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An architect who builds a palace does not do so on his own -- he has scrolls and notebooks which he consults how to place the rooms, where to set the doors. So it was with G‑d: He looked into the Torah and created the world

Midrash Rabbah, Bereishit 1:2

The number "three" figures prominently in everything connected with the Giving of the Torah. The Torah was given in Sivan, the third month of the Jewish year, on the third day of a specially ordained three-day period of preparation. It was given through Moses, the third child of Amram and Jocheved, to the children of Israel, who were divided by G‑d into three classes (Kohanim, Levites and Israelites). And the Torah itself consists of three parts: Torah (the Pentateuch), the Prophets, and the Scriptures. In the writings of Kabbalah, the Torah is identified with the sefirah (divine attribute) of tiferet (harmony), the third of the seven supernal sefirot.

A scholar from the Galilee quoted in the Talmud expressed it thus: "Blessed be the Merciful One, who gave a threefold Torah to a threefold people through a third-born on a third day in the third month" (Talmud, Shabbat 88a)

Chassidic teaching explains that Torah embodies the very essence of the number three, for "the Torah was given to make peace in the world," and three is the number of peace.

The number "one" implies a monopolous individuality. Where one dominates, there cannot be peace, for one insists on the absoluteness and exclusivity of its being. Where one dominates, everything else (if there is anything else) must surrender its identity before its all-nullifying singularity. True, there is no conflict, for there is only one; but neither is there peace, which is the harmonious integration of two (or more) distinctive elements.

"Two" represents diversity. As the number implies, we are dealing with two parallel entities. One may be greater than the other, yet they are equal if only in that each is a distinct existence. Twoness is often the cause of conflict, but even when it is not, it still precludes true peace. As long as each entity retains its separateness and distinction, the most they can achieve is a non-combative coexistence. Dichotomized by their respective individualities, they cannot merge into a synthesized whole.

So what is peace? If it is neither one nor two, neither the affirmation of difference nor its surrender, what is it? Indeed, peace is a paradox -- a paradox expressed by the number three.

Peace is when two distinct entities find common ground in a third reality which transcends the differences between them. A third element which embraces them both to orient them towards a higher goal. A third element within whose broader context the unique and even opposite features of each complement and fulfill the other. A third element which preserves their differences -- and exploits them as the very ingredients of harmony.

A Personal Example

We can see a model for the dynamics of peace in our own diversified selves.

The mind and the heart, for example, are two very different systems, with differing and conflicting approaches and priorities. The mind is cold, aloof and objective; the heart is heated, involved and gloriously subjective. Yet they both inhabit the same person and serve as active forces in his life.

In a person who leads an uncompromisingly singular existence -- let us call him a one personality --either the mind or the heart will become the exclusive arbitrator in all areas of his life. Either the heart will yield to the mind and become a passionless void, or the mind will surrender its discriminating judgment to the heart's biased affections.

In the case of a "two personality", both mind and heart will each hold their ground, and the person will go through life torn between two perspectives on every issue that confronts him.

But then there is the individual in whom the mind remains a mind and the heart remains a heart, yet each is an integral part of a third and inclusive entity -- the human being. Humanness does not negate intellect or feeling -- it includes them both, and includes them in a way that combines the two (and numerous other faculties) into a cohesive approach to life.

In other words, when each of the two elements sees itself and its inclinations as a self-contained entity, there will never be true peace. But when each sees itself as part -- a distinctive part, but a part nonetheless -- of a greater whole, the result is peace: the paradox of diversity and disparity as the harbingers of unity.

The Blueprint

The Torah was given to make peace in the world.

The world -- a chaos of diversity and seeming randomness. Here and there we may observe patches of cohesiveness, communities and systems driven by a unanimity of purpose. But on the whole, the world seems a jumble of elements, forces, species, nations and individuals, each with its own nature and agenda. We know that there must be something that holds it all together; we know that somehow, underneath it all, we're all on the same bandwagon, headed toward a common goal. But on the surface, we seem doomed to conflict, as each pursues his, her or its individual aspirations.

If only we could somehow get a hold of the master plan, of the grand blueprint for existence! If only we could read the Creator's mind, to discern His intended use for each creatures particular traits and tendencies! If only we had a vision of the "third element" of creation, a vision which incorporates all created things as the component parts of a single organism...

If we had that blueprint, we would no longer have to struggle to force some sort of balance between individual wants to keep the world from tearing itself apart. If we had that blueprint, there would be no need to compromise differences for the sake of peace, since the properly guided pursuit of each entity's differences would result in the realization of the quintessential harmony which underlies all.

The Torah, given in a flurry of threes, is that blueprint. Torah lays down the do's and dont's of life, not as a curb on individual freedom but as the description of every man's deepest and truest strivings. It outlines the manner in which every element of creation is to be developed and utilized, not as a program to change them but to bring to light their innate essence and function.

"The Torah was given to make peace in the world."

Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson; adapted by Yanki Tauber.
Originally published in Week in Review.
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