Interpersonal Relating & Mitzvos
Mitzvas Shalom (The Mitzva of Peace)















"There should always be some Jews ready [in each neighborhood or town] to bring peace between man and wife or between man and his fellow. They should be happy people who know how to appease and convince people in order to bring peace. They must not be angry or excitable. People who bring peace with joy and good-heartedness are guaranteed to have eternal life." [Rabainu Yona]



Tehilim/Psalms 34:15 says, "Love peace and pursue it." Based on this verse, the midrash (Vayikra Raba) cites that peace (shalom) is different from other mitzvos. Other mitzvos apply when they come to you. If I find a lost article, it is a mitzva to return it to its owner. Before the mitzva applies, I have to find the property. If I don't happen to find it, there's no mitzva.

Peace is different. Every Jew is obligated to actively seek, promote, build and maintain peace. You don't wait for it to come. You make it happen. You appease a person in a quarrel (whether his quarrel is with you or another). You exhibit character and courage. You get obstacles or inhibitions out of the way. You forgive. You spend money. You accept embarrassment. You travel to another place to bring about peace. You exert yourself actively and your own relationships and in those of any other Jews.



Whenever Moshe's brother Aaron heard that there was any argument between Jews, he ran to make peace between them (Sanhedrin 6b). When Aaron died, the Torah (Bamidbar/Numbers 20:29) says that the entire Jewish nation mourned for 30 days. Why such nationwide tribute and grief? Because when two people would quarrel, Aaron would go to one and say, "Your friend feels so badly to be in a quarrel with you. He is ashamed for wronging you. He told me he loves you so much but doesn't know the words with which to make up." He would stay with the person until all enmity was gone from the person's heart. Aaron would then go to the second friend and say the same. Both would say, "How can I remain in a fight with such a beloved friend?" Both would go to the other and meet and, without saying a word, each would hug the other and be best of friends (Avos DeRebi Noson, chapter 12). Aaron did this to make peace all of his life. Israel loved him.

The Torah (Vayikra/Leviticus 26:6) tells of the bounty of the land of Israel (rain, crops, fruit, wealth) and G-d says, "And I will give the land peace." Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Ben Yitzchok, 11th century, foremost commentator on the Bible and Talmud) writes, "Perhaps you will say, 'I have what to eat and drink, but without peace there is nothing.' So the verse teaches, 'And I will give the land peace,' from which we know that peace is EQUAL TO ALL other blessings combined together."

"Great is peace and hated is fighting (Sifri Naso 42)."

"Great is peace between husband and wife (Chulin 141a)."

"Great is peace, for because of it even the Holy One Blessed Be He changed His words. Earlier Sara said, "[How can we have a child since] my husband is old." Later G-d reported to Avraham [in a manner which would preserve peace between husband and wife] that Sara said of herself "[How can we have a child since] I am old (Yevamos 65b)." [Although we generally may not lie or flatter, we can sometimes lie (Perek HaShalom) or say flattery (Orchos Tzadikim) FOR PEACE, ESPECIALLY BETWEEN HUSBAND AND WIFE (ask a rov for individual case by case instruction)].

"Great is peace, that even if a person did numerous mitzvos and he hasn't made peace, he has nothing (Bais HaMidrash 3:129)."

"Great is peace, that if the Jewish people have peace among them, G-d would not allow judgement to go against [or harm] them (Beraishis Raba 38:6)."

"Great is peace for all blessings and prayers culminate with peace. The [Shabos evening] blessings of 'Shma Yisroel' conclude with, 'blessed are You G-d Who spreads over us the tent of PEACE' [the weekday evening variant - not cited in the midrash - says that G-d 'guards our coming and going for life and for PEACE']. The Tefillah [Shmoneh Esray] concludes with, 'blessed are You G-d Who blesses His people Israel with PEACE.' The blessing by the Kohanim concludes with, 'And may G-d give you PEACE'" (Vayikra Raba, Tzav).

Another midrash (Bamidbar Raba, Parshas Pinchas) teaches that peace is the only pipeline through which blessing comes down from Heaven to earth.

"Humanity was created from one person alone because of peace among people, that no person could say to another person, 'My ancestor is greater than your ancestor!' (Sanhedrin 37a)"

"When you make an altar of stones for Me, you will not build it of hewn stones, for if you lift up your sword on it, you have profaned it (Exodus 20:22)." Rashi writes, "'You have profaned it.' You learn that if you lift iron to it, you have profaned it; for the altar was created to lengthen the days of man and iron was created to shorten the days of man. It is not justice that one lift that which shortens [life] on that which lengthens [life, Mechilta]. Further, the altar brings PEACE between Israel and their Father Who is in Heaven. Therefore, there will not come upon [the altar] that which destroys and injures. And this yields a logical derivative. If stones; which do not see, and do not hear and do not speak; bring PEACE, as the Torah says [Deuteronomy 27:5], 'You will not lift iron on [the altar];' then the person who brings PEACE between man and wife, between a family and another family, between any Jew and another; how much moreso will no harm come upon him!"

"G-d's name is Peace (Shabos 10b)."

"These are the things of which one eats the fruits in this world and the principal [main bulk of reward] remains for him in the eternal world...bringing peace between any Jew(s) and any other Jew(s) (Shabos 127a)."

"And He was King in Yeshurun when the heads of the people gathered (Deuteronomy 33:5)." When the people are together in one group and when peace is among them, G-d is their King; but when there is strife among them, they deny His kingship (Sifrai).

"Deceit is in the heart of those who think evil, those who counsel peace have joy (Proverbs 12:20)."

"All who engage themselves in the Torah with pure intentions for the sake of Heaven cause peace in Heaven and peace on earth (Sanhedrin 99b).

"If a person cannot afford to buy [both] a candle for shabos and wine for kiddush, a shabos candle takes precedence; and, similarly, if a person cannot afford to buy [both] a candle for shabos and a candle for Chanuka, a shabos candle takes precedence; because of PEACE in the house, for there is no PEACE without light [which the relatively larger shabos or yom tov candle provides; Orech Chayim, Hilchos Shabos, 263:3]."

"A pauper who sustains himself from charity must sell his clothing, or must borrow or must rent himself [as a hired worker] in order to have wine for the four [Passover seder] cups" [Orech Chayim, Hilchos Pesach, 472:13]. "And the [yom tov/holiday] candle for the house is a higher priority than the four cups [if he can't obtain money for both wine and candle] because of PEACE in the house" (Mishna Brura #41, commenting on the above Passover halacha].

"All of the Torah was given for the sake of promoting practical peace, as it says (Mishlai 3:17), 'It's ways are ways of pleasantness and all of its paths are peace.'" (Gitten 59a)

ALL of the paths of Torah ARE PEACE. The paths of Torah don't "talk about," "advocate," "lead to," or "contain" peace. If paths are Torah, THEY ARE PEACE. Intrinsically and by definition, they ALL ARE PEACE.

We have source after source that clearly shows that THE FIRST PRIORITY IN HUMAN RELATIONS IS PEACE.



The fifth chapter of Pirkei Avos tells us, "Every argument which is for the sake of Heaven, will, in the end, endure. Every argument which is not for the sake of Heaven, will not, in the end, endure. Which controversy was for the sake of Heaven? The debates of Hillel and Shammai. Which controversy was not for the sake of Heaven? The rebellion of Korach and his group."

The commentaries explain that a key differentiating point between arguments which are or aren't for the sake of Heaven is whether it is only a quest for G-d's truth in the question at hand. Hillel and Shammai analyzed Torah law and came to differing conclusions. But they always were gentle and at peace with each other, so much so that the students from both schools married each other's families. Their only controversy was establishing G-d's truth so that they could determine His law and perform His will. There was no other "agenda." To this day, every day, the words of Hillel and Shammai are studied in the Talmud.

Differences, in the Torah, never represents clashes of personalities nor condemning statements about the parties involved. Having differences never meant: having fights, bearing a grudge, seeking vengeance, being angry, getting emotional or taking it personally. The difference only was a sincere, objective quest for what is true, proper and necessary in the eyes of G-d.

An argument that is not for the sake of Heaven sets out for personal aims, gains and interests. One is willing to harm, annoy or belittle the other so that he can be big or victorious, have power or wealth. This person does not care about truth, only about self-serving agendas. Korach and his group were killed when their rebellion against Moshe Rabainu was defeated. Not only did their controversy fail, we see from the wording of mishna, "Korach and his group," that there was even controversy among the rebels. The academies of Hillel and Shammai were singular in their purpose and their quest for truth and service of Heaven. The rebels of Korach had no interest in truth. Since each only cared about his own motives and gains, even the group-members fought and squabbled among themselves. Argument without concern for Heaven and for truth is nothing but death that comes on a gradual basis that you see only after its too late.

A generation ago, a famous halachic shaalo (Torah law question) arose out of a modern technological medical advancement. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein determined that Torah law allowed it. Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, the leader of the Satmar Chasidim, determined that the law prohibited it. Some big-bodied, loyal followers of the Satmar Rabbi came to him and, thinking they were acting meritoriously, proudly proclaimed that they were planning to pay a visit to Rabbi Feinstein and roughly intimidate him into agreeing with the Satmar Rov. Instead of receiving their offer (to browbeat Rabbi Feinstein) with warm approval, the Satmar Rov turned indignant and he told them that they had some nerve. "You would dare dishonor Torah?! Don't you dare go to a gadol hador [leader of the generation in Torah law] and treat him with such chutzpa and disrespect!"

The Satmar Rabbi formulated his verdict on the question, which his chasidim would follow. Rabbi Feinstein formulated his verdict on the question for the Lithuanian -Yeshiva "world" (which determines law for the bulk of non-chasidic Ashkenazic Jewry) to follow. The Satmar Rov understood that Rabbi Feinstein was a competent and holy Torah authority and that the difference in verdict was no personal comment by either authority towards the other. The two rabbis, two giants of Torah, disagreed on the answer to the question; while their friendship, their respect and admiration for each other, was unaffected by their divergent rulings.



All relationships must be conducted respectfully, constructively, responsibly, pleasantly and peacefully. The following material gets to the heart of human relations and the Torah's obligations in bain adam lechavairo (interpersonal interactions). When applied to the marriage relationship, it will be key to producing and maintaining success.

The mitzva to "love your fellow Jew as yourself" applies to your spouse (Kidushin 41a). It may seem obvious, but there are plenty of people who are kind and loving to strangers but forget to be kind and loving with their family, where the obligation is greatest.

To love one's fellow Jew, a person must be very careful never to grow angry at others; for when a person is angry at others he not only feels no love for them, but he may even hate them and wish them harm (Erech Apayim). The Torah forbids hate (Leviticus 19:17) and fighting (Numbers 17:5). Rambam (Hilchos Dayos 6:3) writes that the mitzva to love one's fellow Jew includes praising and honoring the person as much as you wish that others do so for you. How much moreso should this apply to your treatment of the person one is married to!

In the Torah portion Vayikra, the Torah describes the sacrifices that atone for an individual's sin. In most cases, the Torah says "When a person [odom] brings a sacrifice...". In one case, the Torah says, "When a soul [nefesh] brings a sacrifice...". Why the change this one time? Why in only one specific case does the Torah see fit to refer to a nefesh?

When the Torah changes to the word "nefesh," the Torah is discussing the flour offering. If a rich person sins, his offering is to be from a large animal [e.g. cattle] which is quite expensive. If a person is in the middle class, he brings two birds, a smaller expense. If a person is a pauper, he brings a handful of flour as his sacrifice, a relatively tiny expense.

A rich person thinks nothing of spending money. For him, it flows like water. The middle class person can live with the smaller expense of his two birds. The impoverished person does not have money for bare necessities. Even though a handful of flour is very cheap for everybody else, any expense, even for a handful of flour, is a sacrifice. When the impoverished person brings his flour offering, he is sacrificing his very soul for the Ribomo Shel Olam. To show that this is the most precious sacrifice to Hashem, to acknowledge that the pauper is sacrificing his own soul, the Torah says, "When a soul brings a sacrifice...[the pauper will bring it from flour]."

Similarly, any fulfillment of G-d's will, which comes with our sacrifice, is dear to Hashem. G-d very much wants spouses to love, respect and be peaceful and pleasing with each other. If anger, arguing, nagging, paining, fighting, abusing, or any other violation of Hashem's will and behavior standards is a powerful temptation for you, and you struggle down to your very soul, and sacrifice and extend yourself, for the sake of doing G-d's will, you are dear and precious to G-d. The material that follows will enable you to proceed further along the road to progressively achieving, more and more successfully, the will of G-d, and of making yourself more dear, beloved and precious to Him.

The final blessing of the shacharis (morning prayer) Shmoneh Esray begins, "Sim shalom tova (grant good peace)." Torah is always worded in the most concise manner. It would seem that it would be enough to ask Hashem to grant peace. Isn't peace automatically good? Why was it necessary to add the word "good" to our prayer for peace?

Peace consists of bringing two or more; who have been different, incompatible, antagonistic; together so that they coexist harmoniously. If two people make "peace" in one way which leads to dispute in another way, it is not "good peace." If a peace arrangement is not of a kind which can withstand the real vicissitudes of life, so that peace does not endure, this is not "good peace." If a group of two or more are at peace with each other but are not at peace with someone else, if one of the group makes peace with the third party, at the expense of peace with the original person, this is not "good peace." This may be seen in marriages disrupted by meddlers or relatives, and in the politics in Israel.

The sages, in their wisdom, understood life. They knew full well that impure, incomplete or unenduring peace is no blessing. When is peace a blessing? When it is "good peace." This is when it is peace that is pure, complete, perfect and lasting. Therefore, the sages formulated our prayer for peace asking that Hashem "sim shalom tova uvracha (grant good peace and blessing)." This means true, full and lasting peace that will be consistent with blessing.

This is a very deep message for all human relations, in general, and in marriage, in particular. Think about this every day. You will find constant practical application of this.



A story which brings out how crucial it is to extend oneself for peace is told in the name of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, one of the greatest Torah sages of the previous generation.

A man had yahrtzeit (anniversary of decease) for a parent and wanted to lead the prayer service, as is customary. A stranger, who had a very big and strong build, physically pushed this man away from the reader's podium and said in bully fashion that he had yahrtzeit for an in-law who was killed during the holocaust and he was going to pray before the congregation. Albeit the holocaust may arouse sentiment, an in-law does not supersede a parent when it comes to leading the prayer service on the yahrtzeit. And physical abuse is never permissible.

When the man who was pushed sadly told Rabbi Feinstein what happened, Rabbi Feinstein replied that because he was peaceful and didn't fight, the merit of the bully's prayer on behalf of the in-law's soul went to the soul this man's parent. There was nothing for him to feel sad about.

Rabbi Feinstein's son also said a beautiful statement about peace. The Torah says (Numbers 25:7), "And [Pinchos] stood among the people and he took a spear in his hand." When Zimri, a Jew, had intimate relations with Kozbi, a Midyanite woman, in public, Pinchos grabbed a spear and killed them both, for the sake of G-d. Rabbi Reuven Feinstein, Rosh Yeshiva of the Staten Island branch of Tiferres Yerushalayim, notes that Pinchos did not start out having a spear in his hand. When he saw the public and profane atrocity, he picked up the spear and acted the zealot. Some people, Rabbi Feinstein says, call themselves zealots, go around with the spear in their hand, and look for trouble. The Torah tells us that the zealot, who is truly for G-d, goes around making peace. Only when trouble finds him, and forces him to, does he picks up a spear.

After the Jewish people entered the land of Israel, they heard rumors that some of the tribes worshipped idolatry. Pinchos went to investigate and found out the rumors were mistaken. We see here (Joshua 22), where he saved Israel from a civil war, clear proof that Pinchos was zealous to be an emissary of peace. The Talmud (Zevachim 101b) even suggests that this was when G-d's "covenant of peace" (Numbers 25:12) with Pinchos went into effect.

Rabbi Yonoson Eibshitz was one of the Torah giants of the mid-eighteenth century. The Torah (Genesis 37:4) says that Yosef's brothers "hated him and they were not able to speak to him so as to be peaceful." Rabbi Eibshitz explains that it was because they would not speak to Yosef that the brothers came to hate him, leading to their soon-to-come violence against him. If people would talk out their problems with each other, they can work things out and, thereby, can maintain peace.

In the Torah, Jacob went from Be'er Shava to Charan. When he stopped to sleep overnight, he took stones "and put it under his head (Genesis 28:11)." The obvious question is: the Torah says he took stones (plural) and put it (singular) under his head; how do you reconcile the plural and singular reference? Rashi, bringing Chazal, tells how the stones argued, each one saying, "Let the saint rest his head on me." Heaven made them into one stone to reconcile the fight. When Yaakov first arrived at the place, he gathered several stones to rest his head upon, so they were plural. After Hashem made the miracle, they were one.

The Ponavicher Rov asked an amazing question. If G-d wanted to make a miracle, why couldn't he make the stones into a soft, comfortable pillow for Jacob? He answered that the stones fought that the righteous person's head should be "on me." Since their concern was for themselves and not for Jacob, G-d turned them into a single stone. It was enough just to end their fight over which stone would merit having Jacob's head upon it. In contrast, when your concern is for the other person, the outcome can be soft and comfortable. When you fight for yourself, you make yourself into a hard rock.

A certain shul in Brooklyn was founded by a group of dedicated yeshivish men who wanted their shul to embody the requirements of a shul, including: no talking during prayer. Some were so dedicated to the fulfillment of the laws of prayer and synagogue that they formed a "vaad mora mikdash (association of those with awe for a holy place)." Members of the vaad agreed never to talk at all in shul except for that which is required for prayer and to control their younger children.

On Friday nights, an "outsider" would come steadily and he would talk to a friend during services. The friend was not active about talking, but since the other would come over and start to talk, he would be drawn in.

Zundel, one of the original members, was offended and bothered by the rude, talkative individual. After many months of holding in his upset, Zundel, one Friday, said "Shh" very emphatically a few times. After dovening, the talker gave Zundel an argument for embarrassing him in public.

After the shul emptied, Zundel complained to Yitzchok, founder of the "vaad" about the chutzpa of this incessant talker, who claims the right not to be embarrassed about his talking during dovening! Why, Rambam writes in Hilchos Dayos that one should scream and revile one who violates a bain odom lemakome sin, like talking in shul. And all he said was, "shh." He didn't even rebuke the talker with words! The audacity! Zundel was upset.

Yitzchok had an idea. Instead of escalating what could develop into a major confrontation, work on the second fellow who the talker always talks to. His father was a rav and a talmid chochom. Yitzchok would propose to the listener that he join the "vaad," on the grounds that this would have him behave in shul as his father would have wanted. He would have no choice but to be silent in shul, except for the prayers. Then, when the talker will have no one in shul who will listen to him, he will have no way to talk.

During the coming week, Yitzchok had occasion to propose that the listener join the "vaad." He agreed to think about it. About a week later, he decided to join. The next Friday, the talker came over to him and went into his chatterbox routine. The man silently pointed to the "vaad" list on the door of the shul, demonstrating that he could have no part in talking during shul. The man had no one to talk with, and Zundel was saved from a fight.

One Wednesday, a good friend mentioned to Henoch that the friend's neighbor had a life-threatening disease. The situation was serious. Henoch is a very sensitive and sympathetic individual, and he said that he would have said a "Mee Shebairach" (prayer for the seriously ill, commonly said by the reader [of the Torah] or the gabbai [manager of the synagogue] at the time of reading the Torah) on Thursday morning, when the Torah would next be read.

The next morning, Henoch brought the name of the patient on a slip of paper to the reader and asked for the conventional "Mee Shebairach." The reader made a face and indicated abrupt refusal. Henoch was very hurt and outraged. Here was a critically ill fellow Jew, whose life was hanging by a thin thread in a hospital. He wanted to blow up and rebuke the reader, who he considered to be cruel and boorish. Henoch, kept his wits about him and kept silent. He decided that he would do two things. After the services would end in a few minutes, he would run to another shul which has a minyan which starts about a half hour behind the present minyan. Then, he would take a shaalo to his rav, who lived a one minute walk away from the first shul, and ask what to do.

As soon as the morning services ended, he ran the half mile to the second shul. When he got there, the minyan had just finished reading the Torah. He arrived just in the nick of time, got the "Mee Shebairach" and thanked the reader and Hashem for allowing him to accomplish the act of compassion for the sick, helpless patient.

Then, he went to his rav's house. He asked if he should rebuke the reader. The rav said that he knows the shul and minyan in question. He said that these are people who are "on pins and needles" about getting to work, and every second matters to them. That shul only reads a "Mee SheBairach" on shabbos, when no one is in a rush. He told Henoch not to consider the reader cruel. The law does not require that only the reader say the "Mee SheBairach," nor does it restrict it to the days on which the Torah is read; even though the most common custom is for the reader to say it, and only when the Torah is read. One could privately say the "Mee SheBairach" on all weekdays by himself if the need is present. Therefore, he told Henoch to quietly and privately read the "Mee SheBairach" for the sick person, himself, without disrupting peace.

[Halacha (Jewish law) notes on saying the "Mee SheBairach" privately: 1. one can say it privately himself on weekdays but one cannot say it privately himself on shabos nor on yom tov and 2. the individual omits the ending phrase "vinomar amen (and we say 'amen')" because he is not speaking on behalf of the congregation (so he can't say "we") and because a person generally may not say "amen" to his own blessing or prayer.]

Peace must be loved, valued, appreciated and actively pursued with drive, intelligence, heart, constancy and diligence.

The tractates of Brachos, Nazir, Yevamos and Krisos; as well as the shabos night and day prayer services; end with the following narrative.

Rabbi Elazar said in the name of Rabbi Chanina: The disciples of the wise (talmiday chachamim) increase peace in the world, as it says (Isaiah 54:13), "And all of your sons (BaNaYiCH) are disciples of G-d and the peace (shalom) of your sons (BaNaYiCH) will be abundant." Do not read "BaNaYiCH (your sons)," but rather "BoNaYich (your builders - i.e. the ones who are learned in Torah build the world and promote peace)." "Those who sincerely love Your Torah have abundant peace and they do not stumble in sin. Let there be peace in your walls and tranquility in your palaces. For the sake of my brothers and friends I will wish you peace. For the sake of our G-d's Holy Temple I will seek your good. G-d will give power to his people, G-d will bless His people with peace [Psalms 119:165, 122:7-9 & 29:11]."

One of the rabbis from whom I learn Torah, Rabbi Avraham Asher Zimmerman gave a beautiful drasha on this passage from the gemara.

Rabainu Yonah, in "Shaaray Tshuva," says that a person may ask what good it does if he would do tshuva, behave meritoriously. He thinks that his actions don't matter, don't make a difference. Rabainu Yonah points out that when Hashem revealed to Avraham that He intended to destroy S'dom, Avraham prayed on behalf of the city of S'dom. Perhaps there were ten righteous people. Even though there may have been tens or hundreds of thousands of people in the city, and even though they were almost all evil, perhaps there would be ten meritorious people who deserved not to suffer or be destroyed. The Torah, in telling us of this, is saying that a righteous person does make a difference. One's tshuva, one's merit, one's behavior does have impact on the world.

The above gemara says that talmiday chachamim multiply peace and are builders of the world. Some people scoff at those who learn and obey Torah. They say, "We make buildings, highways, inventions. We turn the wheels of industry and progress. We are the builders of the world, not the Torah scholars who sit and learn." However, it is these builders who cause strife and destruction. The gemara emphasizes this by repeating this passage four times. Who are the one's who truly build the world? Those who truly embody the Torah, the ones whose lives embody peace.

Consider the above passage and the verses quoted in it again. See what it says. The ones who sincerely love Torah and who are faithful disciples of Hashem will have abundant peace and not slip in sin, their homes will be peaceful and tranquil, they seek the peace and good of others, and, for being true to the cause of peace, G-d will grant prosperity and blessing.

If you think that your efforts at building the world through Torah-rooted actions and at maintaining peace don't matter - think again. Every effort, every spiritual accomplishment, every resolution with your spouse, every peaceful interpersonal interchange, is of incalculable merit - in G-d's estimation. Keep peace at all times. I ask you to apply Rabbi Zimmerman's point and the above gemara to your marriage. To the Jew, among the greatest acts of building are: building a home a family, having a home that can be a center for spiritual contribution and that can be a pillar of the community, raising healthy and functional children. If you're already in the middle of a dispute, if you're already emotional or tense, if your marriage has an adversarial pattern at all, then ask yourself, how can I end this like the gemara: on a note of emphatic, enduring, Torah-rooted peace? Similarly, tractate Derech Eretz says to end each thing that you do on a good note. It also says that many major aspects of Judaism end with PEACE, for example: the Shmoneh Esray, Friday night ma'ariv ("sukas shalom"), birkas kohanim. Make sure that every thing you do is conducted with peace, bothers no one, and ends with peace.

Never forget that your Torah-rooted effort will help to truly build the world - and may even cause the merit for which Hashem keeps the world in existence.



Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel (in the Talmud, Avos DeRebi Noson 28:3) says that a person who brings peace into his house is considered by G-d as if he brought peace on the entire Jewish people. That's pretty great stuff! Vayikra Raba makes it even greater: "Great is peace for all blessings are contained in it."

A chassidic rabbi has novel approach to solving marital troubles. When couples have shalom bayis problems, the rov sends them away to a hotel to be alone on mikva night. He discreetly raises funds specifically to support this. If there is anything for the public at large to learn from this, it is to be active in practical and constructive ways in helping couples to achieve marital peace.

Rabbi Avraham Pam, Rosh Yeshiva of the famous learning institution Torah VoDaas, said that if you find that your wife doesn't have the same nice midos as when you married her, it is because you are not treating her with nice midos. If you treat her nicely, your wife will go back to behaving with the nice midos you remember from when you married her (heard personally from Rabbi Pam).

A Jew used to regularly beat his wife. After she no longer could take it, she disclosed her husband's habit of beating her. Word got to some chasidim of the famed Satmar Rebbi, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, and they met the man and brought him to the saintly Rebbi. When the Rebbi asked why the man beat his wife, the man's answer was that ever since he was a child he used to beat up his sisters. The Rebbe told the man - in no uncertain terms - that he was never to hit his wife ever again and that he had to differentiate between the behavior of a reckless, mean little child and a married adult.

A rabbi, who was a teacher among the Lubovitcher chasidim, was walking down the street with one of his disciples. A young couple came over. The wife said to the rabbi, "Isn't it a violation of shabos to stir soup while it's on the stove? Tell my husband so he'll know!" The wise rabbi looked pensive for a moment and said, "I'll have to look it up and let you know." The couple marched on. Then, noticing the puzzled look on his disciple's face, the rabbi said, "She was upset. You and I both know the law is as she said. If, however, the question wasn't 'hard' enough to 'have to look up,' it would have made her husband appear foolish, and that would have made their fight worse."

Ezra wanted to honor shabos by taking a nice shower and cleaning himself well. The kids tied up the shower for a long time and his wife grabbed the shower as soon as she was able to, after standing over a hot stove all Friday afternoon. It was getting near to the coming of shabos. He started getting angry, banging on the bathroom door and demanding that his wife "hurry up and get outta there." He banged a second time. "It's almost the z'man [time]! C'mon, hurry up already and get outta there!" He banged the door with a loud boom. His wife came out of the shower, irritated and nervous from his noise and pressure.

Since he was in the shower so close to the end of the time when showering would be allowed, he was also nervous and agitated. They were both pretty tense and hostile by the onset of shabos, saying nasty things and verbally jabbing at each other.

At shul, Ezra bragged to the rav that he "won" in his effort to rush his wife to let him into the shower in time for shabos. The rav, upset that Ezra harassed his wife and disturbed marital peace, told him, "Washing for shabos is a mitzva if you do it but it is not an obligation that one has to do. If you do it, you get a mitzva. If you don't do it, it is no sin. Whereas, if you make a fight with your wife, that is a sin, and the whole thing is not worth it! If you can't shower, as another option, you can wash, with warm water, your hands and face and, if possible, your feet. You can't make a fight with your wife in order to honor shabos. To be so adamant, you don't want to honor shabos. You want to honor yourself. It's better that you not shower and that you have shalom bayis. In such a case, avoiding the fight and keeping peace is your mitzva."

The famed commentator, Rashi, writes (on Yevamos 62b and Bava Metzia 59a) that a husband must never disparage, insult, cheapen, shame, disrespect, neglect or hurt his wife in any way; these are harder on a woman than on a man; these are more severe to a woman than to a man. He writes (on Rosh HaShana 6b) that it is imperative that a man make his wife happy, and a "classic" way to do this is to give her nice clothes that will please her. On Bava Metzia 94a he writes that if a man marries a woman on condition that is exempt from any marriage obligation imposed by the Torah, the marriage takes effect but the condition does not because "there is no such thing as half a marriage." In other words, a marriage and all of its obligations are synonymous. It's a "package deal."

We see that is imperative that a husband be very, very sensitive and careful never to shame, cheapen, embarrass, degrade or hurt the feelings of a woman - and how much moreso for your wife. This obligation to never bring feelings of shame or degradation upon a Jewish woman is seen in practical Jewish law. For example, 1. if a man and a woman come to bais din (Torah court) simultaneously with a case, the judges are obligated to hear the case of the woman first; and 2. if a man and woman come to a door simultaneously to beg charity, the homeowner must give to the woman first; and 3. if a man and woman are simultaneously kidnapped and there isn't enough ransom money to save both, the woman is saved first because she is subject to abuse of her person. All of this is because a woman's shame is more than a man's.

Normally flattery is considered a sin. Orchos Tzadikim writes that a husband may flatter a wife for marital peace. He should speak gently, appealingly and appeasingly to his wife, to make her happy and comfortable.

Pela Yo'etz writes (in the section on "zivug [getting married]"), that the marriage which operates by following the Torah and its sages is the marriage which will be blessed by G-d and be happy. This couple will have a pleasant, calm, fortunate and good life; and will have a sweet lot in olam habo (eternal life).

To make this practical, always apply two statements from the first chapter of Pirkei Avos. Apply these two precious teachings to both "sur mayra (abandoning bad)" and "asay tov (actively doing good)."

1. Speak little and do much.

2. Study is not the essential thing, but rather action is.

Then, you can progress from "sur mayra" and "asay tov" to: "bakaish shalom virodfayhu (seek peace and chase after it)."

"If a person cannot afford to buy [both] a candle for shabos and wine for kiddush, a shabos candle takes precedence; and, similarly, if a person cannot afford to buy [both] a candle for shabos and a candle for Chanuka, a shabos candle takes precedence; because of PEACE in the house, for there is no PEACE without light [which the relatively larger shabos or yom tov candle provides; Orech Chayim, Hilchos Shabos, 263:3]."

"A pauper who sustains himself from charity must sell his clothing, or must borrow or must rent himself [as a hired worker] in order to have wine for the four [Passover seder] cups" [Orech Chayim, Hilchos Pesach, 472:13]. "And the [yom tov/holiday] candle for the house is a higher priority than the four cups [if he can't obtain money for both wine and candle] because of PEACE in the house" (Mishna Brura #41, commenting on the above Passover halacha].

I once visited a friend on Chol HaMoed of Passover. His wife, usually a cheerful and humor-filled person, was grumpy over the prohibition that prevented use of most vegetables. "What's a Pesach meal? A slab of chicken with potato kugel, potato pancake, fried potatoes, mashed potatoes and a side order of potato salad!"

I said to her, "I'll tell you what. We'll change the name of the season from zman chairusainu [the time of our liberation] to zman potatosainu [the time of our potatoes]." She chuckled. I told her husband quietly that if she gets grouchy about potatoes, remind her of "zman potatosainu." Every time he mentioned it, she laughed harder and louder. By the end of Yom Tov, she was, herself, saying "zman potatosainu" with a hearty laugh.

If your spouse says an angry word, you might smile widely and say, "You said an 'A word.' Anger's a 'no-no.'" Find some pleasant way to always undo anger, dispute or tension. Anything - even a mitzva - which is done with a sin or fight IS BY DEFINITION WRONG AND BAD.

In the Passover Hagada, we say that we cried out to G-d in prayer, G-D heard our prayer, He saw our suffering AND SEPARATION FROM NORMAL FAMILY LIFE (brought on by the Egyptian bondage) and He saved us. When family life is at all disrupted or unhappy, pray! Let G-d hear your SINCERE prayer, that He may answer it and save you.

Remember that there are three partners in the Jewish marriage. We understandably have been emphasizing two in our discussion: husband and wife. Bring in your third partner: Hashem. Pray.

Rabbi Shmuel Salant was a leader of the Jerusalem community a few generations ago. During his era, a young man got married immediately before Passover. The young man spent the Seder at his new in-laws. When the soup came, the man saw a peace of wheat floating in his soup. This was terrible! There was 100% pure "chometz (forbidden grain)" in the Pesach food! The young man started screaming at his mother-in-law. He was ferociously and loudly criticizing and humiliating her. He was attacking her so bitterly, the family ran to Rabbi Shmuel. When the family protested the intensity of the young man's attack, Rabbi Shmuel ordered the man to take off his hat and hand it to him. Inside the hat were some grains of wheat. The man was married just before Pesach. It was customary in Jerusalem in those days to throw wheat at the choson (groom) at the ofruf (calling a groom to the Torah on the shabos immediately before his wedding). Some of the wheat lodged in the young man's hat and stayed there into Pesach. It was this wheat which fell into the soup.

The moral of the story is: before you attack, accuse or criticize the next person, look under your hat and see if the complaint is really in your own head!



Loving another Jew, a most central principal in the Torah; and derech eretz, which comes before Torah; require that you not impose your chumra (particular religious custom or stringencies) on another observant Jew. If the other person is a G-d fearing, observant Jew who lives by Jewish law, then his observance satisfies the requirements of the law. If you have accepted any customs or stringencies upon yourself which go beyond the law, practice them in private and never at the expense of the other. If you are a guest in a house which is reliably kosher but which does not practice your stringencies, you should eat the food, unless your posaik determined for you that the food is traif, according to your minhag.

For example, some people keep cholov Yisroel (they only use rabbinically supervised milk and milk products). For some of them, this is a stringency. For some, cholov Yisroel is a requirement, and their rabbis determine that non-supervised milk must be presumed to be altogether unkosher. Therefore, for some people, consuming non-cholov Yisroel product could be an option in a case of necessity. For other people, it has to be treated as non-kosher and it is not an option. "Gebrukts" or "kitneeyos" on Passover is another example (i.e. for some people, they are never an option, and a host would have to respect his guests requirements).

It is a very great honor to be a sandak, the one chosen to hold a baby on his lap during the boy's bris (circumcision). At the time of the bris, the child receives his neshama (soul). The quality of the intentions, prayers and personal righteousness of those with significant roles in his circumcision has significant effect on the quality of the soul and personality of that baby. Therefore, the honor of sandak is reserved for a very learned and righteous person.

A certain rabbi's married son had a baby boy. A certain unlearned relative insisted on having the honor of being sandak at the bris. The rabbi wanted to insist firmly that the honor be reserved for a tzadik who was in the vicinity. A rov poskined to let the unlearned relative have the honor because doing so would preserve peace.

To give a bit of perspective to the idea of "chumros (religious stringencies)" and derech eretz, there is a pertinent maaseh (occurrence) in the life of Rabbi Shimon Schwab, z'l, former head of the German-Jewish community in Washington Heights, New York. Towards the end of his life, when Rabbi Schwab was elderly, he was confined to a wheelchair, so he didn't get "out into the world" too often. He asked someone what was going on of late in the Jewish World. He was told that people were becoming makpid (stringent) on yoshon (i.e. there is a Torah prohibition of eating certain grain, and some authorities maintain this applies to us now and many do not). Rabbi Schwab replied with surprise, "People are becoming strict on yoshon? What about basics like derech eretz?"

If you are a guest on yom tov or shabos, refusing the food for the sake of a stringency will not only hurt and insult the host unnecessarily. It will degrade shabos and risk a quarrel, Heaven forbid. Whenever a religious stringency leads to fighting or to the abuse of another commandment, suspect that the Torah may not want the stringency just then. If you ever feel you have a stringency that may cause you to refuse a host's food, or may in any other way cause friction or hurt, ask a shaalo of an authoritative and objective rabbi before deciding what to do. Do not act on your own.

On Friday night, it is customary to sing "Sholom Alaichem" before making kidush. Whenever the Chofetz Chayim would have a guest for shabos, he would make kiddush immediately upon returning home from shul. When asked why he skipped singing "Sholom Alaichem," he replied that the song greets malachim, who aren't hungry and who can wait. The guest, who is flesh and blood, is hungry and should not have to wait to eat.

A certain chassidic rabbi who I know has the custom of not making kiddush on Friday nights between 6 and 7 p.m., for a reason which he explains is mystical. However, when he has a guest, since the guest does not generally share this custom, since pleasing and honoring a guest is a huge mitzva and because the guest is probably hungry, he makes kiddush immediately upon returning from shul in the conventional fashion, whenever he has a guest.

One's stringency is never to be the cause of anyone else's discomfort. Otherwise, it is a contradiction to Torah, and a violation of it.

Passover is a time when Torah law is very strict and people are cautious to practice many stringencies; for example, as to how to bake the matzos, clean the house from chometz, assure that all food is kosher for passover. Rabbi Yisroel Salanter, father of the "Mussar Movement," lived in the mid 1800's. The students of Rabbi Yisroel Salanter were about to go to the matzo bakery and they asked him which stringency to be careful to observe during the baking of their festival matzos. He told them that there is an elderly widow who works at the bakery. He told them to be careful not to hurt her feelings.

In the laws of chametz (the serious prohibition of leavening on Passover), only species which can become chametz can be made into matza that fulfills the mitzva of Passover. The only thing which can be used for the mitzva of matza are things which can be used for a serious sin. A species of grain which can't become chametz (as defined and prohibited by the Torah) provides no purpose or gain for the mitzva which stands for separation from chametz. By using something that has the potential to be a sin for service of G-d, the Jew fulfills a mitzva and achieves holiness. Mystically, leavening stands for arrogance, self-centeredness and separation from G-d. Therefore, separation from chametz, using the very same grains which could potentially be chametz, stands for humility, devotion and service to G-d. The more potent a thing is, the higher the stakes in how it is used. The more that something has the capacity for destructiveness, the more it has the capacity for constructiveness.

Similarly, the holiest place on earth is the Holy Temple. To go there, one must be spiritually pure. The purification process is not available without the Holy Temple, so no one is allowed there now. If one is not spiritually pure and goes to this holiest of places, one is severely punished by Heaven. When one can go to the Holy Temple, and is spiritually pure, the service of Hashem is greatest. It is a matter of "highest stakes."

The same thing applies to marital sanctity. The same act which can be used for degradation, selfishness and depravity can be used for life, purity, love, attachment, devotion and the highest holiness. By channeling that human power which can be used for either good or bad, and understanding that the stakes are high (and that which can produce life is a matter of highest stakes), the marriage relationship can potentially be the most destructive or constructive, the most depraved or most holy. Since Jewish marriage, family and home are the building block of Jewish society and the pillar of Torah observance, their wholesomeness and holiness are an utmost priority to every Jew at all times.



Peace is a Torah priority at all times. It must be studied, practiced and even sacrificed for at all times. However, the sages tell us that Soton is particular to increase tension, antagonism, provocations, fighting and interpersonal troubles before shabos and holidays. We see throughout the Torah that the higher the potential for holiness, the higher the potential for destructiveness. Let me cite some examples. The capacity to procreate is the opportunity to partner with G-d (kaviyachol) in creating life. When a husband and wife approach marital relations with spiritual purity (tahara), it is holy. If approached with spiritual impurity (tuma), it is punished by a most serious of punishments: both of their souls being eternally cut off (korais). The Bais HaMikdosh is the holiest place on earth. If entered into in a state of tahara, one can achieve a holy level of service of G-d. If one enters in a state of tuma, the person's violation is so severe that his or her soul is cut off (korais). Shabos and Yom Tov are "HOLY PLACES IN TIME" and, as such, bring highest potential for service of G-d by proper and halachic observance. Soton has a "vested interest" in "messing up" the extra and special holiness for which holy days have extra and special potential. On erev shabos (Friday) and before yom tov, when people are very busy, pressured and rushed; Soton is sent to make serious tension, confusion and fights; especially in close family relationships.

Pesach is a unique time of the year. The restrictions and laws of Passover are very serious and difficult. Infractions of eating leavened foods are severely punished. Owning them or even seeing them on your property is not allowed. The night of badikas chometz (searching for chometz, the night before the first seder) is one of the most busy times in a Jew's calendar. This is the culmination of what can be several weeks of extensive and nerve-wracking cleaning, shopping and preparations. It is relatively tempting and easy to "lose the forest for the trees." Caught up in the quest to be frum and diligent about Pesach, sometimes the Torah's interpersonal requirements and standards get "lost in the shuffle" when nerves are frayed and schedules are hectic. One can become overly careful about chometz and overly negligent about interpersonal behavior.

We all know the silly joke about the neurotic "frummak" who wanted to blow-torch people's fingers before they'd enter the house so that they would not bring in any chometz before Pesach.

We all know the lovely piece of mussar about how when Rabbi Yisroel Salanter's students asked him what to be careful about when going to the matzo bakery to bake Pesach matzos, and he answered them to be careful not to hurt the feelings of the workers at the matzo bakery who were all widows.

When a time or circumstance brings tension and haste, such concepts are in danger of becoming abstract and separated from practical life. In the interest of fortifying the inescapable imperative of peace, I am hereby presenting a compilation of Torah sources on the subject of peace. I hope that this will raise the level of awareness, and more important, the PRACTICE of peace, especially in the Jewish home AT ALL TIMES INCLUDING THE HOLY AND FRANTIC TIMES when Soton is especially inciting, busy and clever; working "overtime" to tempt people with "juicy" sins, nastiness, stress, impatience, anger and arguments. We must fulfill the obligations of the holy times without diminishing fulfillment of interpersonal obligations. We must fulfill the entire Torah - mitzvos between man and G-d AND mitzvos between man and fellow man. If one steals money or cheats in business to give to charity, the charity is traif. If one steals a lulav - his ceremony with it is a sin and not a mitzva. If one is aggravated and abusive preparing for a holy day, this is destructive and of no religious value. It is better to observe the simplest bottom line requirements of halacha (law) and never be nasty or hurtful than to be mahedrin (the highest standard with all the extra stringencies) in one's religious customs and to make one interpersonal sin. A mitzva done with any sin remains a sin (Suka 30b). No mitzva is achieved. The act only remains a sin. Ask your rabbinical authority for practical individual questions.

The closer a person is to another person, the higher the Torah obligation to be good to that other person. There is no one closer than one's spouse and children. With these closest family members, the obligation for interpersonal basics is highest (such as love, respect, generosity, forgiving, patience, compassion, appreciation, humility, responsibility, pleasantness, calm, adaptability and sensitivity). Nevertheless, we often see that with those closest ones, people grow familiar and contemptuous, taking them for granted or becoming uninhibited in dishing out less-than-appealing behaviors and midos.

For all things which a Jew may do to violate the Torah, whether on purpose or by mistake, there is tshuva (return, repentance). As long as one is alive, one may work to undo sins, correct mistakes, learn, spiritually grow. By following the laws of tshuva and working to never do the wrong thing(s) again, one may "clean the slate" and become close to G-d. Let us be wise. Let us not be distracted from G-d's imperatives. Let us maintain peace, friendliness and calm constantly. Let us win over Soton's attempts to trouble, incite, separate and irritate us before shabos and holidays. Let us work diligently at all times so that we can serve G-d and acquire merits. Let us succeed, especially when the stakes are highest for greatest spiritual destruction or achievements!

Peace between all Jews is crucial for Torah living. But it is of highest priority with one's spouse and children. May we all merit fulfillment of the blessing of the Kohanim (derived from the three verses Bamidbar/Numbers 6:24, 25, 26), "May Hashem bless you and protect you. May Hashem shine the light of His countenance on you and give freely to you. May Hashem lift His countenance to you and give you PEACE."

King Solomon wrote (Proverbs 18:1), "The one who keeps himself separated seeks to satisfy his own desires, he violates reason." People who are interested in themselves will do what satisfies themselves, which will tend to separate them from people and cause strife and animosity. Self-interest motivates them more than principle. People who are sensible and unselfish will do what satisfies others which will bring people together, promote the happiness and greatest good for all people who they have any association with, and cause peace.

"Judges and police you shall make for yourself (Deuteronomy 16:18)." This is compared to a king who had many sons but only loved the youngest. He had an orchard which he loved more than any of his other possessions. The king said, "I will give the orchard that I love best to the son who I love best." Similarly, G-d said "Of all the nations I created I love only Israel. Of all the entities that I created, I love justice best. I will give the creation that I love to the people whom I love. Therefore, the commandment to have judges and police. When Israel practices justice, I am exalted; and because you exalt Me, I will treat you with charity and will cause My holiness to dwell among you. If you practice justice and charity, I will redeem you with complete redemption (Midrash Devarim Raba). How can the Jew practice justice? "Judges and police you will make for YOURSELF." One must impose justice and control within himself. If one makes himself a just person who polices himself, he can contribute to making his society just (Tzror Hamor).

Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel, we said above, taught that one who brings peace into his own house is credited by Heaven as if he brought peace on the entire Jewish people. Consider that! Think of every Jewish individual in a machlokess (fight, argument) with another, every group who is in an argument with another. If you can bring peace to your house, or to any other couple or home, Heaven credits you with the measure of reward as if you brought peace to every Jewish individual and group who is in a machlokess. You could receive reward as if you brought peace to a million quarreling and antagonistic people! That's a lot of merit. That shows how important peace is; and how much G-d's reward is for promoting, bringing and maintaining peace!

Chazal (Tractate Derech Eretz) say that all important things end with peace: the Birkas Kohanim, Shmoneh Esray, Shabos Maariv. We see that everything must conclude with peace. Is there anywhere in your life or with any person or group you know where there could stand to be more peace? Hashem is waiting with mounds of reward...what are you going to do about it?

"The world endures because of three things: truth, justice and peace" (Pirkei Avos, chapter one).