Pirkei Avot—Chapter 1, Mishnah 12
Hillel would say: Be of the disciples of Aaron — a lover of peace, a pursuer of peace, one who loves the creatures and draws them close to Torah.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9)
Everyone wants it; few are willing to pay the purchase price. We live in an age of consumerism. Mass production, tantalizing marketing and effortless credit have created a generation who is a slave to our impulses, aiding our impetuousness and undermining self-restraint and long-term security. We are perfectly content with accumulating many years of painful debt for a moment of credit bliss. When something breaks, it is easier to just purchase a new one on credit, than to scrape up the cash in order to fix the one we already own.
This mentality has directly affected our relationships with others. When we are offended by another person, it is easier to discard them and acquire a new relationship than to fix the “old, outdated” one into which we have already invested. Unfortunately, repairing the “old” relationship appears to be too costly and outweighs the payoff in the eyes of the consumer. Thus we leave a trail of broken relationships and broken people in our wake.
Being a peacemaker doesn’t mean picket signs and protest rallies. It means rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty.
The Hebrew behind Yeshua’s statement is “אַשְׁרֵי עֹשֵׂי שָׁלוֹם כִּי–הֵם יִקָּרְאוּ בְּנֵי–אֱלֹהִים”. An oseh shalom (עשי שלום) is one who makes or creates peace. Herein lies the truth of being a peacemaker. If, indeed, a peacemaker is one who makes peace, it stands to reason that being that peacemaker requires action. If we are making peace, then we are in the process of creating. Creating is an action verb. Being a peacemaker doesn’t mean picket signs and protest rallies. It doesn’t mean burying your head in the sand. It means rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty. It requires getting out of your comfort zone. It requires affecting those around us. It requires time, skill, effort, and expense. It requires effort, and lots of it. It requires us to be active, rather than passive in our approach to making peace, not only between us and another person, but between others even when we are not directly involved. It requires sacrifice.
Just as our mishnah states, a wonderful example this is Aaron, the brother of Moshe. It is said of Aaron that the way he would make peace between a man and his fellow would be as follows:
So, too, when two men had quarreled with each other, Aaron would go and sit down with one of them and say to him: “My son, mark what thy fellow is saying! He beats his breast and tears his clothing, saying, ‘Woe unto me! how shall I lift my eyes and look upon my fellow! I am ashamed before him, for I it is who treated him foully.’ ”
He would sit with him until he had removed all rancor from his heart, and then Aaron would go and sit with the other one and say to him: “My son, mark what thy fellow is saying! He beats his breast and tears his clothing, saying, ‘Woe unto me! how shall I lift my eyes and look upon my fellow! I am ashamed before him, for I it is who treated him foully.’ ”
He would sit with him until he had removed all rancor from his heart. And when the two men met each other, they would embrace and kiss each other. That is why (of Aaron’s death) it is said, They wept for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel (Num. 20:29) 1
This is why we are to be disciples of Aaron. He both knew how to make peace and put it into practice. Therefore peace was made between one man and another. It took Aaron getting involved, rather than merely praying for them. It required him to be vulnerable to being the brunt of his brother’s anger.
For those familiar with the Chofetz Chaim (which translates to “Desire of Life“), you know that the hallmark of his namesake is found in Psalm 34:12-14, which states “Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” He spent his entire life dedicated to learning and putting into practice the laws of proper speech and ethical conduct. He both sought peace and pursued it with his entire being.
Psalm 34:10 says, “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” An alternate version of ARN comments on this passage through the following teaching. “Rabbi Simeon ben Eleazar says: If a man sits in his own place and is inactive, how can he pursue peace in Israel between man and man? Let him therefore go forth from his place and move around in the world and pursue peace in Israel, as it is said, Seek peace and pursue it.” 2
Boaz Michael has aptly noted that being a peacemaker should be inherent for disciples of the Sar Shalom (Prince of Peace), Yeshua HaMashiach. We should be the first to bring peace to others, rather than sitting by idly while strife manifests between brothers. Avoidance should not be our method of dealing with conflict.
The Apostolic Writings are full of such instruction. In his epistles, Rav Sha’ul speaks on peace at length. He encourages us to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace,” (Ephesians 4:3). In Romans 8:6 he also reminds us that “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” He also tells us “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone,” (Romans 12:18). He says we should “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification,” (Rom 14:19).
James, the brother of the Master, tells us, “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness,” (James 3:18). The seed we sow determines the harvest we reap. Are we sowing in strife or peace? When harvest time approaches, what crop will we reap? It’s not too late to begin planting a fresh crop of seed for the harvest…
1. Goldin, Judah. The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan. Yale University Press, New York, 1955, p. 64.
2. Ibid. p. 67.