Parshas Bechukosai - Friendship

By BJLife/Moishy Pruzansky

Posted on 05/30/19

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
Dr. Shapsy Tajerstein, DPM - Podiatry Care.
(410) 788-6633

How valuable is it to have peace among friends and family? Priceless. In fact, the climax of all of the many material blessings mentioned in this week's parsha which is promised to us if we observe the Torah, is the blessing of peace (26:6). Rashi states that we learn from here that the blessing of peace is equivalent to all of the other material blessings combined *.

Through the above-mentioned verse, Hashem is clearly teaching us that although we might not always realize it, peace with our fellow man is one of the most valuable blessings imaginable. What practical steps can we take to achieve it?

A good place to start is by examining the ways of Aharon HaKohen, who was one of the greatest peacemakers in Jewish history**. So, how did Aharon make peace? What was his secret? The Gemara relates that Aharon had a particularly effective way of creating peace between quarreling parties. He would approach one side and tell them that the other one really wants to make up and yearns for his forgiveness. Then, he would approach the other side and tell them the same thing. When they would finally meet, the barriers of hatred and distrust having already crumbled, the old sparks of friendship would easily and immediately re-ignite. He did this on multiple occasions, always producing the results of peace (Derech Eretz Zuta, Perek HaShalom).

Now, let us consider two strong questions on this famous Gemara: Although the results of Aharon’s actions were definitely positive, isn’t it peculiar that he used a method that seems to be based upon deceit? Why did Aharon specifically choose to compromise the truth to achieve the goal of peace? Furthermore, Aharon’s method seems, at first glance, childish. These are adults we’re talking about. Surely, over the course of their conversations, they would discover Aharon’s ruse and figure out that their counterpart had never really offered a sincere apology, and that it was all a hoax. How could such peace have any hope of lasting?

The following story will afford us a deep insight into how much we cherish peace, how to accomplish it, and how to better understand Aharon’s actions:

There was a young boy, a "special child”, who lived in the Woodmere, N.Y. community, who had an amazing habit that strangely exhilarated his soul. This autistic boy loved to approach two strangers who were in close proximity and connect their hands. When he succeeded in bringing the two strangers’ hands together, he would clap gleefully and express profound joy.

A few months ago, at a large wedding, this child grabbed onto the hand of a stranger. He started to gently, but firmly, tug on the man's arm as if he wanted to take him to a predetermined place. A little embarrassed, not wanting to over-resist, the man looked for assistance and continued to march along in the direction in which he was clearly being led. Strangely, instead of doing his usual routine and connecting the stranger’s hand with that of a nearby stranger, he walked purposefully towards the other side of the wedding hall, with his “captive” in tow. When the boy reached a certain stranger, whom he did not know, he performed his usual custom. He took the hand of the one he was leading and connected it to the one to whom he seemed to have purposefully sought out. In the end, it turned out that these two men had been enemies and not talked for a number of decades, despite having been childhood friends, for some reason that nobody remembered.

They shook hands hesitatingly, at first, but having been brought together under these clearly Divine circumstances, they yielded. The longstanding wall of ice soon crumbled and melted as they hugged and cried. The next hours of the wedding were spent talking and laughing, and trying to recall the forgotten reason that had caused the habit of hate to build between them. (This story was related by Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, of Congregation Aish Kodesh, Woodmere, N.Y.)

This week’s parshah, Aharon’s actions, and the above story, ALL illustrate an important insight into the human psyche: we cherish and crave peace; All that stands in the way is our egos. When Aharon approached each of the parties with a notion that the other desired to mend the relationship, he was NOT bending the truth. Although neither side had approached him with a prior request, Aharon understood that deep down, buried beneath layers of ego, every soul longs to reunite with whomever he is in a quarrel with. Indeed, this is demonstrated by the fact that once the men in the story, as well as the people Aharon “tricked” back together, got over their initial stage of swallowing their pride and made peace, they never cared to look back and question the actions that brought them back together. We all want to make amends, we just need a push to do so. Although it's not always apparent, and may seem quite contrary at times, Aharon understood the lesson of the climatic blessing highlighted in this week’s parshah: there is nothing we value more than peace and meaningful relationships with those around us, especially with our spouses, family members, and friends. Nothing. ***

Living Inspired

The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos states “acquire for yourself a friend” (1:6). “Acquire” connotes that you should do so even if it will come at a “cost” (See R’ A. Mi’Bartanura ibid). What cost is the Mishnah referring to? Isn’t friendship free? The answer is that in order to keep any relationship vibrant, one MUST be willing to compromise on their egos and be the FIRST one to give in, forgive and forget. Once this “cost” is internally accepted, our relationships with our spouses, families and friends will last forever. As this week’s parshah attests, it is a nominal price to pay and well worth the cost, for peace is one of life’s GREATEST blessings.

May we internalize the lesson of this week’s parshah that, deep down, there are few things in life that we value more than true peace with those around us. Furthermore, may we internalize the lesson illustrated by Aharon and this Mishnah, that the main hurdle that stands in the way of a lasting relationship is the willingness to swallow our pride and give in. Most importantly, may we all be willing to pay the small fee required for friendship, and thereby merit its unparalleled blessing.


*- It is important to note that there are 2  are equally important components of the blessing of peace:: 1) Peace from all threats and danger. 2) Peace between ourselves and our fellow man. Both types of peace are included in this blessing.

**- In fact, the Mishnah commands us to follow his example and to ”be from the students of Aharon; Love peace and pursue peace" (Pirkei Avos 1:12)

***- Based off of a beautiful Dvar Torah by Rabbi Label Lam.