Peace allows all the other brachos in life to be enjoyed; without peace, all of the other brachos in life cannot be enjoyed. Peace has many dimensions: It is needed in our family life, in our country, and in the world [K’sav Sofer]. To live a peaceful life, one must be at peace with Hashem, with his fellow man, and with himself.
What is peace and how does one attain m’nuchas ha’nefesh (peace of mind)?
Peace is not limited to absence of war and conflict. Rather, peace represents harmony between conflicting forces. When all we think, speak, and do is in harmony with our purpose in life of coming closer to Hashem, then we can be at peace and attain the illusive m’nuchas ha’nefesh that we are all seeking. However, when we seek out and chase after the physical pleasures of this world, then we cannot be at peace and we will have no m’nuchas ha’nefesh.
The body “wants” and seeks pleasure and comfort. We must work to provide it what it “needs” and not what it wants. The M’silas Y’sharim writes that one must know himself and determine what he or she needs in order to have m’nuchas ha’nefesh. Each person will have different needs. Our duty is to stay away from being drawn after our bodily desires that are not needed, while at the same time providing it what it really does need.
Chasing these desires will drag us away from all three types of peace that are essential in our lives. When we chase after our physical desires, we are distancing ourselves from Hashem, from our fellow man who has his own different desires that may be at conflict with ours, and from our own n’shamah, which desires spirituality and understands the truth of what is truly important and what will bring us the m’nuchas ha’nefesh we all need.
We can only achieve sh’leimus when the body
and n’shamah are at harmony with each other,
pursuing the common goal of coming closer to Hashem
Shalom also means sh’leimus, completeness. We can only achieve sh’leimus when the body and n’shamah are at harmony with each other, pursuing the common goal of coming closer to Hashem. Anything under Torah guidelines that will bring us closer to Hashem is something to pursue. Anything that will distance us from Hashem, which includes chasing after bodily desires that are not connected with the service of Hashem, is something to run away from like a fire.
The Rambam in mitzvah 47 (Sefer HaMitzvos) writes that “Lo sasuru…acharei eineichem” includes chasing after physical pleasures (purely for the sake of pleasure). When our bodies present us with the challenge of a physical desire purely for pleasure, even if permitted technically and certainly if it is a prohibited pleasure, we have a tremendous opportunity at that moment to fulfill the mitzvos of “Lo sasuru” and K’doshim tihyu, amongst others, and come closer to Hashem in a way that is perhaps even more powerful than many other positive mitzvos that we may perform.
We may feel that resisting temptation deserves no reward, since we would not pat someone on the back and say, “Great job not stealing money, although you could have done so.” However, Hashem Who created us and knows each person’s greatest challenges, does reward us in great measure for resisting that which is tempting to us. In fact, the Vilna Gaon writes that the reward for one who refrains from speaking negatively about another when tempted, receives a reward that is so great that even the mal’achim cannot fathom its magnitude. Also, it is said in the name of the Gra, that of the 310 worlds that each tzadik will be granted (Mishnah, Uktzin 3:12), ten will be for the levels achieved in performing positive mitzvos and three hundred will be for levels achieved in refraining from evil. The sefer Taharas HaKodesh quotes from Maseches Derech Eretz (also found in Midrash Rabbah at the end of Parshas Acharei Mos): “One who sees a “d’var ervah” and does not “feed” his eyes from it, merits to be “m’kabel P’nei HaSh’chinah.” The Taharas HaKodesh points out the use of the present tense by Chazal, indicating that this means immediately – one is m’kabel P’nei HaSh’chinah right now, not merely later as a reward. HaRav Yitzchok Zilberstein said that he heard firsthand that this moment is a very auspicious time of special favor, and we should daven to Hashem at that moment for any requests that we have.
When our minds and hearts are in sync with our n’shamah, all in harmony pursuing closeness with Hashem, we will merit the m’nuchas ha’nefesh that we all need to have, in order to live a life filled with meaning, purpose, and simchah. This is all contained in “Sim Shalom” – Grant us peace and sh’leimus. May we all be zocheh to live such a life.
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