Lech Licha: The Importance of Shalom

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Lech Licha, we begin the journey with Avram (who will become Avraham Avinu in Chapter 17).  At the age of seventy-five, he sets out to the Land of Canaan along with Lot his nephew and Sarai his wife.  Many important and fundamental events happen in the life of our first patriarch and matriarch in this week’s parsha – from the journey to Canaan and a famine in the Land, to his descent to Egypt to find food, to Sarah’s being taken by Pharaoh, to the war of the Four Kings and the Five Kings, to the Covenant Between the Pieces, to Hagar’s flight from the home of Avram and Sarai, and finally Bris Milah! 

After descending to Egypt for food, Avraham and Lot ascend and both are wealthy in cattle and flock.  

וְלֹאנָשָׂא אֹתָם הָאָרֶץ, לָשֶׁבֶת יַחְדָּו: כִּיהָיָה רְכוּשָׁם רָב, וְלֹא יָכְלוּ לָשֶׁבֶת יַחְדָּו, And the land was not able to bear them to dwell together; for their possessions were great, so that they could not dwell together; וַיְהִירִיב, בֵּין רֹעֵי מִקְנֵהאַבְרָם, וּבֵין, רֹעֵי מִקְנֵהלוֹט; וְהַכְּנַעֲנִי, וְהַפְּרִזִּי, אָז, יֹשֵׁב בָּאָרֶץ, and there was quarreling between the shepherds of Avram’s flocks and the shepherds of Lot’s flocks, and the Canaani and Prizi were then dwelling in the land; וַיֹּאמֶר אַבְרָם אֶללוֹט, אַלנָא תְהִי מְרִיבָה בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶךָ, וּבֵין רֹעַי, וּבֵין רֹעֶיךָכִּיאֲנָשִׁים אַחִים, אֲנָחְנוּ, and Avram said to Lot: Please let there not be strife between me and between you, and between my shepherds and your shepherds; for we are men, brothers we are (Bereishis 13:6-8)… וַיִּבְחַרלוֹ לוֹט, אֵת כָּלכִּכַּר הַיַּרְדֵּן, וַיִּסַּע לוֹט, מִקֶּדֶם; וַיִּפָּרְדוּ, אִישׁ מֵעַל אָחִיוand Lot chose for himself the entire plain of the Jordan, and Lot traveled eastward, and they parted from each other (ibid, v.11).

To avoid quarrel and strife with his nephew, who he adopted as his own son after Lot was orphaned of his father, Avram and Lot part ways.  If we pay close attention to the pasukim, we will note that the verses offer us seemingly irrelevant information: “And there was quarreling between their flocksוְהַכְּנַעֲנִי, וְהַפְּרִזִּי, אָז, יֹשֵׁב בָּאָרֶץ – and the Canaani and Prizi were then dwelling in the land.”  While it’s very nice to know who then lived in the land, why is this piece of information relevant right here, right now, to the quarrel between Avram and Lot’s shepherds?  Upon Avram’s arrival in the land, we are immediately informed that the Canaanim were living the land, as the verses states: וְהַֽכְּנַעֲנִ֖י אָ֥ז בָּאָֽרֶץ׃and the Canaanim were then in the land (Bereishis 12:6).

Why repeat this information once again, and specifically in the segment that details the strife between Avram and Lot?

Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski zt’l teaches,”Beginning with the Five Books of Moses to the most recent writings of mussar, we are repeatedly adjured to avoid strife and divisiveness.  We are promised unlimited blessings and success if only we are united.  Alas!  Satan continues to plague us with the worst curse that can befall us, as he sows divisiveness and pits one Jew against another.

“The Torah tells us that the quarrel between Avram’s and Lot’s herdsmen occurred at a time when ‘the Canaanite and the Perizzite were then dwelling in the land.’  Avram’s plea to Lot was, ‘Please let there be no strife between me and you.’  Avram was saying, ‘Here are two different nations, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, living side by side in peace.  Why do we, who are blood relatives, have to quibble and live in dissension?’

“Avram’s plea continues to reverberate in our ears throughout our history.  We Jews are children of one ancestor, why must we be at odds?

“We can give various reasons for our disagreements. I firmly believe that these are nothing but rationalizations.  I believe that our archenemy, Satan, sows the poisonous seeds of disaccord.  He causes us to be divisive and to separate from each other.  This is the basis of our fragmentation.  Inasmuch as senseless divisiveness would be intolerable to rational people, we ingeniously formulate rationalizations to justify why we cannot live in harmony.  Rationalizations are logical-sounding reasons that serve as excuses, but they are not the true reason.  The Canaanite and the Perizzites had their differences, but Satan did not bother to sow dissension among them, so they lived in peace.  When we justify our divisiveness, we are handing Satan his greatest triumph.

“When the Chafetz Chaim learned that there was dissension among the staff of his yeshiva, he said, ‘I will close down ninety yeshivos rather than allow one iota of dissension.’

“We can easily find more reasons why we should be together than why we should be apart.  But we can find them only if we so desire” (Twerski on Chumash, p.39).

The director of a new organization once contacted ha’Gaon Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman zt’l (1914-2017) complaining about a new organization that had a similar name to that of the older organization.  “So why don’t you just change the name of your organization?” R’ Aharon Leib inquired.

“With all due respect,” the man replied, “if someone came to the Rosh Yeshiva and told him that his last name, Shteinman, bothers him and he wants the Rosh Yeshiva to change his last name to Buzaglo, would the Rosh Yeshiva change his name?”

R’ Aharon Leib looked the director in the eye and said, “Believe me, I would do anything to avoid machlokes (strife).  If my last name really bothered someone else and it would help another Jew if I changed my name to Buzaglo, I would gladly do it” (Reb Aharon Leib, Artscroll, p.361-362).  

Chazal (Shabbos 10b) teach us that one of the names of Hashem is Shalom, Peace.  As we have an imperative to walk in His ways (Sotah 14a, Shabbos 133b), let us emulate His middah of shalom and strive for peace amongst our nation… כִּיאֲנָשִׁים אַחִים, אֲנָחְנוּ.

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום, 


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