“Shalom Yihiyeh Li Ki Bishirirut Libi Elech” “I will have peace if I follow my desires” (29:18).
Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld zt”l remarks how this Pasuk provides testimony to out stubborn and hedonistic nature. How could it be that after hearing the horrific nature of the Tochachot, a person could still think, “I will have peace if I follow my desires”?
I would like to offer another understanding of our Pasuk. The grammatical root of “Shirirut,” “desires,” which is “Sharar,” is also the root for “muscle” or “strength.” As such, the Pasuk might be describing one who mistakenly thinks that he will be fine because he can rely on his abilities alone.
One October afternoon many years ago I was having lunch in my lab at Rutgers University with a number of Israeli friends and we were discussing the causes of the Yom Kippur. Yossi Ziv patiently listened to everyone else’s opinions all the while shaking his head. Finally, he gave his opinion. “Already in 1970, three years before the war, I knew we were in trouble. I was in Officers Training School. We were standing in a small hill in the Golan, training with a 50-caliber machine gun. Our instructor asked us what we would do if we were right now attacked by a brigade of Syrian tanks. ‘Flee quickly,’ was the collective answer.” Yossi then recounted how this officer chastised them. “‘What’s your problem’? he yelled. ‘You’ve got a 50-caliber machine gun. It pierces armor. Start shooting!’” It must be explained here that facing a tank, let alone a brigade of tanks, with a 50-caliber machine gun is equivalent to running head-on into a speeding freight train with a dirt bike – it’s sheer madness. Yet this officer was (blindly) fully confident in his abilities and available technologies. This notion catastrophically failed us 31 years ago during the Yom Kippur War. The Syrians nearly succeeded in cutting Israel in half! The Egyptians completely overran the southwestern Sinai! We were saved only by clear Divine intervention and Hashgacha Pratit.
There is a popular radio personality who brags about how he has been given “talent on loan from God.” I’m not sure that he really believes or understands his words, but this is a very Frum statement. Our abilities are on loan from God. If we again succumb to our own PR and desires, disasters will again follow.