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Friday, May 16

The Weekly Shtikle - Bechukosai

In the beginning of the parsha, we are promised that if we follow HaShem's laws, we will receive great reward. Among those promised is the great blessing of peace. "Venasati shalom ba'aretz." (26:6) This peace requires definition. It would seem that the Torah then proceeds to explain the nature of this peace. "Ush'chavtem v'ein macharid..." you shall rest and none shall be fearful. The next pasuk reads "ur'daftem es oyveichem, venaflu lifneichem becharev," You will chase your enemies and they will fall in front of you by the sword. This seems, at first glance, to be the exact antithesis of peace. Is the Torah not promising peace then describing victory through war? I believe the message that the Torah is teaching here is that true peace is not living with your enemies but rather, living without your enemies. Surely, this is not meant to advocate the wholesale murder of our enemies for the sake of peace. But I do believe it offers deep insight into the Torah definition of peace and when we should feel that we have achieved it.


The world at large, particularly those who lean to the left (and I'm not talking about the seder night,) seems unable to accept this idea and insists on forcing us to allow our enemies to live among us. Perhaps this definition of peace is something specific to the Jewish people. Bil'am proclaimed (Bamidbar 23:8) "They are a nation that dwells in solitude and does not consider itself among the nations." Our ultimate goal is to be a nation of solitude. To allow other nations to dwell in our midst is antithetical to our purpose and thus, can not be an ingredient in the Jewish definition of peace.


A couple of excerpts from Tanach illustrate this point. In the episode involving Dinah and Shechem (Bereishis 34) the sons of Yaakov offer a plan in which they would live among the people of Shechem. When Shechem and his father return to their city, they proclaim (pasuk 21) "Ha'anashim haeileh 'sheleimim' heim itanu." This proposal is misconstrued as a bid for peace. But the words of the sons of Yaakov, when examined closely, contain no mention of any word connected with peace. What the Shechemites perceived as peace, the sons of Yaakov considered no peace at all.


The essence of the peace treaty between Yitzchak and Avimelech (Bereishis 26:28-31) was a separation of one from the other such that one does not infringe on the other's property.


The King of Ammon tries to broker an agreement with Yiftach HaGil'adi to return the land that was conquered by B'nei Yisrael before crossing over to Eretz Yisrael. He appeals to Yiftach to return it "in peace." This is precursor to the modern day concept of "land for peace." Fortunately, Yiftach was not as naive as some of the leaders of our day and knew that this would be no peace at all and refused the request.


We are commanded (Devarim 20:10-12) to open with an offer of peace before waging war on a city. However, the ensuing pesukim reveal that this peace entails the subordination of the city to our rule, effectively eliminating it as an enemy. The only alternative is war.


Indeed, the term "shalom" is often associated with only one party. Shalom does not need to be between two entities. On its highest levels, it is experienced within one cohesive unit, exclusive of any external interconnection. Even when we refer to shalom bein ish le'ishto, peace between a man and his wife, or the more commonly used term, shelom bayis, we are speaking ideally not of a peace between two separate entities but the peace of the home functioning as one singular entity. This is the shalom that we are promised here, a peace to be experienced in solitude. May it come speedily in our day.

!חזק, חזק, ונתחזק

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Qualification of the AHOY rule
Al Pi Cheshbon: An Ironic Observation

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