Parshas Devarim: The Boundaries of Peace

ה' אלקי אבותכם יסף עליכם ככם אלף פעמים ויברך אתכם כאשר דבר לכם. איכה אשא לבדי טרחכם ומשאכם וריבכם

May HaShem, God of your forefathers add to you a thousandfold as many as you are, and may He bless you, as He spoke concerning you. How can I bear your trouble, your burden, and your strife all by myself (1:11-12)

Upon looking at the bracha that Moshe Rabbeinu offered the Bnai Yisroel, one would think that they would have been happy that he was bentching (blessing) them to be a thousandfold more than they were. Rashi however relates that this was not the case. The people responded, “Only that and no more?” You are limiting us! HaShem has already bentched us to be “כעפר הארץ, like the dust of the earth that is too numerous to count”. Moshe responded that “You will surely receive the bracha of HaShem, and this was just my own personal bracha to you.”

But what is it that Moshe was really offering them? After all, infinity multiplied by one thousand is still infinity. If HaShem’s bracha was limitless, then Moshe’s is already included, so of what value is his addition?

Furthermore, the possuk that follows appears out of place as there is seemingly no connection between the sad words of rebuke that he offered and the bracha that he gave. 

The Binyan Ariel explains that Moshe was indeed doing a great thing here. Although HaShem’s bracha is all inclusive, there are conditions that need to be met in order to receive them. The Mishnah in Uktzin (3:12) tells us: אמר רבי שמעון בן חלפתא, לא מצא הקדוש ברוך הוא כלי מחזיק ברכה לישראל אלא השלום, שנאמר (תהלים כט), ה' עז לעמו יתן ה' יברך את עמו בשלום- “Hakadosh Baruch Hu did not find a vessel to contain brachah except for shalom,(peace).” This means that being in a state of peace is a prerequisite for accessing all the beautiful brachos that await us.

Rashi to the next possuk (1:12) explains that at that moment Moshe was chastising Klal Yisroel for being בעלי מריבה argumentive people. The world of machlokes was not at all foreign to them. As such, that generation would never have been able to enjoy the brachos that had been bestowed upon them. At this point Moshe bestowed his own bracha upon them that although was limitless, it did not come with any condition. Coupled with his bracha, he used the opportunity to explain to the people why the bigger bracha of HaShem would not be available. Should they be able to put aside their differences in life, ending machlokes; suddenly all brachos would be unlocked and would come pouring out.

There are numerous stories of people that have had struggles with their children, or with shiduchim, parnassah, and health. Determined to do whatever they can to possibly find a way to improve their situation, they would go to the leaders of Klal Yisroel, our Gedolim, in search of a good magical segulah. Time and time again, the response has been that the door is locked because of machlokes. As the Mishna told us, shalom is the key that unlocks it all.

We are all familiar with the Birkas Kohanim. The Torah tells us דבר אל אהרן ואל בניו לאמר כה תברכו את-בני ישראל אמור להם: יברכך ה' וישמרך “Speak to Aharon and to his sons, saying: ‘So shall you bless Bnei Yisrael: Say to them, ‘May Hashem bless you and guard you…’”.

There are a couple of questions we must ask: Why are the words Emor lahem- “say to them” inserted here, and why is Birkas Kohanim in the singular (Yevarechecha Hashem v’yishmerecha…) and not in the plural?

Based on our Mishnah we understand that whenever Bnei Yisrael are at peace with each other they are referred to as a single entity, as “ish echad bileiv echad, -one man with one heart.” Therefore, the kohanim are told, “So shall you bless Bnei Yisrael: [When you are able to say to them] yevarachecha.” In other words, when you are able to speak to Bnei Yisrael in the singular, i.e., when there is unity among them, then it is possible to bless them (Noam Megadim).

Taking this a step even further, the Bnei Yissaschar (Agrah D’Kallah, Parashas Korach) states that even when one is in all respects worthy of the greatest brachos, if he engages in machlokes he does not have a vessel in which to contain the brachah. His vessel is effectively pierced with many holes. One can pour the most wonderful things inside of that vessel, but it will remain empty because everything leaks right out. At times people are busy waging wars on others to recoup some parnassah forgetting that Chazal teach us that “even one machlokes can drive away a hundred livelihoods.”

Each day in davening we say hasam gevulech shalom cheilev chitim yasbieich— “He makes your borders peaceful, and [therefore] with the cream of wheat he satiates you.” The Chasam Sofer beautifully explains this passuk by saying that every person has their border, i.e. limits. For one person the tipping point may be jealousy, which causes him to start acting irrational. For another, it may be money that causes a loss of seichel. And for others it is the constant pursuit of kavod.

For a tzaddik that is in control of his desires and impulses, his “border” is shalom and he doesn’t allow anything to push him past it. He will even put aside his own chachma and look like a fool if it will stop a machlokes from happening. When one makes shalom his “do not cross line”, he will be zoche to be satiated with the “cream of wheat,” i.e., plentiful parnassah.

Good Shabbos, מרדכי אפפעל