Peace or Nothing by Gavriel Epstein


Along with the many curses and blessings presented in Parashat BeChukotai, Hashem promises that, “VeNatati Shalom BaAretz,” “I will grant peace in the land” (VaYikra 26:6). Rashi (ad loc. s.v. VeNatati Shalom) explains that the importance of peace is greater than any other need, because, “Im Ein Shalom Ein Klum,” “If there is no peace, there is nothing,” regardless of the prosperity the nation may experience. Why is peace so crucial that the lack of any other blessing—including abundant produce, prosperity and health—is dwarfed by a lack of peace? This difficulty can be explained by applying our reciprocal relationship with Hashem. Unlike other blessings, peace requires our initiation and demonstration of willingness to cooperate with both others and Hashem. The very existence of peace creates a reciprocal relationship, “Ki Am Kadosh Atah LaHashem Elokecha UVecha Bachar Hashem LiHeyot Lo,” “Because you are a holy people to Hashem your God, and Hashem chose you to be His” (Devarim 14:2). Only by fostering peace can we qualify for any of Hashem’s other blessings, making it the most fundamental blessing.

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