A Separate Peace
"If you will walk in my statutes, and heed my commandments …" (Leviticus 33:3).
This week the Torah bestows its promise of blessing and peace to those who
follow in the path of Torah. Rashi is bothered by the seeming redundancy of
walking in statutes, and heeding commands. He explains that "walk in my
statutes" refers to arduous Torah study, and "heed my commandments" refers
to keeping the mitzvos.
And then there is peace. Hashem promises that if we adhere to the
directives, "I will bring peace to the land" (ibid v. 6) In the same verse,
the Torah also tells us that "a sword will not pass through your land." If
there is peace, then obviously a sword will not pass through. What is the
meaning of the redundancy? Once again, Rashi explains that the "sword
passing through" is referring to a sword that is not directed against our
people; rather it is a sword that is passing through on the way to another
country. Thus the two types of peace.
But maybe there is a different type of peace; one that does not refer to
guns and ammunition, but rather to a peace that is on another level.
Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein of B’nei Berak tells the story of Rav Eliezer
Shach, the Ponovezer Rosh Yeshiva, of blessed memory.
Rav Shach once entered a shul and sat down in a seat towards the back, and,
while waiting for the minyan to begin, Rav Shach began to study Torah.
Suddenly a man approached him, hands on his hips, and began shouting at him.
“Don’t you know that you are sitting in my seat?” the irate man yelled.
"Who are you to come here and just sit down, without asking anyone
Rav Shach quickly stood up and embraced the man. He hugged him lovingly as
he begged the man for forgiveness. He agreed to the irate man’s every
“I am so sorry for taking your seat even if it was for a few moments,” he
pleaded. Please forgive me. I must have absent-mindedly sat down there.
Please forgive me.
The man was taken aback at the Rosh Yeshiva’s humility, and immediately
apologized for his rude behavior.
“After the davening, students of Rav Shach approached him and asked why he
so readily accepted blame and begged forgiveness for what surely was not a
misdeed. After all, why should he not be able to sit down in the seat.
Rav Shach explained, “If Torah is all that one aspires to have, then
everything else in this world, all the items one would normally squabble
about has no significance. When one is immersed in Torah, a seat is
meaningless, a place is meaningless. Surely a material object is not worth
getting upset over, surely no less tare they worth fighting over. Why
shouldn't I apologize?"
The Torah tells us a secret to peace in our community. If we toil in Torah,
there will be peace in the land. The Torah is telling us that if we
immerse ourselves in Torah then all the temporal objects that are the
fulcrum of most fights are meaningless.
We think of peace as a concept that occurs between nations. However, we
often forget that what we need is peace within our own community. A
Dedicated in memory of Rabbi Dr. Menashe Refael (Manfred) Lehmann
of blessed memory.
Copyright © 2002 by Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.
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The author is the Associate Dean of the
Yeshiva of South Shore.
Drasha is the e-mail edition of FaxHomily, a weekly torah facsimile on the weekly portion which is sponsored by The Henry and Myrtle Hirsch Foundation