Pirkei Avot 1:12 - Choosing peace and Chasing peace

This post is dedicated in memory of Etya Sarah bat Yitzchak ha-Levi. May it be an aliyah                                                               for her neshama.
By Elisheva Maline

Hillel and Shammai received the tradition from them [Sh'mayah and Avtalyon]. Hillel said, "Be like the disciples of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and drawing them near to the Torah.

Aharon, the brother of Moshe, our nation's leader, and the first man anointed as kohen gadol (high priest), was also a passionate keeper of the peace. Whenever Aharon discovered someone floundering with his ability to keep any of G-d's commandments (eg. shabbos, kashrut, taharas u'mishpacha etc. etc.), he made time to approach and befriend this person. Or, if he heard about a couple struggling with shalom bayis (marital harmony), he dropped what he was doing and rushed over to set matters aright. In short, Aharon chased peace like it was going out of business.

By association, the people he gave love to improved their ways. They reasoned, "If such an important figure has come to treat with me– my problems and challenges– I must be worth more than I originally thought!" or, decided, "Aharon looks out for others. I'm so inspired, I want to be like that guy."

How was it that a Kohen gadol, someone with a barrel full of duties and only so many hours to get them done in a day, could make time for the people who struggled? He cared.

Not many people can be an Aharon but Judaism was never meant to be a religion based on cloning another's good deeds; one looks for role models instead. Now, in order for one to take a leaf from Aharon's book, one must ask, "What does the word shalom (peace) mean." For some, peace evokes images of a sixties movements and Gandhi. For others, peace might grossly translate into a person who enjoys sticking her nose into others peoples' affairs with epigrams like, "A misery shared is a misery halved." The Torah says (among other sources) that the word peace means harmony; as in, there must be more to maintaining the peace than, for instance, giving in to a bully's whims or, G-d forbid, ignoring community issues because one does not like confrontation. Simply put, according to the Torah, peace means seeking harmony in the context of circumstances.

The typical formula for peace runs thus: Reuven and Shimon got into a fight over vacation preferences and are no longer on speaking terms. A third fellow comes along and tries bringing harmony to an otherwise discordant situation. He tells Reuven, You know, I met Shimon last night and he mentioned how horrible he feels about the argument between you two. He wishes he could make amends." Having made his stand, the third guy then approaches Shimon and repeats what he already said to Reuven. The next day (if these two are emotionally sound), they will find themselves surprised with feelings of well being and friendship. What this fellow has done is shed light in a place where there was previously none.

Why does the Torah label Aharon as the classic example for the title 'Pursuer of Harmony?' When Aharon heard about Moshe's appointment by G-d to become leader of the Jewish nation, he rejoiced (Exodus 4:14) even though he could have said, "Considering that I am the elder son; shouldn't I have been offered the job?" However, there was not a trace of jealousy in his being. He understood his role in this world and he embraced it.

How do we become disciples of Aharon? Find inner peace and you will be at peace with the world. You can figure out what that means in the context of who you are. 

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