By Rabbi Label Lam, reprinted from Torah.org
HASHEM spoke to Moshe saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying: This is how you shall bless the children of Israel, saying to them: “May HASHEM bless you and watch over you. May HASHEM cause His countenance to shine to you and favor you. May HASHEM raise His countenance toward you and grant you peace.”. (Bamidbar 6:22-27)
This blessing is scripted by HASHEM for the Kohanim to shower upon the Jewish People on special occasions and in some places daily. Parents too, employ the same words to bless their children every Friday night. It’s rich with wishes for everything good, including the blessing of wealth, security, and basking in the favorable light of The Almighty. What can be better!? Oh, there’s one giant ingredient. The finale and the crown of all this abundant goodness is something called SHALOM! Why is that so valuable and necessary after so much has been granted.What is Shalom and what it does it add to the equation of life?
This question is actually asked by Rashi earlier in Chumash. Before the barrage of rebuke is launched in Bechukosai, the Torah promises material wealth with the mental tranquility of living securely in the land. Then the Torah says, “And I will give you Shalom…” Rashi on the spot says, “Maybe your going to say, ‘We have food and drink’ but if there is no peace then there is nothing! …From here we learn that Shalom is equal to everything!” So we see that Shalom has a high value, and that’s an understatement. How does it work?
The Jerusalem Talmud and the Midrash in Parshas Nasso both say, “Ain Kli Machzik Brocha Ella Shalom”- “No vessel can hold blessing like Shalom”. How can we conceptualize this. Imagine walking through a giant grocery store. Pick your favorite, Evergreen, Pomegranate, Seasons, you name it. You fill up your cart with goodies for Shabbos. You are hungry and tired and you can’t wait to get home and to eat a nice filling dinner and begin to creatively prepare for Shabbos. After checking out by the cash register and with ease happily paying the cashier you are told that you have to bring your own bags. You have a giant cart load of groceries and no way to hold them. You pile them in your arms dropping some and trying to hold onto what you have while bending to pick up up what has fallen. Things are breaking and melting and ripping and most of what you have paid for is lost before you get home, leaving a trail of groceries along the way. You are now extremely frustrated and aggravated. You can’t even enjoy a bite of food. What a night mare. But so it is to have everything and to be lacking in Shalom. Shalom is the vessel that holds, preserves, and carries whatever Brochos flow our way.
The Mishne in Pirke’ Avos invites us to be from the students of Aaron, “Love peace (Shalom), pursue peace (Shalom), love people and bring them close to Torah.” Why must one love Shalom first and then pursue it? Because not only can you not effectively sell what you don’t have, but you don’t want to. Once you experience it then automatically you become a naturally enthusiastic advocate. Did you ever read a book or hear a song that excited and inspired you to the point where you could not wait to share it with others!? We have all experienced that. Shalom is not an abstract idea, it’s experiential and to achieve it requires many life and social skills.
Shalom is harmonizing all the elements in our lives, so that that not only are they not at was with each other but they compliment each other, like instruments of various sizes and sounds blending symphonically into one orchestra. This requires discipline, a musical score, (a plan), patience, a conductor, (a Rebbe), and self knowledge. A person with Shalom may possess nothing and yet have everything, and someone can have loads of stuff and still have nothing, because whatever he has complicates and destabilizes his life and it gives him no peace. The art of achieving and practicing peace is an almost natural fulfillment of living a Torah life, because “All it’s ways are pleasantness and all its paths are peace!” It could be that the biggest ambition and the richest reward we can hope to attain in life is authentic Shalom!