It is recorded of Aharon, the High Priest and brother of Moses, that he was both an ohev shalom and a rodef shalom… a lover of peace and a pursuer of peace. Most people can be an ohev shalom but not necessarily be pursuers of it.
It can be difficult to put into practice convictions that we hold dear. Yet our rabbinic tradition teaches us “lo midrash ha ikkar elah ha maaseh”…. Study is not the most important thing; putting it into practice is. In brief, our rabbis held that the deed is more important than the creed. The heart is more important than the brain.
Recently I have begun a therapy group program on Bereavement and Grief Counseling under the guidance of the Hospice Care Network. In the first session, the facilitator encouraged 12 of us to speak about our loss, to express our feelings, to share with and learn from others who were experiencing the death of a loved one, as was I.
When it was my turn to speak, I mentioned that the well-meant words of dear friends in their effort to comfort me were of very little help. Members of the synagogue who greet me on Shabbat mornings always ask how I am feeling, how I am recuperating from my wife’s death. And when I tell them honestly that my life has no further meaning for me without her, they offer a flood of good-intended words.
“Your wife would want you to go on living”. “Your children and grandchildren need you”. “The millions of people who read your published articles need you to continue writing”. Etc. etc. etc. Sincere platitudes, but not helpful to me.
The Social Work facilitator agreed with me. She remarked that those words were addressed to the mind but not to the heart. In order to help the healing process one needs to be concerned not just of the cerebral but more important, of the cardia. The heart suffers more than the mind. It must be the first to be healed, she said.
A few years ago, I met a remarkable young man, a father of five beautiful children. He is probably about 40 years younger than I am, a well-to-do real estate magnate, an Orthodox Jew, a fellow of remarkable good looks (he could be a film star), and a heart of love as wide as an ocean.
He befriended me and I cherish that special relationship more than anyone can truly understand. He inspires me, he hugs me on Shabbat in the synagogue, he comforts me, he cares. And most important, he understands me. He knows the reason for my tears and my sobs.
His e-mail messages to me are words that I treasure. More than gold, silver or other riches, I treasure the words of my friend… a lover of peace and a pursuer of it.
And rightly so. For his Persian family name is the Hebrew Ohebshalom… one who loves peace. And not peace alone. He loves humanity. He reaches out to the needy, the lonely, the sad and despondent. Not by words alone but by an outstretched arm to hug and to let the down-trodden know that he understands our pain.
Jonathan Ohebshalom lives his life in the manner of Aharon. Not with one thousand wives as King Solomon had but with thousands of good and noble deeds. He loves peace. He seeks peace.
I wish for him the “nachas” of children and grandchildren as I have for mine. And I pray that his children will follow their father’s example of faithfulness to the traditions of our Jewish people and devotion to their fellow-men (and women, of course).
Halevai v’yihiyu harbai yoter kamohu…. Would that there could be many more like him. An inspiration.