2-½ minutes to read
Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] – Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9
When I think of the perfect marriage, peace comes to mind. In Hebrew, we call this shalom bayis. Hannah and I would never disagree. Calm would always reign in our home. Every married couple seems to want this. Yet, I don’t know of one who has a peaceful marriage. Not that you should compare yourself to others. But it would be nice to find at least one example of the ideal. Now that I’ve read Parshas Shoftim, it turns out I misunderstood what shalom bayis is:
“When you approach a city to make war against it, and you will call out to it for peace.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 20:10)
This Sabbath’s parsha reviews the mitzvah (commandment) to establish courts and how to handle certain crucial types of cases. It gives the procedure for appointing a King. Then it details the gifts for the Kohanim (Priests) and how to tell if someone is really a prophet. Next, it explains how to set up cities of refuge and how the Israelites should conduct a war. It ends with the procedure for dealing with an unsolved murder.
Did Tolstoy Create a Major Misunderstanding?
I can’t say for sure it started with Tolstoy. But his most famous novel anchors the idea that peace is the opposite of war. It seems logical. In war, people fight and kill. With peace comes the cessation of hostilities. Killing stops.
But even the most cursory view of history shows that killing doesn’t end during times of peace. As well, human strife short of killing continues unabated. War is only the most obvious lack of peace. But peace itself transcends the end of battle.
The verse from this week’s parsha also seems to make war and peace opposites. But that comes from the difficulty of translating Hebrew into English. Shalom, the word translated as peace, means much more. Think abut the verse for a minute. If shalom meant no combat operations, they could just not have attacked.
Underlying shalom is the spiritual state of wholeness that comes from harmony. It requires more than just not fighting. Picture the gears in a watch. Each has its place and function. When they work in harmony the watch is wholly accurate. It still make noises, and if you listened carefully enough you would hear the gears grind slightly. Such is the way things work. But let one gear get out of line and the watch will run fast or slow. Its wholeness born of harmony is gone.
The Israelites faced a similar challenge in the land of Israel. How could they create a harmonious society with such misaligned peoples? They sacrificed children and considered murder an acceptable social behavior. Worship consisted of defecating on their gods. The shalom the Children of Israel called out for required the city to morally reform. As long as it continued its depraved behavior, no basis for shalom/peace could exist.
A Peaceful Marriage
Even if the city had reformed, no doubt there would have been disagreements. People who share the same values still argue. It’s part of the human condition.
The same applies to your marriage. Shalom will not come from lack of arguments. Avoiding confrontations will destroy it as surely as violent confrontations. The path to a peaceful marriage lies in harmonizing your values and morals. If they are out of alignment, arguing will continue unabated because no basis exists for reconciliation.
Once your values are in concert, disagreements will lead to greater mutual understanding and a firmer marital bond. You and your spouse will still shout at each other from time to time. Sometimes your home may feel unlivable. But when calmer heads prevail, you’ll see the wholeness that comes from harmony has been there all along. Indeed, you have a peaceful marriage.
What do you do about misaligned values? Please comment below.
Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.
What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!