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A piece about peace



What’s the one blessing you seek most from G-d? Is it financial success, health, or perhaps the blessings of family and friends? This week’s Torah portion, Bechukotai, opens with a series of the most beautiful blessings that G-d promises to bestow upon us if we walk in the path of the Torah. Among these blessings, G-d promises, “Venatati shalom ba’aretz.” (And I will grant peace in the land.) Rashi elaborates on this verse, “You might say, ‘Here is food, and here is drink, but if there’s no peace, there’s nothing!’ From here, we learn that peace is equal to everything else.”

Rashi highlights a profound truth: no matter the abundance of material blessings one might have, without peace, we lack the space and ability to truly appreciate and enjoy these blessings. Peace isn’t merely an absence of conflict, but a state of harmony and completeness that allows us to experience life’s goodness fully.

One of the ways we can draw down this brocha of peace is by actively creating peace within our environments – within ourselves, our families, and our communities. This week’s parsha is always read during the Omer period, and this message aligns with this time of introspection and mourning for the 24 000 students of Rabbi Akiva, who perished due to a lack of mutual respect. In spite of being great Torah scholars, their failure to honour each other’s unique paths to connecting with G-d led to a devastating plague.

This tragic event in our history underscores the importance of ahavat Yisrael (love for our fellow Jews) and unity within the Jewish nation. Thus, the Omer period is a time to focus on increasing our love and respect for each other, emphasising the need for communal harmony and mutual respect.

This past Sunday, 26 May, we celebrated Lag B’Omer, a day that breaks the mourning of the Omer period with joy and unity. Our beautiful Jewish Johannesburg community held an extraordinary parade, organised by Tzivos Hashem and Chabad House, designed to highlight our many wonderful communal organisations, schools, and shuls. Standing on the streets of Johannesburg on Sunday watching the floats and schools pass by, I – with my American passport – was immensely grateful to be living here in Johannesburg.

It’s easy to focus on the problems and challenges we have in our lives, or the blessings we may still be praying for, and I acknowledge the issues we face living in this country. But in spite of those challenges, seeing so many segments of our Johannesburg Jewish community unite to celebrate Jewish pride reminded me how fortunate I am to be part of such a special community, one that truly exemplifies peace, tolerance, and unity among Jews.

Let’s not take for granted this blessing of living in peace with our fellow Jews. Let’s remember that while material blessings are lovely, the proper foundation of a blessed life is peace – both internal and external. While we continue to pray for peace in our homeland, let’s ask ourselves how we can foster peace in our homes, relationships, and community as a channel to draw down blessings for Am Yisrael.

May we see the complete fulfilment of the words of the possuk, “Venatati shalom ba’aretz.” (And I will grant peace in the land) with the coming of Moshiach!

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