Live in Peace
Everyone dreams of living in a peaceful world. But what many people don't realize is that peace begins at home. When we make an effort to relate harmoniously with the people around us -- our family, friends and neighbors -- we are making a real and practical contribution to world peace. This week's Torah portion tells us of Aaron, the Jewish High Priest. He was famous for being a man of peace. He spoke kindly and lovingly to everyone, and went out of his way to help patch up any disagreements amongst people he would meet. If each of us follow his example, the world will become a more peaceful place.
In our story a girl works hard to bring more peace into the world.
To anyone walking into the schoolyard for the first time, everything would look completely normal. Kids running, jumping, skipping rope, sitting in quiet conversation on the benches. But anybody who had spent a little time at the Pleasantview Day School would immediately realize that something was very wrong.
Kathy and Sue were not only two of the most popular girls in the whole school, they were best friends as well. Every head in the schoolyard would turn when the two of them would make their daily appearance at 'their' bench under the big oak tree, waiting for the inevitable crowd to gather around. It was like clockwork. That's why today, when Kathy sat alone on one side of the playground and Sue sat by herself at the other end far away -- it seemed so strange.
Soon the word got out. The two girls had gotten into a fight the evening before, when they both showed up at a party in the exact same outfit, and accused each other of stealing the idea. Now they weren't talking to each other. Talk about dumb!
After the initial shock wore off, most of the kids went back to doing their own thing. But Janet Bronfman took the scene to heart. It really hurt her to see two such long-time friends not talking to each other.
"I'm sure they both feel terrible," thought Janet. "I wish there was something I could do to help them patch things up..."
Suddenly, like a lightening-bolt, the girl got an idea. Trying to look composed, she walked over to the bench where Kathy was sitting, sat down next to her and made some small talk. After a couple of kids who had been hanging around there moved on, Janet began to speak more seriously. "Kathy, I hope you forgive me for not minding my own business, but I happen to know that Sue feels very bad about what happened, and really wishes that you two were friends again."
At first Kathy tried to brush the issue off, but Janet persisted in her pleasant and heartfelt words. Soon the girl admitted to her that she would also prefer that they were friends again.
That was all Janet needed to hear. Two minutes later she was on her way to the other side of the schoolyard, this time to tell Sue how much Kathy wanted to make up. After a short while, through her sincere efforts, Janet had gotten both girls to agree to meet together at their old bench during the next break.
Sure enough it was a tearful, yet joyous reunion and by the next day the two friends were back together, good as new. Everyone figured that it had just blown over by itself. Little did they know of the courageous 'peace-maker' who had gone out of her way to bring a little more harmony into the world.
Q. How do you think Kathy and Sue felt when they weren't on speaking terms with each other?
A. They both felt very unhappy. It's never pleasant to be fighting with someone else.
Q. How did they feel once they made up?
A. Much better now that they were at peace. They were also grateful to Janet for bringing them back together.
Q. Is being at peace the same thing as not being at war?
A. Although not being at war is one of the requirements for peace, its not enough. It could mean that one or both parties would prefer to be fighting, just that something is holding them back. Such a 'peace' is very unlikely to last. True peace requires a genuine desire on everyone's part to truly respect, and be in harmony with each other.
Q. The Torah teaches us to 'pursue peace.' What, if anything, is the difference between being peaceful and pursuing peace?
A. Pursuing peace means being willing to go out of the way to get along with others, even if they don't reciprocate right away. Another way of pursuing peace is to actively look for ways to help others to get along with each other.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What does it mean to have 'inner peace'? How does a person's sense of inner peace reflect on his relationships with those around him?
A. Inner peace is a sense of well being that comes with knowing and accepting oneself and having a clear set of values and goals. Feeling a connection to God and a trust that He is guiding us is a great enhancer of inner peace. When a person is at peace with himself, it is almost a guarantee that he will relate peacefully with those around him. Without inner peace it is extremely difficult to be in harmony with others.
Q. Our sages teach that when two people are at peace with each other they can live comfortably together on the edge of a knife, but when they are not -- the whole world isn't big enough for the both of them. How do you understand this?
A. Often a person's needs for space is less dependent on his physical requirements than on his attitude. Two people at peace will enjoy each other's company and go out of their way to accommodate each other. In such a harmonious climate the smallest space- a 'knife's edge' will be plenty of room. Conversely two people at odds will always feel imposed upon by each other, and the whole world won't be big enough. It is well worth the effort to maintain harmony within our environment. It makes life more pleasant and 'spacious' for everyone.