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by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
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Honor your father and your mother, that your days be long in the land which the Lord your G-d gives you. (SHEMO5 20:12)
After the Communists came to power in Russia, they began Living violently tormenting the country's rabbis. Rabbi Meir Stelovitz, the Rabbi of Cheslovitz, tried to obtain a permit to leave Russia. He traveled to Moscow to apply for the necessary permit. After great efforts he was successful.
On the way back to Cheslovitz, his suitcase, which contained his passport, together with his newly-issued permit, was stolen from him. This was a great tragedy for him. He got off the train in the city of Novobrisov, where Rabbi Boruch Eliezer Luria lived. He came to the rabbi and told him of his terrible tragedy and of the fact that the matter might cost him his life, since he was now allowed neither to remain in Russia nor to leave the country. Rabbi Luria understood the gravity of the situation and told Rabbi Stelovitz to lie down and rest while he went to search for the stolen suitcase.
Rabbi Luria put himself in terrible danger by going down to the infamous offices of the secret police, the KGB, whose very mention threw people into a state of terror, since it was well-known that many Jews had disappeared, and been tortured and killed at their hands. Rabbi Luria approached them fearlessly however, and told them about the old rabbi who had arrived in town, of his stolen suitcase, and that he might die of anguish.
To everyone's surprise, they did not harm Rabbi Luria, and they even promised to tend to the matter and search for the stolen suitcase. After a few hours they were successful, and they returned the missing suitcase with the passport and permit intact. Rabbi Meir continued on his journey tO Israel, and he was subsequently appointed Rabbi of the Zichron Moshe neighborhood of Jerusalem. (OLAM CHESED YIBANEH, p. 206)
Rabbi Luria saw that Rabbi Meir was terribly distressed and tormented because of his grim situation, and therefore did everything possible to help him find peace, even liking his life. Maintaining peace in a marriage is also of critical importance, and therefore warrants every possible effort to ensure that harmony.
We have learned: These are the precepts, the fruits of which a person enjoys in this world while the principle is saved for him in the World to Come. They are: honoring one's father and mother, doing acts of kindness, bringing peace between a man and his fellow, and studying Torah, which is equivalent to them all.1 Concerning honoring one's father and mother it is written: "...that your days be long...n2 Regarding acts of kindness it is written: "Someone who pursues charity and kindness will find life, charity, and honor."3 About bringing peace it is written: aSearch for peace, and run after it.n 4 Concerning the study of Torah, it is written: "It is your life and the length of your days."5 (YALKUT 298, KIDDUSHIN 40a)
What is so special about each of these mitzvos that a [person who engages in them is rewarded in both worlds, when we do not find this to be the case concerning other mitzvos?
Honoringyour father and mother is a special mitzvah, since it shows that you can appreciate what has been done for you. Someone can easily shrug off his parents' devotion and say, "Parents have an instinct to be devoted to their children. So what?" But by assuming that attitude, a person is not fulfilling his obligation of being thankful for what he receives. Someone who is grateful to his parents demonstrates that he is worthy of being rewarded in both worlds.
Similarly, lovingkindness (gemilus chasadim) is one of the three pillars on which the world stands. 6 Being kind is a trait that shows that a person has worked on himself. He has outgrown the childish attitude of wanting everything for himself and of being unwilling to share. Since lovingkindness is so important that the world cannot stand (exist) without it, one who demonstrates this trait is rewarded in both worlds.
Bringing peace between two people shows that one is prepared not only to do simple favors for people, but he is also willing to go out on a limb to patch up disagreements between people who do not get along. This is a very sensitive task, requiring great patience and devotion.
We find that Aharon Ha-kohen was an expert in patching up quarrels between people. His method was to approach one party who was involved in a feud and say tO him that the person with whom he was feuding had sent him, Aharon, to express his apologies and to ask his forgiveness. Of course the person who had been approached immediately forgave his "enemy" and asked for forgiveness from him in return.7 Even though a lie was employed to obtain this goal, our Sages say that it is permitted to lie to achieve peace, and it is even a mitzvah to do so.8
Aharon's method shows us that the main reason people continue to argue is that they feel unappreciated or personally offended by the other person. Therefore both parties cling to their side of the argument and defend it vehemently, even though the actual content of the disagreement often is trivial. The moment they think that the other person is willing to apologize, they are not angry anymore and the whole dispute evaporates. This teaches that we can stay at peace with others by avoiding becoming offended by other people's actions and by always being ready to forgive them.
Studying Torah is the last mitzvah mentioned, but this is certainly not because it is the least important. Just the opposite is true, since the Mishnah says that studying Torah is equivalent to all the rest. Torah is the blueprint of the world, as our Sages say: "He [G-d] looked into the Torah and created the world." 9 Without the study of Torah the world would not stand (exist) for even a second. t° Hence we can understand why being involved in such an essential mitzvah brings reward in both worlds.
We might think that the reward that we receive in this world for doing these mitzvos is only a spiritual, intangible one. But it can also be understood as a concrete reward, something that can actually enhance life in perceivable ways. For example, if a person honors his parents, he will be able to transfer this skill to other areas so that he will be able to appreciate and be thankful to others. Thus he will benefit right here in this world by having richer and more meaningful relationships. The same applies to lovingkindness, since if one is kind to others, it will oftentimes cause others to be kind to him. Bringing peace among people will cause a person to be loved by others, since those he brings together will be grateful to him for restoring their friendships.
It is interesting to note that all the mitzvos mentioned in the above Mishnah involve relationships between people, except for the last, studying Torah, which concerns a person and his relationship with himself. How can his studying possibly enhance his life other than in a spiritual way? The answer is that the Torah "makes happy the heart, the mitzvos of G-d are clear, and enlighten the eyes." Thus we see that studying Torah gives not only a spiritual reward in the World to Come, but also brings a person happiness right here in this world.
Peace Between Husband and Wife Make Them One
If reestablishing peace between two people who might be almost total strangers to one another reaps a reward m this world and in the World to Come, how much greater must the reward be for bringing peace between a man and his wife. A couple without peace between them iS like a body without a soul. The very essence of marriage is that the husband and wife should love and honor one another, think and plan together, enjoy things together, raise their children together, and be like one harmonious unit. Peace between married couples is so important that anyone who can bring it about is tremendously rewarded.
But sometimes the couple can achieve peace without outside intervention. They can sit down and look at each other s complaints and try to compromise for the sake of peace. This can happen if both of them keep in mind that marriage 1S a holy bond which should never be desecrated. As a result of this attitude they will explore every possible means of restoring peace.
It is obvious that spiritual rewards are not gained without making an effort. If bringing peace between two people deserves such an outstanding reward, this means that great effort must be exerted by the person who tries to bring about that peace.
How much more demanding is the task of a husband and wife who wish to keep a harmonious relationship, since they must work through so many issues and avoid so many pitfalls. Both must constantly strive to preserve the peace between them and not let anyone or anything in the world interfere with that peace.
It follows that since there is greater effort required in the case of maintaining peace between a husband and wife, there also will be a greater reward. A bountiful reward will come to those who strive for peace in their homes, one which will permeate their lives both in this world and in the World to Come.
1. Pe'ah 1:1
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network