25 Adar 5781 / Tuesday, March 09, 2021 | Torah Reading: Vayakhel - Pekudei
 
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Vayechi: Torah of Peace    

Vayechi: Torah of Peace



The proper learning of Torah brings a person to three levels of peace: Peace between him and his fellow man, between him and Hashem, and between him and himself…

 



Parshat Vayechi
 
Yisachar is like a strong donkey which is crouching down between the borders. (Bereishit 49:14)
 
Yisachar bears the heavy burden of Torah-study like a donkey that is driven day and night and must rest on the road while traveling between cities. (Rashi ibid.)
 
Rashi, based on the Midrash, reveals to us the role that Yakov foresaw for his son, Yisachar. Yisachar was to be the tribe that would dedicate itself to Torah-study more than any other. His children would put aside all earthly pursuits, and concentrate on gaining a better understanding of the Torah and its laws. Rashi finds in the above-quoted verse a necessary prerequisite for the attainment Torah scholarship. In order to acquire a full understanding of the Torah, the dedicated scholar must be prepared to study the Torah day and night, without respite.

Other commentaries find other attributes of the Torah scholar in this verse.  According to a Midrash (cited by the Tzror ha'Mor), the words at the end of the verse ("Bein ha'Mishpetayim"; lit. "between the borders") allude to the fact that those who study Torah place peace upon the world (based on the word, "Tishpot," Yeshayah 26:12, meaning "placing peace"). Indeed, the Gemara (Berachot 64a) tells us, "Scholars of the Torah cause there to be much peace in the world." It should be noted that the literal meaning of the verse, "crouching down between the borders," also has a connotation of peace-making. A border is where two countries, cities or fields meet. The talent of Yisachar, who "crouches on the borders," is that he is able to unite individuals from different sides of the border.
 
It is no wonder that those who study Torah bring peace to the world. As the Gemara (Gitin 59b) tells us, "All the Mitzvot of the Torah teach us to act in a peaceful manner, as the verse says, '[The Torah's] ways are sweet and all of its courses are peaceful (Mishlei 3:17).'" The Gemara tells us further (Sanhedrin 99b) that "one who studies the Torah without ulterior motives, causes peace to reign among the heavenly family (= the angels, whose "agitation" causes unrest among the various nations) and the family of earth (= the Jewish People -- see Berachos top of 17a). In fact, the words "Bein ha'Mishpetayim" in our verse really mean that Yisachar rests"between two types of peace" (according  to the Midrashic interpretation), probably hinting to the two types of peace mentioned in the Gemara in Sanhedrin; peace in heaven and peace on earth.
 
Altogether, there are actually three sorts of peace. The Gemara in Berachot (56b) explains that there are three symbols of peace: the river, the bird, and the kettle. Why are these three objects symbols of peace? Because they represent three different types of peaceful relationships:

1. A river is the classic vehicle of commerce between two cities. It symbolizes peaceful interaction between man and his fellow man.

2.
A bird, through flight, blunts the demarcation between heaven and earth. It symbolizes peace between man and his Creator.

3. A kettle combines water (inside the pot) and fire (outside of it). It makes possible a productive peace between these two conflicting forces. It represents an inner peace, in which a person resolves within himself the natural tendencies which drive his character, allowing each to rule at the proper time, avoiding their conflict and the resultant inner unrest. Torah brings about all three types of peace. Yisachar, at peace with himself, rests "between" the peace that he brings to his fellow man (peace on earth) and the peace that he brings between man and his Creator (peace in heaven).
 
How does learning the laws of the Torah manage to accomplish for Yisachar all of this?
 
INNER PEACE
 
Torah study refines a person, teaching him how to control his natural tendencies and express them constructively. "Why was the Torah given to the Jewish People? Because they are brazen (and the study of the Torah will ingrain in them humility -Rashi)!" (Beitzah 25b).Brazenness is a positive, even necessary, trait, when used properly. The Jews are "a stiff-necked people" (Shemot 32:9). They are the most brazen of nations (Beitzah ibid.). Because of this trait, once the Jew accepts a mission upon himself, or resolves to act in a certain manner, nothing will move him from his decision (Vilna Gaon, Mishlei 10:20). The tremendous power of this trait is obvious.
 
It was their "stiff-neckedness" that gave the Jewish People, throughout the generations, the strength to give up their lives for their religion. But the dangers of this trait are just as clear. If used in the wrong way, it can bring about terrible calamity. The Torah develops a person's character by teaching him how to channel each of his natural traits into a constructive mode of behavior. The Gemara says, "The source of all woes is blood; the source of all remedies is wine. It is only in a place where there is no wine, that medicine is sought." Blood, explains the Vilna Gaon (Kol Eliyahu #230), represents desire, or lust (Vayikra 17:11). Wine, represents Torah (Mishlei 9:5). The source of all improper traits (= woes) is lust. But as long as a person studies the Torah, he will not have to worry about losing control of his desires and seeking spiritual "medicine." The Torah will lead him in the proper path.

PEACE BETWEEN MAN AND HIS FELLOW
 
The Mishnah tells us (Pe'ah 1:1) that one "reaps the fruit" of certain good deeds in this world, while the main reward for those deeds will be received in the World to Come: honoring one's parents, performing acts of kindness to a fellow man, and making peace between man and his friend. The Mishnah concludes that the study of Torah is as great as all of these acts, combined.Rambam explains the Mishnah as follows. Whenever a person performs a Mitzvah that helps another person, his reward is double. Not only will he receive reward for the Mitzvah in the World to Come, but he will cause others to follow his example, bringing a general atmosphere of peace to the world. These are the "fruits" of his labors that he reaps in this world. The study of the Torah, though, is more important than any of these Mitzvot, for it is through the study of the Torah that a person will learn the proper way to act in the first place. It is the source of all worthy interpersonal relations.
 
Equally effective in bringing about interpersonal peace is the application of the Torah's rulings in court. "The world stands on three principles: on justice, on truth, and on peace." (Avot 1:18). "And all three of these are actually one, for if justice if administered, the truth has been brought out and peace will result." (Yerushalmi Ta'anit 4:2).
 
BETWEEN MAN AND HIS CREATOR
 
Hashem beseeches of us, "I have given over to you good teachings; do not forsake my Torah!" (Mishlei 4:2). Through the study of the Torah, a person creates a tight bond with his Creator. He merits atonement for his sins, as well as for the world at large.The Midrash discusses the prohibition of cutting stones for the Mizbe'ach (Holy Altar) with iron tools.
 
"Why did the Torah disqualify iron for use on the Mizbe'ach, rather than any other metal? Because the sword is made from iron, and therefore iron is a symbol of punishment. The Mizbe'ach, on the other hand, is a symbol of atonement. We keep the symbol of punishment away from the symbol of atonement...
 
How much more so is it evident that those who learn the Torah andbring atonement to the world will not be touched by any damaging forces; ... how much more so is it evident that those who study the Torah and bring peace to the world will remain "complete" and untouched before Hashem.(Tosefta Bava Kama 7:2, see also Chagigah 27a)
 
Torah brings us peace, and it is best studied when there is peace between us. As the Midrash puts it: “When the Jewish People (left Egyptian bondage and) came to Mt. Sinai, they all joined into a single group.... in perfect harmony. Hashem said, "The Torah is all about peace, to whom should I give it? To the nation which loves peace!"
 
May Hashem give His people strength, and bless His people with
peace! (Tehillim 29:11)

 
 
* * *
Rabbi Mordechai Kornfeld of Har Nof, Jerusalem is an acclaimed Torah scholar who initiated the Daf Yomi Advancement Forum





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