D’var Torah: Rabbi Dov Bard (Toldot)

Peace and Tranquility – Really?

Although we regularly recite that the Torah “…is a tree of life to those who grasp it, and those who uphold it are happy.  Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace,” but is the Torah really about pleasantness and peace?   Happiness?  It would seem that a life focused on Torah would result in a deep sense of spirituality, tranquility and peace.  However did you ever stop to read Genesis?

As we progress in our study of Genesis we are amazed by some constant themes which focus on physical struggle, deception, confrontation and conflict.  Siblings are in conflict, barren wives are jealous, couples encounter profound tensions . . . and then this week Rebekah is “barren” and Isaac pleads with God for a child.  She gets pregnant however it is an agonizing pregnancy – וַיִּתְרֹֽצֲצ֤וּ הַבָּנִים֙ בְּקִרְבָּ֔הּ וַתֹּ֣אמֶר אִם־כֵּ֔ן לָ֥מָּה זֶּ֖ה אָנֹ֑כִי וַתֵּ֖לֶךְ לִדְרֹ֥שׁ אֶת־יְהוָֽה׃   “But the children struggled in her womb, and she said, “If so, why do I exist?”

Rabbi Steinsaltz focuses on this agonizing pregnancy and warns us that in general we shouldn’t fool ourselves.  He teaches that life is a permanent struggle without and within and we should understand the existence of conflict.  Hoping for peace and tranquility is not realistic

“With this knowledge, one is not disappointed about failing to attain peace, nor does one feel that one’s life has been wasted if one does not achieve a decisive victory in the battle of life. A person must realize that everything he does involves a struggle, that life is war in which “nation over nation shall strengthen itself.”  The pendulum swings from side to side, and the task of man is to make every effort to emerge from the struggle in a better state that he entered it. In the course of the struggles, in between battles, he should make sure to move forward. Ultimately, this is all a human being can achieve.”  (Opening the Tanya p. 229)

This is sobering but isn’t it good to be sober?

Rabbi Dov Bard, Former Head of School, Schechter Alumni Parent


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