Monday, August 22, 2011

Peace and Harmony

Rav Meir Shapiro, zt”l, was a captivating speaker. The following speech, given to the Agudas Harabanim in Poland, is worth repeating. “There are two types of feelings of peace and harmony. The first—which stems from the heart and mind—comes from the pure springs of the nefesh, expressed in the verse, 'כמים הפנים לפנים כן לב האדם'. This is the kind of real peace that we all strive to attain. We are all waiting eagerly for the fruition of this peace. As the verse states, 'וגר זאב עם כבש ונמר עם גדי ירבץ'—‘And the wolf with live with the lamb and the leopard will lie down with the kid.’
“But there is another, lower kind of peace which emerges instinctively from camaraderie. For example, when people are caught in an unexpected downpour and rush quickly to the only available shelter, they feel a kind of connection.
“This is how we can understand the exchange between Bilaam and the nations when Yisrael received the Torah. When the nations saw the powerful unity that we achieved prior to matan Torah, They were unable to fathom how this could be and figured that matan Torah had to be a sign of impending danger which naturally brought the Jews together.
“This explains why they ran in fear to Bilaam, exclaiming, ‘Perhaps another flood is coming to the world?’ The non-Jewish nations only know about unity that is inspired by the instinct for self-preservation, not the absolute unity of being as one man, with one heart.
“Bilaam assured them that they had nothing to worry about since there was no impending flood, neither of water or fire. It is just that for the Jewish people there is a different type of unity— 'ה' עז לעמו יתן'. This peace is the strength of all Jews, to unite through dedication to Torah. The non-Jews responded, 'ה' יברך את עמו בשלום'—Hashem shall bless His nation with peace’—a different type of peace completely foreign to their experience.”

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