Shavuos may have come and gone, but the lessons that surround the holiday of Kabbalas HaTorah are something that we can carry with us throughout the year. One of the most important is that we can’t properly acquire Torah in any form unless there is shalom.
Chazal tell us that shalom is the vessel that holds all the kinds of brocha HaShem can bestow upon us in this world, such as health, money, children, wisdom, and serenity (See the end of Masechtes Uktzim). When we are not at peace with ourselves, our environment, or those around us, then it is as if that vessel has a hole in it. Wherever discord, anger, and resentment reign, we can find it virtually impossible to recognize and hold on to anything good- even when the brocha is pouring down around us.
In order to fully receive this good, we need to work on knowing and feeling the unity behind everything that we experience in our lives. This was the lesson that the Jewish people had to learn before they could receive the Torah at Har Sinai, and it’s the same lesson we have to learn today.
Like One Man with One Heart
When the Jews approached Har Sinai they did so כאיש אחד בלב אחד, “as one man with one heart” (Rashi, Shemos 20:2). While they were connected in the sense that they all individually shared the same intense desire to the receive the Torah, there was another form of connection and harmony that they had to achieve before the Torah could be given to them as a nation.
In the weeks following yetzias mitzrayim, as the Jewish people slowly climbed up the spiritual ladder from the 49th level of tumah to the 50th level of kadusha, the Jewish people had to come together as a cohesive nation. Each individual had to reach an understanding that without his fellow Jews, it would be impossible for him personally to receive the Torah.
Each and every Jew regardless of his or her background, strengths and weaknesses, is responsible for fulfilling his or her own unique portion of the Torah. Without that portion, the whole Torah is rendered possul, unusable (Pri Tzadok 8:4, pg 6). According to the Baal Shem Tov, those around us can also act as our mirror, revealing things that may be hard for us to see or bring out in ourselves.
The Jewish nation is compared to “one man.” Within the human body, if one part or role is missing, diseased, or getting in the way of normal bodily functioning, then it can compromise the whole system. Only when all the parts and systems of the body are going in the same direction, fulfilling their roles in harmony with “one heart,” can a person achieve true health and well-being. Furthermore, this state of health and well-being will be maintained even when the external environment changes.
Much like every part of the human body has it’s own function and role to play, each Jew has his or her own unique spiritual function and role to play in the “body” of Jewish nation.
Shalom Between Our Fellow Jews
When the Jews were in Mitzrayim, Chazal tell us that part of the reason why they were deserving of such crushing oppression is that they spoke lashon hara against each other (Rashi Shemos 2:14; Shemos Rabbah 1:30). That means there was some level of indifference, division, jealousy, and baseless hatred among the Jewish people at that time, since these qualities tend to lie at the root of lashon hara. This was one of the areas that the Jewish people had to rectify in order to be worthy to not only receive that Torah at Har Sinai, but to hold on to it.
It is an area that we still have to rectify today. Chazal tell us that the Egyptian exile and its redemption was the prototype of all future exiles and redemptions. Given that our present exile was caused by baseless hatred (Yoma 9b), in order to be worthy as individuals and as a nation there has to be shalom and unity. Put another way, the longer we continue to sow division, revel in discord, not appreciate the good points in those around us (and within ourselves), the longer we remain unconcerned about our fellow’s plight, or of that of the Jewish people as whole, the longer we literally prevent HaShem from showering us with health, money, children, wisdom, serenity and ultimately, a redemption.
The journey to this kind of shalom, of course, begins on a individual level with the active recognition that every single thing which happens to us is part of a bigger picture. These moments are all HaShem’s messengers meant to help us along a true path of emunah, spiritual growth, and shalom on every level.