Rav Kook and the peace of Torah scholars

What is peace? The concluding passage in tractate Berachot provides a remarkable insight into true peace:

Rabbi Elazar quoted Rabbi Haninah: Torah scholars increase peace in the world. As it says, “All of Your children (banayich) are students of God; great is the peace of Your children” (Isaiah 54:13). Read this not banayich — “Your children” — but rather bonayich — “Your builders.”

Considering the vast number of disagreements and differences of opinion among Torah scholars, Rabbi Haninah’s statement seems, well, counter-intuitive. Do scholars really increase peace in the world? And why did Rabbi Haninah insist that they are “builders”? What does this tell us about scholars and peace?

Yemenite elders studying Torah
Yemenite elders studying Torah, 1906-1918 (by Ephraim Moses Lilien, via Wikimedia Commons)

True Peace

People mistakenly think that peace in the world means that everyone will share common viewpoints and think the same way. So when they see scholars disagreeing about an issue, this looks like the exact opposite of peace.

Rav Kook, however, wrote that peace comes precisely through the proliferation of divergent views.

When all of the various sides of an issue are exposed and examined, and we are able to clarify how each one has its place — that is true peace. The Hebrew word “shalom” means both “peace” and “completeness.” We will only attain complete understanding when we are able to accommodate all views — even those that appear contradictory — as partial perceptions of the whole truth.

Like an interlocking puzzle, together these views present a complete picture.

When Torah scholars broaden knowledge and provide new insights, they contribute to the increase of peace. We need to recognize that “all of Your children are students of God.” All views, even those that seem contradictory, in fact help reveal knowledge and truth.

For this reason, Rabbi Haninah emphasized that scholars are like builders. A building is erected from all sides, using a variety of materials and skills. So too, the whole truth is constructed from diverse views, opinions, and methods of analysis. (Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. II, pp. 397-398)

About the Author
Rabbi Chanan Morrison escaped New York during his senior year at Yeshiva University. He arrived in Israel and studied at several Jerusalem yeshivot, including the famed Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav, founded by Rav Kook in 1924. He currently lives with his family in a community in the Judean Desert. Rabbi Morrison has published three books on the writings of Rav Kook, starting with "Gold from the Land of Israel" (Urim, 2006).
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