Parshas VaYishlach – Ways of Peace

One of our most important needs is Shalom, peace. The culmination of the Tefilla of Shmohah Esrei is either “Sim Shalom” or “Shalom Rav”, and we end both the Tefilla of “Elokai Netzor” and Kaddish with the entreaty of “Oseh Shalom”. Even the Brocha given by the Kohanim, called duchening, ends with a Brocha for peace. Following the same pattern, we find that the Six Orders of the Mishna also closes with Shalom, as it says, “HaShem did not find any vessel to contain blessing for Yisroel except Shalom).”

Why do we find that “Shalom” is particularly connected to endings, or closings? Perhaps we can find the reason in our quote from the end of the Mishnayos Uktzin Perek 3. Shalom is not merely a source of happiness, but it is required to contain all of the Brachos. If there is fighting and ill-will, all of the Brachos which HaShem tries to give us cannot be enjoyed, and they are lost. Therefore, after asking HaShem to fulfill our needs in Shmohah Esrei we must ask Him for Shalom, so that we can benefit from all the Brachos which he showers upon us.

Yaakov Avinu serves as an example of a Rodef Shalom, a person who pursues peace by exerting himself as much as possible to get along with others. He spent many years with his father-in-law, Lavan, who was an extremely difficult swindler, and nevertheless managed to get along with him.

After years of putting up with Lavan’s trickery, HaShem appeared to Yaakov instructing him to return to the land of his ancestors. Knowing that Lavan would do anything in his power to prevent him from leaving, Yaakov left secretly, while Lavan was away. Lavan was quite perturbed that Yaakov left, so he chased after him. When he reached Yaakov he demanded to know why he had left in stealth. Yaakov explained that he had worked for Lavan faithfully, far beyond the call of duty, for twenty years, and during all that time Lavan had not dealt with him honestly. Lavan’s reply to Yaakov is surprising. Lavan did not answer any of Yaakov’s claims. He answered like a madman, “The daughters are my daughters, and the sons are my sons, and the sheep are my sheep, and all that which you see is mine…” (Parshas VaYeitzie). Even in the face of Lavan’s ranting lunacy, Yaakov managed to speak calmly and maintain the peace.

In Parshas VaYishlach we see how Yaakov tried to avoid a confrontation with Esav. He humbled himself by referring to Esav as his master, and he sent numerous gifts to calm Esav’s fury. Yaakov even davened that it should not be necessary for him to kill Esav, his mortal enemy.

While we learn from these examples how important Shalom is, we must also realize that Shalom contains its perils. While we seek to have a peaceful relationship with every person, we must be careful not to be influenced by their character flaws. When, miraculously, Esav was well-disposed towards Yaakov and suggested that they travel together, Yaakov politely refused. Yaakov even convinced Esav not to send some of his men along with him.

May we succeed in following Yaakov’s peaceful ways, while avoiding all forms of bad influence.