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The Quest for Peace

The Quest for Peace

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The problem with clichés is that their banality allows us to ignore how true they are.

Take a cliché like “Ignorance is bliss.” How facile—and how true! Are you sick to your soul of all the ugliness and injustice in the world? Just close your eyes, and make believe it ain’t so. And when reality barges in your door and comes crashing down on your head, close your eyes tighter, imagine harder. If you sing loud enough to drown out the sounds of carnage in the next street or continent, you can experience peace (or at least participate in a ceremony celebrating the same).

The opening verse of this week’s Torah reading, Vayeishev (Genesis 37–40), speaks of Jacob’s desire to “settle down in tranquility.” Anyone following the Torah’s account of Jacob’s life until this point cannot but agree that, after 34 years of fleeing from Esau and slaving for Laban, Jacob deserves some peace and quiet. But the very next verse begins the story of how, as the Talmud puts it, “there pounced on him the trouble of Joseph”: the most beloved of Jacob’s sons is sold into slavery by his own brothers, and for 22 years Jacob grieves, thinking him dead; and then Jacob is compelled to spend the last years of his life far from home, in alien Egypt.

Why, indeed, was Jacob’s desire denied him? “When the righteous wish to settle in tranquility,” explain our sages, “G‑d says: Is it not enough for them what is prepared for them in the World to Come, that they also ask for a tranquil life in this world?”

But why not? Does G‑d have a limited quantity of tranquility to mete out? Why can’t we have the peace and perfection of the World to Come, and a few years of respite in this world as well?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the World to Come is a world of truth. And “truth” does not tolerate partial solutions. It is a world in which what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow cannot be divorced from what’s happening today, and what’s happening to your fellow man cannot be separated from what is happening to yourself. Peace in our still unperfected world, viewed from the perspective of the “World to Come,” is a lie.

Many are content to live this lie: to forget what happened yesterday, avoid thinking about what will happen tomorrow, ignore the sadness in a neighbor’s eye, the poverty on the other side of town and the bombs in the other time zone.

But then there are the righteous: men and women who cannot relish their meal as long as someone, somewhere, remains hungry; who, if there is ignorance in the world, know their own wisdom to be deficient; who, if there is discord anywhere in G‑d’s creation, cannot be at peace with themselves.

Yes, you can have some peace in this world, and then experience the real thing in the World to Come—if you’re willing to let the World to Come come when it comes.

The righteous are not that patient. Their physical selves may be stuck in this world, but their minds and souls inhabit the World to Come. They refuse to close their eyes.

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Anonymous July 8, 2011

Profound comments Some of the above comments are so very deep and profound thanks for sharing Reply

Anonymous w December 10, 2010

ouch Jacob's life was downright depressing. Eisav, Leban, wrestles an angel, Dinah gets raped, Rachel dies in childbirh, Joseph is lost to him, fears the loss of Benjamin. Jacob grieves for years. Finding Joseph is finally an upper for him. To think that all this misery is washed away by the World to Come does not make his suffering any easier. For Jacob to not feel his true suffering is like feeling there is no sun on a cloudy day. Reply

Yuni Scottsdale, AZ November 23, 2010

Thank you for G-dly wisdom. If it were not the knowledge of the Holy One and the world to come - I could not live with peace of mind. It is difficult knowing the Truth - how much more without now the Truth!
Thank you so much writing the truth of the righteous - who knows the Righteous One exists and is preparing a place for us. Reply

Anonymous Clanton, AL November 22, 2010

May we all be as the righteous! May we all be as the righteous!
"The righteous are not that patient. Their physical selves may be stuck in this world, but their minds and souls inhabit the world to come. They refuse to close their eyes." Reply

George Pugh Glen Gardner, NJ December 16, 2008

Peace Peace is something you build for yourself and should not come from another hand.

Tormenting yourself for things that you neither caused or can prevent is foolish.

You can end like Dicken's Mrs. Jelliby: your children and those near you in want ,while you worry about problems over which you exercise smaller or no control.

What you describe is self-indulgence not peace. Put another way what you call pity and concern is just self-pity and self-concern in disguise.

Rather than torment yourselves from self-regard and vanity try show kindness to those you encounter during the day. Reply

Anonymous Brampton, ON, Canada December 1, 2007

The choice was made for us Since our Ancestor Adam decided to have knowledge of good and evil instead of life, we all must experience evil starting with him as is recorded in Genesis 3:16-19.

Maybe after our experience of the pain evil brings, we will learn to choose the good and listen to the Almighty and do his will because this is the life. Reply

an Israel habitant November 29, 2007

Oh, oh, thank you!!! So true for those very days! well, the Tora is every moment's truth, but we always need our sages such as you to point it out for us.

Joining the blessing posted by David on Dec 21, 2005 Reply

Don Bridgeman Murray, KY June 14, 2006

Peace When we truly can say, I have peace amongst the turmoil, then I believe one has reached a place where only G-d has led and protected. Reply

Eric S. Kingston CA December 29, 2005

The Righteous Maybe G-d doesn't grant total peace to the righteous in this world, not only because of their place in the "World to Come", but because they are the ones best suited to fight the dark. As I've read "And Jacob struggled with the darkness." Reply

David December 21, 2005

Yanki , May God, the Most High, bless you! Reply