Parashat Behukotai- Torah and Peace
Parashat Behukotai begins by describing the rewards that God promises to grant Am Yisrael if they observe the Torah. Rashi famously comments that that these rewards depend on not only the observance of the Misvot, but also intensive Torah study. When the Torah says at the beginning of this Parasha, “Im Be’hukotai Telechu” (literally, “If you follow My statutes”), it actually refers to “Amelut Be’Torah” – “toiling” in Torah learning.
In describing the rewards that God promises, the Torah first mentions material success and prosperity, and then says, “Ve’natati Shalom Ba’aretz” – “I shall make peace in the land” (26:6). One of the rewards for our devotion to Torah study – and the most important of all rewards – is that of “Shalom,” peace.
Indeed, peace is one of the natural results of serious Torah learning. One of the effects that Torah has on a person is rearranging his priorities and redirecting his focus. When a person delves into Torah, he comes out with a changed perspective on life. Issues and concerns that trouble most people seem trivial and unimportant. With his mind focused on lofty, intricate concepts, he does not afford too much significance to relatively minor issues such as honor and prestige. The result of this perspective is “Shalom” – serenity and contentment.
Consider the example of a businessman who is enjoying a busy day at his store. He is working feverishly, without stopping for a moment, to deal with every customer, realizing that each is another profit. The man continues for hours, his mind focused on the money he is earning, and these thoughts drive him to work non-stop and pay no attention to anything else. If somebody would stick his head into the store while this is going on, and call the storeowner a bad name to insult him, would he care? Would he pay any heed to an insult when he is busy with his store, making a fortune of money? Would this person’s offensive comments have any effect on him at all?
Similarly – and all the more so – Torah changes a person’s perspective and attitude, thereby preventing him from becoming agitated by minor trivialities. When we learn Torah, we are collecting “valuables” whose worth far exceeds the profits of even the most successful businessman. We are filling not our pockets, but our souls, with the sacred wisdom of Torah. When we are preoccupied with this pursuit, few things are capable of upsetting us. Whether we receive the honor we think we deserve, whether we are invited to the upcoming function, whether we get that extra bonus, whether our neighbor is friendly to us – these issues do not weigh all that heavily on the mind of somebody rigorously pursuing Torah scholarship.
And this is why devotion to Torah learning brings us the reward of “I shall make peace in the land.” Simply put, a person who learns Torah is less likely to fight with others, because he is less likely to care about the things people generally fight about. Torah study ensures that our minds remain focused on far more important, loftier matters, thus absolving us from the need to fret over trivialities. And the result is a peaceful existence and harmonious relations with the people around us.