity to choose peace over being right.