Seek Peace and Pursue It

  1. It is prohibited to create or perpetuate conflict, and this
    is not only because it is unworthy of a Ben Torah or because it is a midas
    chassidus
    or even a Rabbinical prohibition. It is prohibited by the Torah
    with the same severity as eating pork! The Gemara learns the prohibition from
    the verse “…that he be not like Korach and his company.” (Bamidbar 17:5)
    and those who count the mitzvos list it among the negative commandments.
    According the Sefer Hamitzvos Hagadolos, Rabbeinu Yona (Shaarei
    Tshuva
    ), and the Rambam (Sefer Hamitzvos) a person who perpetuates
    conflict violates the positive commandment of “Love your neighbor as
    yourself,” and the negative commandment, “Do not hate your brother in your
    heart.” The prohibition applies equally to conflicts with individuals and
    the public.

  2. Besides being a very severe avera, creating and
    perpetuating conflict leads to other severe averas: hatred, revenge, holding a
    grudge, embarrassing people, lashon hara, rechilus, reporting a person to
    hostile authorities etc. A person who makes conflict is called a rosho. An
    oath to take part in a dispute is invalid because it nullifies mitzvos. And
    if, in the course of making conflict, a person shows contempt for a talmid
    chochom, his avera is even more severe, for it is as though he has scorned the
    word of G-d. (Bamidbar 15:31) If the person who has been made an object of
    contempt invests himself in Torah learning and is worthy of teaching, he is
    considered a talmid chochom, and anyone who shows contempt for a talmid
    chochom suffers a blow which cannot be healed. (Shabbos 119b)

  3. It is forbidden to take part in a dispute, even to come to
    the aid of a relative, even if one’s father commands him to do so, for there
    is no mitzvah to honor a parent’s request if it involves violating the
    Torah. Even if a person sees that his father is right, he should try to tone
    down the conflict and not take sides in a way that perpetuates it.

  4. Not only is it forbidden to create conflict over matters of
    no importance, but even if someone hurts a person or compromises his dignity,
    he is obligated to settle the conflict. Even Moshe Rabbeinu (and who is
    greater than he?) approached Doson and Avirom personally to end their dispute
    and create peace.

  5. People often claim that their dispute is l’shem
    shamaim.
    So it is important to realize that a dispute is l’shem
    shamaim
    only when it does not induce a person to violate any commandments.
    But if a person finds himself having feelings of hatred or revenge, holding a
    grudge, embarrassing people, speaking lashon hora, saying rechilus, or feels
    tempted to report a person to hostile authorities etc., then his dispute is not
    l’shem shamaim
    ! “When is a dispute l’shem shamaim? When the
    people involved in the dispute feel a deep brotherly love for each other, but
    if their dispute induces them to hate each other, then it is certainly not l’shem
    shamaim
    and the Satan stands among them. In Pirkei Avos (5:17)
    Chazal defined a dispute l’shem shamaim as a dispute that is like the
    dispute between Hillel and Shamai.” And we find that a Hillel and Shammai
    fulfilled the verse “They loved peace and truth…” (Zacharia 8:19) and
    conducted themselves with friendship and affection toward each other. The
    sefer Halichos Olam reports that many years after his death, Rabbi
    Yonason Eibshitz appeared in a dream and revealed that he and Rabbi Yaakov
    Emden, with whom he had been in dispute, were sitting together in Gan Eden.
    But everyone else who became involved in their dispute was sitting in Gehenom!”
    (Yaaros Dvash 3)

  6. It would be nearly impossible to list all the places in the
    Gemara and Shulchan Aruch which relate to the prohibition of
    creating conflict and the edicts of the Rabbis on this matter. But the very
    fact that the halachah is so concerned to prevent conflicts between Jews
    teaches us how important it is to avoid them. Rabbeinu Yona (Shaarei Tshuva)
    writes that every community should have prudent and perceptive people who,
    themselves slow to anger, act immediately to prevent conflicts from arising in
    the community, as it is written, “Seek peace and pursue it.” (Tehil.
    34:15) The reconciliation of people who are in conflict is one of the things
    of which it is said that a person enjoys the dividends in this world while the
    principle is stored up for the next world.

  7. In his will to his son Rabbi Avraham, the Rambam instructs
    him not defile himself with disputes that will drain his physical, spiritual,
    and financial resources. He notes that he has seen families ruined, rulers
    fall, large cities become unstable and insecure, communities destroyed,
    chassidim compromised, men of faith lost, and men of dignity disgraced all
    because they got involved in contentious disputes. The prophets, the sages and
    the philosophers all speak of the great evil that results from such conflicts.
    The evil is so great that, as much as they have said, there is still much more
    that could be written. They hated contentiousness and dispute and made every
    effort to avoid it. Be proud, the Rambam writes, of being patient and
    tolerant, for it is the strait path of the true hero and, itself, a real
    triumph.

  8. A person who has succumbed to the sin of contentiousness
    and wants to change should commit himself to promoting peace and friendship. A
    person atones for his averos by doing mitzvos that correct them.