We live in a world surrounded by conflict. On a global level, we see countries wage wars and inflict irreparable damage to others, and it’s naturally evident throughout history. Even on a more personal, individualistic level, we see people struggling with their internal conflicts, the wars being waged inside themselves. When battles become the norm, it becomes increasingly difficult to fathom peace, in the world or in ourselves, but that need not be the case.
In Parshat Naso, Hashem instructs Moshe to direct his brother Aharon, who is the Kohen Gadol (High Priest), and his sons to bless Bnei Yisrael, saying: “YHVH bless you and protect you. YHVH deal kindly and graciously with you. YHVH bestow His favor upon you and grant you peace.” Then, Hashem says, “they shall link My name with Bnei Yisrael, and I will bless them.” (Bamidbar 6:24-27). The Chizkuni says that this bracha (blessing) stems solely from Hashem, and the kohanim are only the conduits through which the bracha becomes actualized. One can compare it to a lamp channeling the power of electricity to illuminate a room, whereby the lamp is not the source of the power, rather it is used to express that power in the form of light.
In this case, however, what exactly does this bracha of peace mean for us? What are the kohanim channeling for us? The Ralbag explains this bracha that when we are in a place of danger, whether physically or spiritually, Hashem will gift us with an abundance of His presence, granting us peace of body and mind. He also specifies that true peace, as described by the kohanim, will remove the war within a person’s soul, the war within homes, and the wars in general. It seems to say that through the blossoming of our peace from within, we will experience a peace from without. The first step, then, is true, inner peace.
Rabbi David Aaron offers a pragmatic identity of personal peace in his book, “Soul Powered Prayers.” Deriving this idea from our tefillot (prayers), he writes, “The ingredients [for peace] are: personal fulfillment, being who we are suppose to be and yet also enjoying continual growth, radiating inclusiveness so that people can see themselves in us and feel a natural connection and trust to us because we exude kindness and compassion” (p. 218).
There’s a lot packed in there, but it’s essentially about quelling the storms that rage inside of us, and once we calm the rushing tides, we can fill ourselves with a greater meaning that guides our lives. This, then, brings us to spread this serenity to others, becoming a conduit for the blessing of peace in the world. Channeling Hashem in our lives will channel the bracha of peace for all.
Rebbe Nachman writes in Sichot HaRan that all the disputes and battles of the world are reflected within people who fight within households. He explains that each person contains an aspect of a specific nation that operates within them, and thus, their clashes are happening on a personal and global plane. This also suggests that our inner lives, that which exists in our minds and our consciousness, are mirrored by the world’s shared, outer life.
No conflicts and battles between nations can be divorced from the conflicts and battles of individuals, whether with others or with themselves. If we want to achieve world peace — beyond lip service that escapes our mouths as naturally as we breathe — then we need to first achieve inner peace. The kohanim show us that the road to finding inner peace begins with finding Hashem, and this will open the wellspring of bracha for ourselves and the world.