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Divisiveness Within Our World – Part II

Based on a shiur by Reb. Tziporah Heller

Peace means wholeness. Wholeness gives things presence or reality. Fragmentation is what makes things unreal. People who pursue peace are joyous because they see the beauty of the whole picture. The pasuk says, “Oz v’chedva b’mkomo. There is strength and delight in His (Hashem's) place.” When one sees the totality of Hashem’s creation, joy emerges. The joy that comes from seeing all of Klal Yisrael as one doesn’t mean ignoring what is lacking. It’s seeing the flaws as part of our universal journey in a forgiving, honest, and unflinching way.

The opposite of joy is aveilut (mourning). We think that grieving is about expressing our feelings of sorrow. There’s a place for that. But it’s also acknowledging the enormity of what was lost. And this is why the word sheleimut, wholeness, is the root of the word shalom. Shalom is what makes you see whatever the reality is as being whole as it is without lacking anything. So after the initial grief is over, the day comes when you can celebrate the joy of the person’s life, how much you gained from knowing him, how much delight his presence gave you. In that sense, the person’s soul lives on within you.

Deceit is the opposite of peace. It’s refusing to accept reality on its own terms. We sometimes soften things in order to make peace when it really shouldn’t be that way. For example, if you saw someone shoplifting and you tried to rationalize by thinking, this person comes from a deprived situation, he has low esteem, and owning this object will give him status and maybe help him change. But a person of shalom would think differently. He would say, “This person is lacking honesty but perhaps I can help him become upright and see the truth.” Looking at a situation dishonestly and calling it ok is not making peace. It’s being patronizing. There’s no insult worse than telling someone, “From you I wouldn’t expect anything better.”

There’s another kind of deceit where people lie because they enjoy enlivening the machloket and making it more interesting. They will dig at conflicts, deepen disputes, find ways to polarize people, and empower them with all sorts of proclamations. This destroys the existence of the world. It’s like a serious illness where one limb or organ rises up against the rest of the body. Machloket l’shem shamayim is when both parties want sheleimut, desire to see the good in each other, and come to a place of agreement. But a baal machloket who is fomenting conflict not for the sake of heaven wants the differences to remain. He doesn’t want Hashem to fill the empty places. He wants to destroy the people who are not like him.

The Maharal talks about pursuing, not achieving, peace. In our world as it is, we’re still in process. There won’t be peace until Mashiach comes. The verse says, “Ba’yom hahu yiyhe Hashem echad ushemo echad.” On the day that Mashiach comes, Hashem’s oneness will be revealed to the point that His name will be one with His essence. But until then we are still on the journey. So our question shouldn’t be, “Will we be at peace?” Rather, “Will we pursue peace within ourselves, our relationships, and the world?

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