This node is about one of the Mishnaot said in the Friday night and Saturday morning services by Jews around the world. The aim of this node is to bring out some opinions, and see if we can come up with a new opinion that no one else has thought of. To that end, I have written more questions than answers in a conscious attempt to make the reader think, and possibly write a follow up. The Mishna reads as follows:
Rabbi Eleazar said in the name of Rabbi Chanina: ‘Torah Scholars increase peace in the world, as it is said: ‘And all your children will be students of G-d and your children will have abundant peace’ – do not read ‘your children (banayich)’, but ‘your builders (bonayich)’, for there is an abundant peace for the lovers of Your Torah, and there is no stumbling block for them. May there be peace within your walls, serenity within your palaces. For the sake of my brethren and my comrades, I shall speak of peace in your midst. For the sake of the House of G-d, I will request good for you. G-d will give might to His nation, and G-d will bless His nation with peace’
What does all this mean?
Torah scholars increase peace in the world:
Is this really true in this modern day and age? In Israel today there is a huge Religious-Secular divide, and there is even a specifically anti-Religious political party. There are also anti-Religious kibbutzim. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef recently proclaimed that the leader of one of the Left wing parties in the Knesset was an Amalechite, which is the closest one can get to a call to violence in Judaism, and not indicative of spreading peace in the world! Having said that, there are also left wing religious Jews, for example the Meimad party, who affiliated with the Labour party in the last elections.
Why do we quote Rabbi Eleazar here? Throughout the Talmud and the Mishna, Eleazar is almost always wrong, and since he is supposedly quoting Chanina anyway, why bother involving Eleazar, why note just say that it was Chanina that said this and be done with it. Maybe the reasoning for this was that it showed that it was important that two important Rabbis said this, and not just one. Maybe it was felt that Eleazar had said such a good thing that it really should be included, and that it should not be tarnished by his reputation, hence the reference to Chanina. Maybe Chanina was thought of as too minor a rabbi to warrant this much exposure, no matter how interesting his opinion.
The quote about children being students of G-d was originally addressed to Jerusalem as a city, which is why it talks about you in the feminine, since the Hebrew word for city, Ir, is a feminine word. So why is Jerusalem never mentioned? Could this Mishna have been written in such a way that it is trying to talk directly to the reader? In this case, why is it still in the feminine? Could it be that this Mishna is addressing women (and specifically mothers, since it talks about ‘your children’)? This would mean that the line about ‘peace within your walls’ still makes sense, but what of the line about palaces?
For the sake of my brethren…
In my opinion, this is the oddest line of the whole Mishna. On first reading, it sounds like the action of speaking of peace is done grudgingly, so the question has to be asked, why only for the sake of comrades and brethren, and not for the sake of oneself? Maybe the point is that it is more important to do something on someone else’s behalf than on yours, or perhaps the point is that the action of speaking of peace will encourage those comrades and brethren who seem not to want peace to be peaceful.
Who is the speaker in this? Rabbi Eleazar? Clearly not, since he says this in the name of Rabbi Chanina. G-d? Clearly not, since G-d is referred to in the third person. Rabbi Chanina? Maybe, but in that case, we are lead back to the question of why Eleazar is quoted.