By Laura Seymour
We are preparing for the New Year just as our children go back to school. August always feels like we are beginning again. The first weeks of school are important because they set the tone for the entire year. One thing teachers always start with is setting the classroom “rules” — this is the way we do things in our class. It is the same with families — this is the way our family behaves, these are the values that are important to us. An important value for the home, plus the concept extends to wherever we “live,” is shalom bayit. This translates as peace in the home.
Whatever value we want to instill in the world, we must begin at home. The world will change one person at a time. Shalom bayit is about creating a peaceful atmosphere in your home life. The story is told that the rabbis argued about whether to place the mezuzah on the doorpost horizontally or vertically. They argued and argued and finally, for a rare time in rabbinic arguments they compromised and the mezuzah hangs at an angle. This reminds us that when we enter our homes, we must be willing to compromise to create shalom bayit. Think and talk about ways you can create peace in your home.
The next challenge is when we go out into the world. We go beyond peace in our home and our small world to becoming a “rodef shalom — seeker of peace!” It sounds like an overwhelming task for the world…and how can each of us make a difference? Peace begins with people. Countries do not make wars — individual people do. We must teach our children — and learn for ourselves — that peace begins with acceptance of others. And peace also grows from learning to say “I’m sorry.” If each of us becomes a rodef shalom, a seeker of peace, the world will follow. Here are a few saying from our sages to talk about with your family:
Who is a hero? He who turns an enemy into a friend. —Pirke Avot
It is not your duty to complete the work, but neither are you excused from it. —Pirke Avot
There may be a time when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest. —Elie Wiesel
It is easy to acquire an enemy and difficult to acquire a friend. —Talmud
Let us all strive for a peaceful home and a peaceful world.
Laura Seymour is Jewish experiential learning director and camp director emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.