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The Peace Process

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The great sage Hillel tells us, "Be a student of Aaron: love peace and pursue peace" (Talmud - Avot 1:11).

When you love someone or something, the object of your love is a high priority for you. In the Torah we read how Jacob was willing to work seven full years in order to marry Rachel whom he loved. The Torah tells us that these seven years were considered as just a few days in his eyes. Imagine loving peace to the same extent.

When you've integrated a love of peace, you will be willing to put in much energy and effort to attain it. You might have to make sacrifices, which come in many forms. When love is a motivating factor, you're more likely to make the necessary sacrifices.

"Pursue peace." You might have to take the initiative to approach people to make peace. Peace is likely to run away, as it were. How far are you willing to go for the sake of peace? The degree is likely to be commensurate with your love of peace.

There are always multiple perspectives to any situation. There are many ways to view what people say and do. A perspective of "judging favorably" is conducive to peace. And a love of peace frame will motivate you to prevent and resolve quarrels even in challenging situations.

How do you build up a love of peace? The same way you build up positive feelings toward another person: you focus on virtues. The more virtues you see in someone, the more positively you will feel toward him. Reflect on the benefits and virtues of peace. A question to keep in mind is: "If I had an intense love of peace, what would I be willing to say and do?"

"I've always felt that peace was important, and I was careful not to say negative things to others. But if someone hurt my feelings, I would keep a distance from that person and would avoid doing any favors for him," someone shared with me when I told him that I was writing a book about peace.

"If you would sincerely love and pursue peace, in what ways would you act differently than you are now?" I asked him.

"I have to think about it," he replied.

"Great! Thinking about ideas is exactly what we need to internalize the essence of the ideas."

A week later he told me that he realized that he liked peace, but didn't really love it. He was motivated now to upgrade his like to love, and he had taken some constructive action in that direction.

Peace has many levels and many definitions. What would be considered peace in certain situations might be considered lack of peace in other situations. And what would be considered lack of peace for certain people, might be considered peace for others.

On one level, peace is when two people or two sides interact together with a total sense of harmony and unity. At the opposite side, peace might be when two people or parties who were actively engaged in hostile and aggressive interactions now treat each other civilly and politely. They wouldn't want to spend an excessive amount of time together, but they are "at peace" in light of their previous relationship.

There could be situations when one person would say, "We now have peace," but the other would say, "We are far from real peace." If both are open to understanding the other's thoughts on the matter, they might be able to improve the situation.

People who get into bitter quarrels and feuds might attain a level of peace by minimizing their time together, and by avoiding the types of discussions that are just a source of distress.

On the other hand, there are people who could improve their relationship by discussing their disagreements. At first the intense emotions on both sides might seem like an all-out verbal battle. But by expressing themselves and listening to what the other has to say, they will be able to settle their dispute. For them, their heated discussion is a step forward toward peace.

Someone who viewed peace as people interacting harmoniously and smoothly spent a week with a family that argued a lot. To this person's surprise, one of the family members happened to mention that their family gets along remarkably well. He was about to argue and say, "You argue way too much." He caught himself and realized that although he felt there was too much stress in this family, they were so used to expressing themselves emphatically that they didn't consider their arguments to be quarrels. What would have been distressful to him was considered totally acceptable to them.

Excerpted with permission from "HARMONY WITH OTHERS" - formulas, stories and insights Published by ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications Ltd., Brooklyn, NY

Presented in cooperation with Heritage House, Jerusalem. Visit



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