Rabbi Elazar said on behalf of Rabbi Chanina: Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as it is said: And all your children will be students of Hashem and your children will have abundant peace (Isaiah 54:13). . . There is abundant peace for the lovers of Your Torah, and there is no stumbling block for them. ~ Talmud Berachos 64a
Of the 63 sections (Tractates) of the Talmud, four of them end with these very words of peace. They are Tractates Berachot, Nazir, Yevamot, and Keritut. Put the first letters of each Tractate together and you have bet, nun, yud, and kaf. These four letters make us the world children and builders – alluding to the connection between the Children of Torah and the builders of peace. The Prophet Isaiah spoke these words, using these exact letters over a thousand years before the Talmud was completed.
Now more than ever it is important to remember what brings peace to our world. It is we, and not men of power who G-d gave the opportunity to effect change in this reality. Hashem charged us, and not the presidents, Prime Ministers, or even kings to make this world ideal for all mankind. Instead of raising millions, lobbying congress, convincing the media, becoming an ambassador, or leading a social movement, Hashem tells us we can all inch humanity towards peace by setting times for Torah learning.
This is what it means:
* It doesn’t matter what you think peace should look like or how it should come about. We all agree that peace, on its own, is a treasured asset for all mankind. Hashem will bring us peace. It will be greater than what any of us imagine it to be. It will be something all peoples of all regions will be able to celebrate every day. It doesn’t matter what your political or social beliefs are – anything we can do to hasten an end to all conflict is good.
* It doesn’t matter how religious you are. It doesn’t even matter if you are religious at all. In fact, Rabbi Nachman teaches that it is those who are furthest away are the ones who can bring the most pleasure to Hashem by making constant improvements. Anybody, no matter where they are holding in life, has the chance to make the world a better place through his or her efforts.
* We can make great impact for our brothers and sisters living in the holy land by initiating the most simple changes to our day to day routine. We can dedicate half of our daily commute to listening to a Torah lesson on our ipod. We can learn a page of Gemara during our lunch break. We can replace just one ball game each week with any form of learning. From these small changes come earth shaking results.
* Peace is something all of us can bring one step closer to the billions of inhabitants on this earth. We don’t have to possess any power or influence of any kind. By dedicating some of our time to learning we can turn swords into plowshares without the “heavy machinery.”
From the beginning of time to today, we have seen almost every war come to an end. Conflicts cease. Enemies become allies. Nations become regions. There will be peace for Israel. Hashem promises us we will have it. The only question is, how long will it take? What price will we have to pay in terms of struggle and suffering until our great day arrives? This Gemara teaches that we have it in our ability to minimize, G-d willing, even eradicate all of these ills and bring an everlasting peace. It won’t come by negotiation, nor by pressure, and definitely not by bloodshed. We can eradicate all forms of hate by simply opening a book.
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Dovber Halevi is the author of Sex, Religion, and the Middle East, a book about personal holiness and happiness. He lives in Israel with his wife and three children.