How to be a Rodef Shalom for the Day
Throughout Jewish history there were individuals known in their communities as rodfei shalom (pursuers of peace) or mitavchei shalom (peace-brokers) who modeled themselves after Aaron, the High Priest in the Bible, by pursuing peace and constructive conflict between individuals, families and communities. Commemorate this day by being a rodef shalom for (at least) the day. A rodef shalom is someone who seeks to understand, respect and assist in constructively balancing conflicting needs and narratives between individuals, families and communities, in the spirit of mahloket l’shem shamayim. There are many ways to be a rodef shalom:
- Sign/Create a Rodef Shalom Agreement (Haskamah) – Throughout Jewish history, communities created haskamot (agreements) to help guide individuals as to how to behave towards one another, and to establish peace with in the community. As Rabbi Shmuel DeMadina (1506-1589, Thessaloniki, Greece, Responsa of Maharshadam, Yoreh Deah, 145) wrote, regarding the community haskamah of the small Jewish community of Ağriboz (today Chalkis, capital of the Greek island Euboea) in the 16th century, that “this custom (of the community haskamah) is a fair and worthy one which brings order and well-being for the peace of the community.” Additionally, the very meaning of the word “shalom” (peace] means, according to Rabbi Don Yitzchak Abarbanel (1437–1508, Portugal, Nachalat Avot 1:12) “the common good, and the agreement (haskamah) of people and their mutual love, which is the necessary component in the gathering of a people, and it is the string that ties together and combines everything.”
- Action: Create a Rodef Shalom Agreement for your family or organization.
- Click here for instructions on creating a haskama.
- Greet Others as a Rodef Shalom – A rodef shalom, like Aaron, the High Priest and older brother of Moses known as the ideal rodef shalom in rabbinic literature, often would pursue peace by simply greeting others with a ‘shalom’ first, even to those he or she may be in conflict with. It is said, “When Aaron would be walking on the road and bumped into a wicked person, he would (nevertheless) greet him with a shalom” (Avot deRabbi Natan, 12).
- Action: In the same way that we greet others on Jewish holidays, greet others on the 9th of Adar as a rodef shalom by being the first to say “shalom”, “shalom alecha” (‘peace be upon you’) to a man, “shalom alayich” to a woman, or “shalom aleichem” to several people. Wish them that all of their conflicts (mahlokot) should always be for the sake of Heaven and constructive (l’shem shamayim).
- Click here for further information.
- Be a Rodef Shalom in Your Own Conflicts – It is not enough to be a third party rodef shalom, one must also be a rodef shalom in their own interactions with others, being the first to engage in fostering constructive conflict. Rav Chaim of Volozhin (1749-1821, Lithuania) writes “You should want there to be peace between you, even if in your opinion he sinned against you, nevertheless you should be the rodef shalom, and not to wait until your fellow reconcile you (first)” (Sefer Ruach Chaim on Avot, 1:12).
- Action: Be a rodef shalom in your own interactions with others by reaching out to someone you are currently engaged in a conflict with and asking them to consider joining you in attempting to manage the conflict in a more constructive manner.
- Be a Rodef Shalom for Others in Conflict – A rodef shalom may often serve as a third party in a conflict attempting to effect positive change in the management of the conflict. As it is said, “There is no one more humble in spirit than a rodef shalom, how [does he act]? If two people have quarreled, he humbles his spirit, approaches them and effects reconciliation between them” (Kallah Rabbati, 3, 6th century).
- Action: Be a rodef shalom by attempting to help others to whom you are connected by to manage a particular conflict in a more constructive manner.
- Be a Rodef Shalom by Facilitating Constructive Conversations – One can also be a rodef shalom by facilitating a constructive conversation around a difficult topic. This may be referred to as a tochachah conversation. Facilitating a difficult conversation in this manner can lead to a deeper peace between the sides, as the famous Talmudic sage Resh Lakish (2nd century, Land of Israel) said (Genesis Rabbah, 54:3) “Tochachah leads to peace.” Aaron was known for being able to express difficult topics with others in a constructive way as Rabbi Aaron Ibn Chaim (17th Century, Morocco, Korban Aaron on the Sifra) wrote, “Aaron would not return them (to a proper behavior) by rebuke at all, rather through love and peace.”
- Action: Be a rodef shalom by facilitating a constructive conversation in your home amongst friends and family, at your synagogue or at work.
- Invite in a Professional Rodef Shalom – Even if one has good intentions to be a rodef shalom, not everyone is an expert in doing so. Sometimes, being a rodef shalom means knowing how to bring in a professional rodef shalom and not attempting to manage the situation yourself. As the Hassidic master, Rabbi Ephraim of Sudilkov (1740-1800, Poland, Degel Machaneh Ephraim) quoting his father, compared the rodef shalom to a master doctor: “A parable to a professional and wise doctor, brilliant in the mixed natures of human beings. When he comes to a very sick person and hears [of his ailment], he is able to process the matter and give him medicine, even though they are very sharp and bitter, and almost at the danger of dying from them, however, since he understands very well the matter that this person needs the medicine. But, a different doctor, other than him, is not allowed to do this, for he is not wise and an expert like him, for he could easily make a mistake and lose a life. And based on this, we can understand the statement [of the rabbis] of blessed memory, for it is known the attribute of Aaron was such. When he heard of a fight between two people he would attempt to go to each side and tell them that his friend regrets the fight with him, and wants to reconcile with him, until he would mediate peace between them (Avot deRabbi Natan 12:3).”
- Action: Invite a professional rodef shalom, such as a mediator, communication specialist, therapist or other to either run a training workshop for a particular group you are involved in or to assist in an actual dispute you are connected to in your personal, work or communal life.