This week’s Middat HaShavuah is taken from our Torah portion, Parshat Vayishlach. The Middah is:
Key Verse: וָאֶשְׁלְחָה לְהַגִּיד לַאדֹנִי, לִמְצֹא-חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ.
Middah: Resolve Conflicts
In this week’s Parsha, Ya’akov is returning to the land of Canaan after being away for 20 years after he tricked his brother Eisav into giving up his blessing. Upon his return, he hears that Eisav is approaching with a large army. Ya’akov sends out messengers with gifts to try to calm his brother down, and to resolve the conflict that has existed between the brothers for so many years.
One of my favourite quotes from Pirkei Avot is the following:
הִלֵּל אוֹמֵר, הֱוֵי מִתַּלְמִידָיו שֶׁל אַהֲרֹן, אוֹהֵב שָׁלוֹם וְרוֹדֵף שָׁלוֹם, אוֹהֵב אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת וּמְקָרְבָן לַתּוֹרָה
Hillel used to say: be like the students of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving humankind and drawing them close to the Torah.
(Pirkei Avot 1:12)
It is explained in Avot DeRabbi Natan (a commentary on Pirkei Avot) how Aharon, the brother of Moshe, loved peace and pursued peace. If he saw two people arguing, he would go to each one individually without the knowledge of the other and say to him, “Look how your friend is regretting that he sinned against you; and he told me that I should come to you so that you will forgive him.” And as a result of this, when they bumped into each other, they would make up.
Oh if it were so simple! We know that resolving conflicts is difficult. It takes time and effort, open mindedness and forgiveness. Despite being difficult, learning to become a “Rodef Shalom”, a pursuer of peace, is one of the most important things that we can do today. We must begin small, by resolving one conflict at a time, first at home, then at school, and then in the community at large. At The Toronto Heschel School, we teach our students to be like students of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace. If we do our job right, our world will certainly be a better place for all!
Shabbat Shalom U’Mevorach!
“The more deeply immersed I became in the thinking of the prophets, the more powerfully it become clear to me what the lives of the prophets sought to convey: that morally speaking there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings.”
Heschel was a Zionist, in the deepest sense of the word: recognizing the uniqueness of Israel for the flourishing and expression of the Jewish people, and for the formation of our moral compass.
This Shabbat, may we all consider what Israel means for each of us and for Klal Israel. May raise again in our conscious how “God is in that place,” even if we can’t always know it.