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A Dvar Torah for Lech-Lecha

Our Dvar Torah: Shalom Within, Shalom Without
A Dvar Torah for Parshat Lech-Lecha: Genesis 12:1 - 17:27
By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman ben Ya'akov © October 31, 2020

The Bard, in Hamlet, Act-1, Scene-III, places the following words into the mouth of Polonius:

“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!”

As Jews and Noahidim we desire Shalom, Peace. How many times in our siddurim do we plead to HaShem for shalom!

But where do we find shalom? The Gutnick Chumash finds the same answer as the Bard in the opening verse of this parsha. As they write: – (Read “The last word.”)

If there is to be true Shalom there must be a coming together! A coming together of the Jews – overcoming our sectarian disagreements and political infighting, and a coming together among the other nations as well. Our innumerable divisions are creating unsustainable animosities, distrust, treasons and hatreds of all sorts! We must all stop and realize that we are ALL, ALL OF US, the Children of One Creator. We are brothers and sisters, members all of the one human race! We must become more open to the incredible diversity of life if we are to put an end to these senseless and destructive conflicts!

To do this we must first deal with the conflicts within ourselves! “To thine own Self be true!” Not to thine own little “s” self be true – not to ones ego and ones self seeking arrogance – No! but to ones capitol “S” Self! Because this Self is created in the very image of G-d! This Self deserves honor and respect! And craves Shalom!

IF to THIS Self we are True, then, as bard notes, “It must follow, as the night follows the day, that we can not be false to anyone else! Why? Because they too are made in the image of the One G-d! To be untrue to others is therefore to be untrue to ones Self! This Truth requires each of us to accept HaShem's Sovereignty, His Wisdom, His Derech or Way because HE is the One Creator and Authority, regardless of what our limited minds call Him or how any of us conceive Him.

ONLY THEN, when Self finds Shalom, can we truly humble ourselves and accept the FACT of our own smallness. THEN the conflicts within will be settled and we will be able to deal with external conflicts as well! THEN there will be Shalom.

Moshe Rabbeinu, Hillel, Rabbi Akiva, and other great luminaries teach us that the entire Torah is based on the verse, "You shall love your neighbor as [you love] yourself," (Lev. 19:19). This verse teaches us that the goal of every commandment in the Torah is to promote SHALOM: Peace within our own mind and consciousness, peace between husband and wife, between family members and friends, peace throughout our communities and nations, peace throughout the entire world and peace with the Beloved One. Everything is about promoting and maintaining Shalom!

Shalom requires us to remain true to our own values and principles while respecting those of others with whom we may disagree at times. Shalom is peace, but Shalom is also balance. The Torah teaches balance and moderation in all things. Torah no where promotes fanaticism! BUT nowhere does it promote a lackadaisical attitude either! It promotes balance! As Job said, paraphrasing, 'even if I must die, still I will maintain my integrity before G-d'. There is a time to fight and a time for peace. A time to give and a time to take. As we read at:

Proverbs 12:3 Man cannot be made secure by wickedness, but the root of the righteous is immovable.

So with a firm and balanced mindset opposites can live and function together in peace, creating an atmosphere of trust and shalom throughout the world. In the long run this enables every human to better understand G-d, each according to the divine revelation granted to him or her. Its OK to have different understandings from others! IF those understandings are based on the Truth of Torah they will endure, if not they will fade away – So why fight? Resist when the time to resist comes, but never “fight,” never give a portal to hatred, to the yetzer hara, to the enemies o Shalom.

If ANY of the world's religions and their founders are correct, the Beloved One is beyond all conception! So why fight as though defending our limited conceptions might solve anything or bring about the desired realization we all seek? This is foolishness! G-d Ways triumph, even when our enemies surround us. Even as we pass through the valleys of the shadows of death.

The Torah teaches us how and demands of us proper compromises between opposites. Opposites such as the body and soul, between G-d and humanity, between man and woman, humans and animals, humans and the environment, old and young, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, etc. We are commanded to “seek peace and pursue it.” We Jews still exist as a people when our various peers have long since been lost in the sands of time because we know how to be flexible! AND we know when bending too far will break us. In every generation some of our people have been broken through assimilation, through 'bending too far' and others have been broken due to inflexibility and rigidness. BUT as a people we continue forward! Am Y'israel chai! How? By [turning] from evil and do[ing] good.” As David HaMelech wrote at Psalm 34:14:

“Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

This balance approach leads to Shalom within and Shalom without. Our Rabbi Nachman of Breslov teaches us that G-d created so many different things and so many opposites in the world only so that we can better understand Him through expanding our intellectual horizons.

A narrow, prejudiced point of view not only limits intellectual growth, it diminishes one's perception of the Holy One. How? By blinding one to the Infinite Nature encompassing and permeating every aspect of the intellectual spectrum! Nature and human history clearly demonstrate that HaShem values compromise and peace! In order to perceive and get closer to Him we need the collective intelligence of every human being on earth! This accumulation of knowledge and experience is the very reason for our existence and the story of humankind! This in-gathering requires communication and mutual respect – which can only come about when there exists peace and harmony between people and, especially, between those of differing viewpoints. Exclusion of other viewpoints, therefore, severely limits one's perception of the Beloved and diminishes His honor and greatness as He is the Author of this vast diversity. Thus we understand that the Beloved values Peace as the door to everything else. Shalom within and Shalom without.

We now turn to Likutey Moharan 27:1 in Rebbe Israel Dov Odesser's translation.

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