We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create
z’chuyos for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.
PRACTICAL TOOLS FOR BRINGING
SHALOM INTO OUR WORLD
Introduction to Vatranus
The midda (character trait) Vatranus promotes shalom in the world. Vatranus means to be m'vater, to overlook, give in, or let go of hurt feelings. Why should we let go of hurt feelings in our relationships with others? In Parshas Kedoshim, HaShem implores us to be a holy people: "K'doshim t'hiyu." Then the Parsha follows with many mitzvos bain adam l'chavayro (between man and his fellow man). For example, HaShem instructs us to: (1) not cause pain to a fellow Jew with our words, (2) not to embarrass another, and (3) not to speak negatively about one another. If someone speaks negatively against us or embarrasses us, we are instructed not to hate our fellow Jew in our heart. Being a holy people then includes in part:
• Not taking revenge or holding a grudge.
• Giving the benefit of the doubt.
• Loving your fellow Jew.
Having shalom in our relationships is a priority to HaShem.
Let’s look to the Torah for one of many examples of how much HaShem loves shalom amongst us. Which was worse, the generation of the Flood where the sin of the people was principally cha'mus (theft), or the generation of the Dispersion, dor HaFlaga, in which the people rebelled against HaShem Himself? The generation of the flood, a generation of people that mistreated each other, was completely wiped out, with the exception of Noach and his family. This shows us how important peaceful interpersonal relationships are to HaShem.
As a second example, we know the first Bais HaMikdosh was destroyed because of the three cardinal sins of idol worship, murder, and adultery. The Temple was not rebuilt for 70 years. The second Bais HaMikdosh was destroyed because of Sinas Chinum (hatred between Jews). After so many years, we are still waiting for it to be rebuilt. Once again, we see how important shalom is among us.
Rabbi Shmuel Eisenblatt, in the sefer Chaim Shel Shalom, states that the middos of shalom and ahavas Yisrael are foundations of the Torah. There are many Chazal that he cites to reiterate this point:
•(מדר״ר יב ד) לא ברא הקב"ה את העולם אלא על מנת שיהא שלום בין הבריות. HaShem created the world with the intention that there should be peace among His creations.
• Medrash Tanchuma(ג:וצ) statesthat HaShem wanted to give the Torah to B'nai Yisrael as soon as they left Mitzrayim, but they were divided among themselves. HaShem said: “Who shall I give the Torah to? Only to a nation that loves peace!”
• Dovid Hamelech in T'hillim 34 calls out to all generations: “Go my sons, listen to me, I will teach you fear of G-d." Then he goes on to tell us to guard our tongues and to seek peace and pursue it. Rabbainu Yona comments, “We see from here that whoever does not work at peace is lacking in Yir'as Shamayim (fear of Heaven).”
Rabbi Eisenblatt elaborates that HaShem is asking us to seek peace and to love one another. Eliyahu HaNavi informs us(ח”כפס ר”אדת): “So says Hakadosh Baruch Hu to Yisrael: 'My beloved children, am I lacking anything that I need to make a request of you? But what do I ask of you? Only that you love one another and respect one another.' Peace is equivalent to everything. If there is no peace, there is nothing." (ספרא בחקתי סוף פ"א) HaShem wants us to take care of his children. Imagine, we can do something for HaShem!
The larger truth is that making peace is for OUR sake!"לא מצא הקב"ה כלי מחזיק ברכה אלא השלום." There is no vessel that can contain HaShem’s blessings except for shalom. In Sefer Ohr Yechezkel, in the name of the Vilna Ga'on, explains: "When a person makes himself a vessel of peace, only then can he contain the blessings HaShem sends down." Without peace, all the b'rachos sent our way are lost. In the next few months, we will learn how to make ourselves a receptacle for HaShem’s blessings.
The following story illustrates how far we can develop our responses to upsetting interactions when practicing the tools we will learn. Starting next week, we will explain each tool mentioned in greater depth. For now, let's allow ourselves to see how Sarah was able to change her reaction using the tools we will learn. These tools can be used to achieve peace with others as well as true peace of mind. For today, identify the value of what she accomplished knowing that using these tools will enable us, with HaShem's help, to make ourselves more of a vessel for HaShem's blessings—by bringing peace to our relationships.
Story: (based on a true story)
Sara had been in a carpool for the past two years with a group of women a few blocks away. As the new school year approached, Sara had assumed the carpool would continue as before. During the summer, she kept telling herself she really should phone and confirm with the other parents the carpool plans for the coming year. Was Sara in for a shock. A week before the new school year was to begin, when Sara was ready to firm up her plans, she discovered the other parents had already made other arrangements. A younger brother of one of the boys joined, as did a new neighbor who moved nearby, making it very convenient for these parents to join together, excluding Sara. Each one hoped the other would tell Sara of their new plans. Sara was so hurt and angry when she found out her children had been left out of the carpool. How could these other mothers do this to her? And how could she let herself get into this situation by not communicating sooner with the mothers she had previously depended on? Sara found a teacher to drive her boys two mornings a week, leaving her to drive them the other three mornings and every afternoon. With her large family, plus the carpools she drove for her girls, this additional driving made her angry and resentful. Sara had attended a series of classes over months practicing tools for letting go of hurt and anger. Knowing the tools to use wasn't enough. Sara needed help from her friend Chaya to apply the tools learned to her situation.
Reminding her of the tools she had learned, Chaya suggested looking at the situation in a different way. First (if you can) bring HaShem into the picture. Recognize that everything that happens is from HaShem and is meant only for your good—whether you see it in the moment or not. Then ask: What does HaShem want of you right now? Does HaShem want you to be angry and resentful of the other mothers? No, HaShem’s priority is peace. It would bring such nachas ruach (pleasure) to HaShem if you would make peace with the other mothers and the situation. How? By recognizing that everything that happens is from HaShem. You could look at this situation as an opportunity to exercise your emuna and bitachon (faith and trust in HaShem).
Once this perspective gives you some relief, then next you could see the situation as an opportunity to fulfill the mitzva of dan l’chaf z'chus (judging others favorably). The other mothers didn’t do this because they are cruel or heartless people. The new carpool arrangement was so much more convenient for them. They certainly hadn’t meant to leave you in the dark. It was just so hard to make that phone call to you; they didn’t want to hurt you.
Yet another tool that might be helpful in this situation is knowing that HaShem rules His world with the attribute of midda k’neged midda (measure for measure). That means if I drop my complaints against others, HaShem will drop His complaints against me and forgive me for my sins. Sometimes situations are sent because HaShem wants to shower me with His blessings. First HaShem brings a test to see to what extent I am deserving of those blessings. If I am forgiving, I pass the test and merit blessings from Above. Who can say that they don’t need HaShem’s blessings?
Even beyond seeing this as a test, you could choose to see this as an opportunity to do chessed for HaShem’s children. True, they’re your own children and you don’t really have a choice in the carpool situation. When your intentions are that you are doing chessed for HaShem’s children, then you get full credit for that kindness, even when the chessed is for your own children. We learned that according to the effort, so is the reward. This is not easy for you, so the reward is that much greater.
Chaya next saw Sara several months later. She seemed so much happier, so Chaya asked her if she had found others to join her carpool. She had not. She was still driving her boys almost daily. Sara found that in applying the learned tools for vatranus, as mentioned above, the noticeable change was that now each drive was done with joy recognizing she was doing chessed with each carpool. In addition, she was now able to see it as an opportunity to earn HaShem’s b'rachos. Recognizing that this was all HaShem’s doing, and meant only for her good, she was able to leave behind any bad feelings towards the other carpool drivers. She felt as if a big weight had been lifted off of her shoulders. One of her daughters had been having a difficult start to the new school year, so she davened to HaShem that in the z'chus of her vatranus, He should please help her daughter have a successful year. Sara expressed gratitude to HaShem that her daughter's school year was improving. Before using the tools, Sara said she looked at all those extra drives as a huge box that someone had placed in the middle of her 'room'. Every time she needed to pass through, she would stub her toe and feel like yelling: “Why do I have to have this constantly in my way?” Now, with insights and the new attitude brought by practicing the tools, it is as if in opening the box she now can see treasures inside. Sara is no longer upset. She is grateful to HaShem for bringing this challenge to her so she could pass the test and earn HaShem's blessings.
Discussion Question Options:
Think of a relationship/situation that causes you hurt even now. Think about what happened that has you hurt and upset.
Bring HaShem into the picture and think about what HaShem wants of you related to this upsetting relationship/situation, remembering how much HaShem values peace among us.
The Maharal of Prague taught that the word shalom (peace) comes from the word sh'laimus, meaning perfection. A person can't achieve sh'laimus without shalom. Think of every interaction as a test, and every test as an opportunity to refine our middos (character traits). Every positive interaction is going a step higher up the ladder towards sh'laimus and reaching our goal. Every negative interaction further ingrains our bad middos and is a step down, away from our goal. Will keeping this in mind help to use any interaction to raise us up?
Stretch of the Week:
Notice during the week if any situation comes up that brings you hurt or anger, one in which you would need tools to respond in a Torah way. Remember Sara was able to accomplish her change in attitude using tools she practiced over time, tools that exist and that you haven't learned yet.