Written by Rabbi Dovid Vinitsky shlit”a in Sefer Darchei Shalom
In Parshas Vezos Habrochah, the Torah tells us that when there is peace between Bnei Yisroel, then the Holy Presence of Hashem will rest on them. The Torah writes, וַיְהִי בִישֻׁרוּן מֶלֶךְ בְּהִתְאַסֵּף רָאשֵׁי עָם יַחַד שִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל “There was a King in Yeshurun at the gathering of the counting, the tribes of Yisroel in unity” (Devorim 33:5).
Rashi explains that when Bnei Yisroel gather together in a single unit and sholom (peace) exists amongst them – then Hashem is their King in the fullest sense. However, this is not true when there is arguing among them (Devorim 33:5 and Rashi). The Sefer Ma’alos Hamiddos further explains that Hashem’s Kingdom and the Shechinah (Holy Presence of Hashem) will be fully established among the people when there is unity.
The Sefer Ma’ alos Hamiddos mentions several examples that show the benefits and rewards of maintaining peace and despising arguments. First, the Midrash (Rabbah Bereishis 38:6) relates that the Rabbis, of blessed memory, praise the greatness of peace. Even if, Heaven forbid, Bnei Yisroel worship idols, as long as there exists sholom between them, Hashem will not punish them right away. (Strict justice, immediate punishment, will not be used against them.) A second benefit is that Bnei Yisroel’s crops will be blessed.
In addition, the Sefer Ma’ alos Hamiddos encourages us to be extremely careful in the middah (character trait) of sholom. We should love peace and pursue it. The rewards have no bounds. Hashem will instill in us ahavah (love), achavah (brotherhood), sholom and reius (companionship) (Sefer Ma’alos Hamiddos: Ma’alas Hasholom, pages 324-425 Eshkol Edition).
From Rashi and Sefer Ma’alos Hamiddos, we learn about some of the great rewards of maintaining unity and sholom. The Shechinah will be fully established among Bnei Yisroel. Strict justice will not be used against us. The crops will be blessed. We will be blessed with ahavah, achavah, sholom and reius. Therefore, we should always realize the importance of maintaining sholom and try our hardest to love peace and pursue it.
How can we further develop sholom between people? We all know that it is not easy to love peace and pursue it! This is especially true during those times when the behavior of certain individuals bothers us. We can easily get upset and may even want to take revenge! What method can we use to help ourselves overcome such upsetting feelings and maintain sholom?
The Sefer Shmiras Haloshon gives us an insight to help us maintain unity and develop peace. His explanation is based on the Talmud Yerushalmi (Nedarim 9:4) that is brought by the S’mag (Mitzvas Asai 9). All Bnei Yisroel are really one unit. All together, we make up one common soul. Therefore, each member of Bnei Yisroel should treat everyone as a part of himself or herself.
Furthermore, the Sefer Shmiras Haloshon explains the thought with a parable. Imagine that a man is walking along a road and one of his feet trips over the other. He falls to the ground and bruises his body, including the foot that caused the fall. The man would not think of taking revenge on his foot and refusing to heal its wounds! In addition, he would not have any hatred or ill will toward that foot. To whom does the foot belong? To whom do the face and body belong? All the parts together make up one unit even though the body is divided into different limbs. Rather than blame his foot, the man might consider that his own sins caused him to fall.
Similarly, if a friend refuses to do a favor or perhaps causes pain or shame to another, one should not seek revenge or bear a grudge against him. In truth, who is his friend? Who is he himself? They both come from the same source ….
Another proof that Bnei Yisroel are one entity is found in the Torah, “All the souls of the house of Yaakov who came to Egypt, seventy” (Bereishis 46:27). The Hebrew word for souls is נְפָשׁוֹת. Yet, in this posuk (verse), the singular form, נֶפֶשׁ is used. This teaches us that in Heaven, the souls of Bnei Yisroel are like one. While each soul is part of one whole entity, each soul is nevertheless distinct and unique. This can be understood in the comparison to a person whose body is a single unit comprised of many individual parts, each with its own distinct and unique function. Some parts are primary, such as the head and heart. Other parts are less important, for instance, the hands and feet. Nevertheless, the different body parts together form one person.
In addition, all the souls of Bnei Yisroel will eventually be gathered into one source, beneath the Heavenly Throne. It is written, “And the soul of my master shall be bound in the bond of life … ” (I Shmuel 25:29).
It is only in this world that one sees himself as a separate person and not related to another Jew. Since he sees that each soul is clothed in its own physical body and is involved in its own personal matters, he makes this mistake. In truth, it is not so. [All of Bnei Yisroel are united. They are one in a very real sense – one large soul. Rather than blaming another Jew for his problems, one might reflect upon his deeds. He should view his sins as the cause of the mishap.] (Sefer Shmiras Haloshon: Shaar Hatevunah, Chapter 6)
The Sefer Shmiras Haloshon is teaching us an important lesson – how not to become upset by someone else’s poor behavior. We should stop and remind ourselves that everyone -all of Bnei Yisroel- is one big soul. “We are all really one!” Everyone only appears to be separate. How can we think of hurting ourselves? By focusing on this point, we may not become or feel insulted. Also, we may realize that our sins caused the offense.
Indeed, by realizing the rewards of sholom and focusing on the fact that “We are all really one,” we will improve our middah of shalom. We will be able to remain in harmony with others.
Let us hope and pray that we will receive the benefits of sholom and that the Shechinah will rest in our midst.
Focus: We are really one –
The rewards of sholom are great!