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Jewish World Review
June 23, 2006
/ 27 Sivan, 5766
The Secret to a Life without Strife
Rabbi David Aaron
A daily prayer for peace
Place upon us peace, goodness and abundance, grace and kindness and compassion upon us and all of Israel, Your nation. Bless us our Father, all of us as one, with the light of Your face, Lord, G-d because it is with the light of Your face that You gave us, Lord our G-d, the Torah of life and love for kindness, righteousness, abundance, compassion and life and peace. And may it be good in Your eyes to bless Your nation Israel in every time, every moment with Your peace. Blessed be You, Lord, who is blessing His nation Israel with peace.
From the central Jewish prayer, Amidah
The Oral Tradition teaches that a rasha (evil person) may sometimes be very successful in this world, while a tzaddik (righteous person) sometimes destitute because G-d rewards the rasha for whatever good he does in this world and saves his punishment for the eternal afterlife, while a tzaddik receives his punishment for whatever bad he does in this world and get his rewards in the eternity afterlife. Despite the fact the tzaddik's rewards are eternal, this principle still doesn't seem fair. Why should the rasha have a good life while the tzaddik suffers?
The Chofetz Chaim, one of the greatest Torah luminaries of the last generation, clarifies this teaching: Although the rasha receives his rewards in this life, he cannot enjoy them because he lives in sin and thus has no inner peace. Thus it state in the prophet "There is not peace to the rasha." He may appear successful, but in reality he lives in misery. Indeed, having plenty and not being able to enjoy it is hell on earth. However, the tzaddik because he has inner peace fully enjoys whatever meager rewards he gets in this world.
This is a valuable lesson for our own lives. Sadly, we often meet people who appear to have everything, yet they have no peace within themselves, with their spouses or with other people. Therefore, they lack the calm and the necessary focus to enjoy their blessings.
Without peace, within ourselves and with others we are incapable of enjoying the many blessings we have in life. The Talmud teaches, peace is the only container that can receive and hold our blessings.
Let's take a look at Judaism's recipe for peace expressed in the prayer quoted above.
RECIPE FOR PEACE
Place upon us peace, goodness and abundance, grace and kindness and compassion
Following the request " Place upon us peace" are the ingredients necessary for achieving true and lasting internal and external peace:
To sum it up, our final request is for peace within our selves and with others. The ingredients are: personal fulfillment ( tova - goodness) being who we're suppose to be and yet also enjoying continual growth ( bracha - abundnace), radiating inclusiveness such that people can see themselves in us and feel a natural connection and trust ( chein grace and charm), exuding kindness ( chesed) and compassion ( rachamim).
Tova (goodness). The word tov (good) first appears in the Torah during the creation story. After G-d completes His work on each of the seven days, the verses read, "And G-d saw that it was good." "Good," according to the Torah, means that a destiny has been fulfilled. For example, G-d said, "Let there be light," and then "G-d saw it was good," meaning the light was what it was supposed to be. One of the ingredients of inner peace is to feel that we are who we are supposed to be.
U'vracha (literally translates as blessing and abundance and suggests growth). Even though we feel good when we are who we are supposed to be, we also need to feel that we are growing and enjoying increased dynamism and novelty in our lives.
Chein (grace and charm). Chein is a magnetic attraction people feel towards us when they can see themselves within us and feel that we can represent them. Joseph is described in the Torah as having much chein. Except for his brothers, everyone in Joseph's life trusted him because they felt that he could represent their best interests. His spontaneous and inclusive disposition charmed even Pharoah, the king of Egypt, who entrusted Joseph to act on his behalf.
Chesed (kindness) and rachamim (compassion the ability to overcome judgment). An example of chesed is when we take a friend out to dinner for no reason other than to simply be nice. Rachamim, however, is when we take a friend out to dinner even though he was nasty to us the day before. Rachamim is unconditional love. It is expressed when we overcome judgment and demonstrate love despite having good reasons not to love him or her.
FACE-TO-FACE WITH G-D
We continue to ask, " Bless us, our Father, all of us as one, with the light of Your face, because with the light of Your face You gave us Toras chaim." In other words, "Please, our loving Father, give us peace in the same empowering way that You gave us Torah face to face. Our ultimate aspiration is that we stand together in peace and experience You face to face just as we did when we received Your Torah at Sinai. At that time our people stood united "as one person with one heart (Midrash)" and enjoyed a personal, direct, and empowering relationship with You."
There is, however, additional meaning intimated in our request, " Bless us, our Father, all of us as one, with the light of Your face." We are also asking, "Our Father, as Your children, bless us to resemble You and radiate the light of Your face so that we can each see within each other that we are all indeed Your children, created in Your likeness in the image of G-d. And we know that our request is reasonable, " because with the light of Your face, You gave us Toras chaim" and all the positive qualities it encompasses the love of kindness, justice ( tzedakah), blessing ( bracha), compassion, life and peace. Torah (and all the divine qualities it engenders like love of kindness, justice, etc.) comes with the light of Your face. Embodied within the Torah's wisdom and values is the light of Your face and the power to actualize our G-dly potential. We know that the Torah is our guide to G-dly living and that when we embrace its' way of life we radiate G-dliness and resemble You, our Father.
Let's take a closer look at the words tzedakah and bracha .
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The word tzedakah translates into "righteousness" and "justification." The root word tzedek is often understood as "justice," although it can also mean, "to justify." A tzaddik, therefore, is a person who justifies and sees the good in people, even when a person may do wrong. The ability to judge people favorably and focus on what is right about them (righteousness) is necessary for accomplishing and sustaining peace.
The word bracha (blessing) used in the context of this phrase probably refers to the power of bracha. The Torah tells us that when G-d blessed Abraham, He said, "And unto you will be bracha." According to the Midrash, G-d informed Abraham that until that point, the power of bracha was only in G-d's hands, but He was now turning over that power to Abraham.
The power of bracha is the ability to increase or decrease the light of G-d in the world. Each of us has our fingers on the dimmer switch, so to speak. When we exercise our power of bracha we turn up the light of G-d and reveal the divine splendor permeating everything in existence. As it is written, " In your light, we will see light." However, when we diminish G-d's light we see less and less of G-d's presence and more and more randomness and chaos. For there to peace and harmony amongst we must be able to see how G-d's presence fills and unites us all; we must love the power of bracha and use it.
Inner peace and global peace are accomplished when we embrace the wisdom of Torah and all the divine qualities it entails and thereby actualize our G-dliness and see the G-dliness within others.
We also specify what kind of peace we want, " May it be good in Your eyes to bless Your nation Israel … with Your peace." Note that we ask for " Your peace" not " our peace." Most people think that peace is tolerance, a state of non-war or cease-fire. But cease-fire is not peace; it is simply not war. One of G-d's names is Shalom. Surely, this name does not mean "Not War."
G-d's peace is the power to create and sustain a uni-verse; the power to harmonize and unite all the diverse natural forces within the universe. G-d's peace respects, encourages and nurtures individuality and diversification, yet brings it all into a stunning synergy.
We conclude with, " Blessed be You YHVH, who is blessing Israel with peace." G-d is actively blessing us with peace at this very moment and always. When we acknowledge that G-d is constantly blessing us with peace and we truly want it, we are able to receive G-d's peace into our lives and channel it on to others.
SUMMARY AND PARAPHRASED
Bless Us with the Peace of Mind to Enjoy Your Blessings
The Talmud teaches that peace is the only container that can receive and hold our blessings. Sadly, we often meet people who although appear to have everything lack the peace of mind to enjoy their blessings; they have no peace within themselves or with others. We, therefore, request for peace the power to receive and enjoy all the other blessings we asked for. We ask G-d to bless us with the light of His face because when we glow with G-dliness and see the radiance of G-dliness on the face of others we will feel inner peace and accomplish global peace.
Place upon us peace, (inner peace and peace with others) goodness and abundance because inner peace requires a balance of feeling good about ourselves and yet also feeling abundant continual personal growth; charm and kindness and compassion because peace with others requires a character blend of charming inclusiveness that makes us attractive and trustworthy to others, a kind giving spirit and a warm compassionate heart bring all this upon us and all of Israel, Your nation (as Your nation may we embody the full meaning of Your peace). Bless us our loving Father, all of us as one person with the light of Your face, bless us in the same personal 'face to face' manner that you blessed us at Sinai when we stood united as one person with one heart. And bless us with the light of Your face so that our faces will be radiant with Your light and likeness; peace reigns supreme when it is obvious to each other that we are all Your children, created in Your likeness. We know we can accomplish this because along with the light of Your face, You gave us, YHVH our G-d, the Torah of Life instructions for living and all the divine ideals and values it empowers us to achieve the love of kindness, righteousness (the power to judge others favorably), blessing (the power to increase the Your light and reveal the divine presence that fills and unites us), compassion, life and peace. And may it be good in Your eyes to bless Your nation Israel at every time (good times and seemingly bad times), and in each moment with Your peace not just tolerance or cease-fire but 'Your Peace' which is the power to respect, encourage and nurture individuality and diversification while bringing harmony and unity. Blessed be You, May you, G-d, be abundantly manifest as one who is blessing right now His nation Israel with peace.
The more we believe that G-d is constantly blessing us with peace and we sincerely want peace, indeed the more G-d's peace is manifest within us and with others.
For more on the power of prayer, please see Endless Light: the Ancient Path of Kabbalah to Love, Spiritual Growth and Personal Power
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Rabbi David Aaron is the founder and dean of Isralight, an international organization with programming in Israel, New York South Florida, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Toronto. He has taught and inspired thousands of Jews who are seeking meaning in their lives and a positive connection to their Jewish roots.
He is the author of the newly released, The Secret Life of G-d, and Endless Light: The Ancient Path of Kabbalah to Love, Spiritual Growth and Personal Power , Seeing G-d and Love is my religion. (Click on links to purchase books. Sales help fund JWR.) He lives in the old City of Jerusalem with his wife and their seven children.
© 2005, Rabbi David Aaron