G‑d tells us that "I will provide peace in the land" (Leviticus 26:6).

The story is told of two men who were making their way to the synagogue for prayers.

As they arrived at the small shtiebl to their dismay, they found the path to the door was muddy and waterlogged.

The first man, whose name was Shalom, reasoned "there is no sense in both of us getting dirty. One of us should climb on the other's shoulders, that way at least one of us will be clean."

His friend, Yisrael, readily agreed with this splendid idea.

Now only one problem remained: who would be the lucky one to go on top? They agreed that whoever could provide a hint or clue from a biblical verse would be the one to go on top.

"That's easy", said Shalom. "The Torah uses the phrase 'Shalom al Yisrael' (which literally means 'peace upon Israel' but here could mean Shalom on top of Yisrael) so I should go on your shoulders."

Yisrael reluctantly complied and Shalom climbed up on his shoulders.

After a few steps, Yisrael suddenly threw Shalom to the ground. "I should go on top — it says in the Torah that v'nosati shalom ba'aretz ('I will provide peace in the land' or, literally, 'I shall place Shalom on the ground') — I should go on your shoulders."

And so they arrived at the synagogue, both of them filthy and none the better for their cunning plan.

Often we find ourselves in the same position. Two sides, each trying to prove they are right, even using the Torah to back up their claims. One builds, the other destroys. In the end nobody wins and everybody gets soiled along the way.

This is the lesson of the period of counting of the Omer that we are currently in, marking the deaths of thousands of Rabbi Akiva's students. The Talmud relates that their mistake was that each was trying to prove that "I am right" to the exclusion of anyone else. May we merit true harmony and peace and to recognize others.