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by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
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Beshalach II

Give In For The Sake Of Peace

He did not take away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people. (SHEMOS 13:22)

When the Chofetz Chaim was in Warsaw, he invited to meet with him all the Jewish drivers who drove publicly on Shabbos to bring merchandise from warehouses to retailers. When they were all assembled he told them the following parable.

"It's a well-known fact that when there is a war and many people are killed and wounded on the battlefield, the shooting is stopped periodically in order to evacuate the wounded to hospitals and to bury the dead, lest they become prey to vultures and other wild animals.

"Each person lying on the battlefield is quickly examined. If his feet, hands, or even his eyes are wounded and it seems possible that he will recover, he is taken away in a wagon to a hospital. Some may have to undergo an operation, and even have their limbs amputated, so that their lives can be saved. But if someone is wounded in the head, his brains shattered and blood gushing from his wound, he is thrown with the corpses for burial, since there is no chance that he will recover, as a head cannot be amputated.

"The same thing applies to Shabbos. In our Torah there are many laws a person can transgress. Someone can transgress a positive commandment or a negative commandment. This is quite a severe matter, but the soul is not dependent on most of these laws. But when someone publicly violates the laws of Shabbos, this is similar to idol worship, and it is like being severely wounded in the head. He must be thrown with all the corpses into the grave!

"I therefore advise you to stop transporting merchandise before sunset on Fridays. Then you will be blessed with the blessing of Shabbos, as it is written, 'And G-d blessed the seventh day."' (CHOFETZ CHAIM AL HATORAH, p. 133)

The Jewish drivers were told to realize that they should restrain themselves because of the importance of Shabbos, despite their desire for financial gain. Similarly, in marriage there is always a need to restrain yourself and to give in to your spouse because of the importance of peace.

"He did not take away the pillar of cloud..." 2 The verse is telling us that while the pillar of cloud was still visible, the pillar of fire was already present. Another explanation is that the verse is teaching us what we should do on erev Shabbos, while the pillar of cloud is still visible [while it is still day]: The pillar of fire should already be present [one should light the Shabbos candles]. Rabbi Huna said, "Someone who is careful with lighting candles will have sons who are talmidei chachamim. Someone who is careful with mezuzos will have a beautiful apartment. Someone who is careful with tzitzis will have a beautiful garment. Someone who is careful with kiddush will have full barrels of wine. Someone who loves talmidei chachamim will have sons who will be talmidei chachamim. Someone who honors talmidei chachamim will have sons-in-law who are talmidei chachamim. Someone who is in awe of talmidei chachamim will himself become a talmid chacham. YALKUT 230, SHABBOS 23b)

Why did the pillar of fire, which was only supposed to appear at night, begin to appear while the daytime pillar of cloud was still visible? What does this teach us about lighting the Shabbos candles? Why will someone who is careful with lighting Shabbos candles have sons who are talmidei chachamim? Why will someone who is careful with kiddush have a lot of wine? Why are the rewards different for those who fear, love, and honor a talmid chacham?

The pillar of fire, which was supposed to appear only at night, was visible while the daytime pillar of cloud was still present, since the purpose of the pillars of cloud and fire were to lead the Jewish people on their way through the desert. They appeared together because G-d wanted to show that not a single moment of the day passed without Divine supervision. The Jewish people were constantly protected against all the dangers that surrounded them in the unfriendly desert. To symbolize that constant protection, the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire appeared simultaneously for part of the day.

The lighting of the Shabbos candles also symbolizes peace and protection, because our Sages tell us, the candles represent the pillar of fire in the desert. Just as the pillar of fire was a fire of protection, so too the glow of the candles tells us that on the Shabbos day we are under G-d's canopy and He will not let any harm befall us. It is for this reason our Sages say that on Shabbos one should consider it as if all one's work is done 3. Even though that may not literally be the case, and you still have plenty to do, in your mind you should believe G-d takes care of your unfinished work for you during the Shabbos.

Another indication that Shabbos is a day of protection is the fact that we do not say in the Shabbos evening service the same prayer we say in the weekday evening services. During the week we say, "Shomer amo Yisrael la'ad," which means, "who protects His people, Israel, forever." On Shabbos we say instead, "Hapores Sukkas Shalom," which means, "He spreads a canopy of peace." The poskim tell us that the reason for the change is that on Shabbos we do not need to be protected, since the Shabbos itself guards us (see the midrash brought in Tur 267). If the drivers in the story would have realized all this, they would not have felt the need to work on Shabbos.

"Someone who is careful with lighting Shabbos candles will have sons who are talmidei chachamim." According to the explanation that the Shabbos candles represent protection and peace, we can now understand why someone who is careful to light them will be rewarded with sons who are learned in Torah wisdom. Our Sages say, "talmidei chachamim cause peace to increase in the world.n4 Since a person was careful to increase peace by lighting the candles, he is rewarded with even more peace by having sons who will also increase peace.

The rationale behind the idea that a talmid chacham increases peace in the world is that peace is achieved when a person is willing to give up his selfish desires for a greater cause. That is the whole idea behind a talmid chacham. His only desire is to learn Torah in order to do G-d's will. Therefore he cannot be in conflict with anyone, since he is not interested in their worldly pursuits, and no one can take his Torah away from him, since it is imbedded in his heart.

Someone who is careful with kiddush will be blessed with a great deal of wine. Wine can be easily misused; a person who drinks too much of it can become light-headed or drunk, and as a result, may end up transgressing a law. But a person who is careful with making kiddush knows how to appreciate wine. He uses it to honor G-d by praising Him over a cup of wine. Therefore he is blessed with much wine, since he will make good use of it.

"Someone who loves talmidei chachamim will have sons who will be talmidei chachamim. Someone who honors talmidei chachamim will have sons-in-law who are talmidei chachamim. Someone who is in awe of talmidei chachamim will himself become a talmid chacham." There is a different reward for each of the three levels: love, honor and fear. To merit becoming a talmid chacham yourself, you must be on the level of having fear of talmidei chachamim. You stand in such awe that you are afraid to come near or to open your mouth in their presence. If you are on such a high level that you can understand the real greatness of a talmid chacham, then you yourself will merit to become one. The second level is love. Since you admire and always speak highly of them, this will influence your children to aspire to be talmidei chachamim, and that is the fitting reward for such love. The third level is that of showing them honor, which is a little further removed from the previous levels, hence the reward is also slightly more removed. Instead of having a direct blood relative who is a Torah scholar, one who honors them will rather have a in-law who is a talmid chacham.

Peace Comes Before Anything Else in Marriage

As mentioned above, peace comes about when people are willing to forgo their own personal desires for the sake of peace. When everyone insists on having all his desires fulfilled and is not willing to compromise on anything, peace can never be expected. This applies to marriage as well, where a couple will naturally have different desires or hold differing opinions, from one another. This can easily lead to disagreement. Peace can be restored only when the issues of unity and common purpose are given the highest priority. Thus, one should always be ready to give in for the sake of peace.

No matter how important any given issue seems to you, peace stands above anything else. G-d even allowed His holy Name to be erased in order to make peace between husband and wife. 5 If He was willing to do this, how much more so should we be prepared to forgo our own selfish desires for the sake of peace. We should always be prepared to swallow our pride and say, "I've thought it over, and I see that I made a mistake and you were right. Please forgive me." It is not easy to say such words, but for the sake of peace, a person should make the effort, and he will be amply rewarded by the Almighty with a happy and peaceful marriage.

The glow of the Shabbos candles represents peace, because when there is peace in a house, the house glows with contentment and happiness. Our Sages say, "The blessing of G-d is peace." 6 The greatest of blessings is peace, and without it we have nothing. We even conclude our most important daily prayer, the Amidah, with the blessing of peace: "Who blesses His nation, Israel, with peace." This final blessing is the greatest in that it includes all the other blessings within it. So too, the greatest thing we can do in a marriage is to preserve and maintain peace.

1. Bereshis 2:3
2. Shemos 13:22
3. Rashi Shemos 20:9 A Berachos 64a s. Shabbos 116a
6. Megillah 18a

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