Sunday, July 16, 2006

Fighting for Peace

Greetings from beautiful, sunny San Diego, where my wife and I have come so she can take a business seminar. Alas, I am doomed to wander San Diego by my lonesome for two days. Whatever shall I do... first?

'Nuff said about that.

Years ago, ironically in Israel, I saw a t-shirt that read, "Fighting for peace is like f***ing for virginity." (Stars are mine.) I thought it was a cute slogan, but dead wrong... but I never really considered exactly why.

I think that last week's parsha - Pinchas - and the current situation in the Middle East can give us some insight to that.

The parsha begins by describing Pinchas as the grandson of Aharon. R. Yissachar Frand asks the following question:
Why did tracing Pinchas' genealogy to Aharon satisfy anyone? Everyone realized that Pinchas had two grandfathers. What does it help that he was the grandson of Aharon? No one disputed that. This would not seem to mollify anyone's complaint - that in this instance he undertook an action which reflected on his descent from a Priest of Avodah Zarah [ForeignWorship, i.e. - idolatry].

He then quotes R. Meir Bergman to explain the answer. He says that, of course everyone knew that Pinchas was the grandson of Aharon. Their assumption, however, was that Pinchas' behavior could not possibly have been from the Aharon-side of the family. After all, Aharon was known to be the man of peace. Clearly, this must have been from the Yitro-side.

Not so, says God. This was from the Aharon-side of the family! This is what Aharon himself would have done in that situation!

And that is why Pinchas is not referred to as the Ohev Shalom, but rather the Rodef Shalom - and this is the main point. Rodef Shalom literally means, "Chaser of Peace". The Chasam Sofer explains that a rodef is one who chases something, and that in this case, it means that Pinchas was one who was willing to chase away peace - in order for there to be peace.

Sometimes, in order for there to be peace, one must chase peace away - in other words, make conflict; even war. There is evidently something that can be considered a bad peace, that must be removed in order to bring out a good peace.

Looking at the current situation in Israel, I think one can understand this as the difference between a sort of cold war, and real peace. For years, Israel and Hezbollah have been engaged in a cold war; a war of open hostility, but little actual fighting, per se. Terrorist attacks, and retaliatory strikes... but no open war. This was a bad peace; a status-quo peace; a peace of uncertainty.

Now Israel has become a rodef shalom. They are actively pursuing peace, at the necessary expense of those determined to allow none. They are determined to rid their borders of those who have never made any bones about their intention to kill us all. All Hezbollah has to do is lay down their arms and commit to ending aggression against Israel, and the fighting will stop. In short, all they have to do is the one thing they will never do... until forced to.

Will Israel be successful in their endeavor? Not without God's help. There is simply too much to do, in my opinion.

But it's a start.

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