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“Just give peace a chance”

December 8, 2015

“Just give peace a chance”[i]

[i] “Give Peace a Chance” is a 1969 single by (John Lennon’s) Plastic Ono Band that became an anthem of the American anti-war movement at that time.


In Psalm 34 which I was reading on Shabbos I noticed these very poignant words that inspired this blog – “Shun evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.”

This week’s Torah Parsha (Portion) Mikeitz in a Nutshell from

Joseph’s imprisonment finally ends when Pharaoh dreams of seven fat cows that are swallowed up by seven lean cows, and of seven fat ears of grain swallowed by seven lean ears. Joseph interprets the dreams to mean that seven years of plenty will be followed by seven years of hunger, and advises Pharaoh to store grain during the plentiful years. Pharaoh appoints Joseph governor of Egypt. Joseph marries Asenath, daughter of Potiphar, and they have two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.

 Famine spreads throughout the region, and food can be obtained only in Egypt. Ten of Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt to purchase grain; the youngest, Benjamin, stays home, for Jacob fears for his safety. Joseph recognizes his brothers, but they do not recognize him; he accuses them of being spies, insists that they bring Benjamin to prove that they are who they say they are, and imprisons Simeon as a hostage. Later, they discover that the money they paid for their provisions has been mysteriously returned to them.

 Jacob agrees to send Benjamin only after Judah assumes personal and eternal responsibility for him. This time Joseph receives them kindly, releases Simeon, and invites them to an eventful dinner at his home. But then he plants his silver goblet, purportedly imbued with magic powers, in Benjamin’s sack. When the brothers set out for home the next morning, they are pursued, searched, and arrested when the goblet is discovered. Joseph offers to set them free and retain only Benjamin as his slave.

I am no expert on politics, the peace process or peace negotiations, but like so many others I would love a world with peace, a world where money is spent on helping the poor and improving society rather than fighting battles or protecting our lives.

At the beginning of last week’s Parsha we learn that Jacob wanted to “sit in peace” after a difficult life, but the commentators teach that the “tzorros” (hardship) that followed was a lesson that righteous people do not get to rest in this world? We all need to work to achieve peace.

In the Book of Genesis there does not seem to be much peace between siblings – Cane and Abel, Issac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau and Joseph and his brothers.

One of the amazing episodes is the story of Joseph and his brothers. In the first part of the story we learn that his brothers were jealous of him as he was his father’s favourite and they wished to kill him, but later in the story when the family is re-united in Egypt, Joseph is again shown favouritism by his father with the two tribes named after his sons, but this time no jealousy is shown. Rabbi Marc Angel brings down a beautiful thought on this “Peace” that now existed between the brothers – “Those who hate become victims of their own hatred. They lock themselves into an ugly and endless strife, depriving themselves of a healthy, loving life.

 Joseph’s brothers learned to overcome jealousy and hatred. They learned to escape the “syndrome of decay” that eats away at the fiber of life. They learned that life is not a zero sum game; that their winning did not depend on someone else losing; that all humans could live so much more happily and meaningfully if they adopted a syndrome of love and cooperation.”

Peace impacts all aspects of our lives, marriage, relationships with others and ourselves. I will share a few ideas in quotes on peace from people that I follow on social media, people from all aspects of life:

Rav Moshe Soloveitchik taught this idea …  “Often the issue about which couples argue becomes secondary to the larger issue of “Who is going to win?”  Each side digs in their heels because they want to achieve victory.  Rav Moshe Soloveitchik teaches that couples should each define victory as achieving Shalom Bayis [Domestic tranquillity] in their home. As we all know, when peace dwells between husband and wife, the Shechinah [Divine Presence] dwells between them.”

Lisa Roukin on her Myrelationshipwithfood[i] blog talks of an inner peace within the chaos of the world – “Peace. It doesn’t not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart ” – Blogger – #myrelationshipwithfood

A Tweet from champion marathon runner Paula Radcliffe after the bombings in Beirut a few weeks ago. Paula had just completed the Beirut “Peace” Marathon the week before. The Marathon was founded by May El Khalil[ii]. She founded the marathon to help mend divisions in Lebanon and speaks at different Universities and organizations about the power of sport, perseverance, unity, and making the impossible dream of peace happen through running.   Paula focusses on achieving peace for the sake of our children – “Maybe we all need to stop & reassess. Life should be about respect for all others, strong morals, united safe future. What I want 4 my kids” – @paulajradcliffe

After having a brilliant cricket career and then getting kicked off the England Cricket Team, maybe Kevin Pietersen has found peace doing things off the field and helping others – Tweet from @KP24

“Your legacy can only be judged on how you help others, not how you help yourself! That’s why I set up the @KP24Foundation! This wk is huge!”

People get older and have to deal with health issues, but find happiness and contentment in these changes. Angelina Jolie[iii] had surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes earlier this year as a preventative measure against cancer, but has completely embraced the change in her body.

“I actually love being in menopause,… I haven’t had a terrible reaction to it, so I’m very fortunate. I feel older, and I feel settled being older. …. I feel happy that I’ve grown up. I don’t want to be young again.”

To end, the 19th and final verse of the Silent Amidah (Shemoneh Esrei) is a blessing for Peace. Commentating on this Rabbi Yitzchak Botton says “Above all of the treasured acquisitions of life, peace is the foundation of them all”. This prayer is for both a prayer for an inner peace and peace to the world. Just as Joseph and his brothers have given peace a chance, may we and the world find Peace!

Staying with the John Lennon theme and his brilliant song/ anthem Imagine[iv] a quote – “Imagine all the people living life in peace, you .. You may say I’m a dreamer…  But I’m not the only one …  I hope someday you’ll join us  …  And the world will be as one”

With this years “theme” for Chanukah #LightForPeace I think Rabbi Jonathan Sacks words are so true – “A Candle of hope may seem a small thing, but on it the very survival of a civilisation may depend” CHANUKAH SAMEACH





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