Peace Without and Within by Rabbi Avi Pollak


Chazal tell us that after enduring many years of difficult challenges, including dealing with Lavan, confronting Esav, and dealing with his daughter’s assault, Yaakov Avinu wished that he could finally live in peace and tranquility.  Unfortunately for him, he was forced to deal with another tragic turn of events - the debacle of Yosef and his brothers.

The Midrash adds that God felt that Yaakov should not have expected to live in peace and tranquility.  Is it not enough that he will spend his life in the World to Come in peace?  Does he deserve to spend this world with that comfort as well?

This criticism of Yaakov is puzzling.  Was it wrong for him to wish to finish his life with contentment, especially considering that he had already endured so many challenges?

Rav Nissan Alpert explains that until that point, Yaakov had fended off enemies from the outside.  He was forced to run from Esav, to deal with Lavan’s trickery, to confront Esav one final time, and to deal with an assault on his daughter.  These were all challenges from people who did not share his values and world-view and wanted to take advantage of Yaakov and his family.  But in focusing all his energy on protecting himself from the world around him, he neglected to notice the problems that were brewing within his very own family.  With such intense hatred surfacing between his sons, he could not have expected to live out his life with ease; he should have confronted the internal challenge and solved it before it would be too late.

Chazal and the Rishonim often point out parallels between the lives of our Avot and the history of our nation.  There are many examples of the Jewish people succeeding in dealing with challenges from the unfriendly world around them, only to be crippled by internal conflict and hatred.

We must be careful to avoid this tragic error ourselves.  As we hope to succeed in securing a safe, peaceful and spiritual existence for Klal Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael, we must be able to transcend our political or religious differences to coexist peacefully.  We must show respect and appreciation for all those who have taken the courageous step to live in Eretz Yisrael and confront our national challenge on the front line.

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