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Peace Comes First

The LORD gave Solomon wisdom, just as he had promised him. There were peaceful relations between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a treaty. — 1 Kings 5:12

The Torah portion for this week is Terumah, which means “contributions,” from Exodus 25:1–27:19, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 5:26–6:13.

This week’s Haftorah is taken from the book of 1 Kings and describes the building of the first Holy Temple in Jerusalem by King Solomon. In our Torah reading, we read about the construction of the Tabernacle – the portable Temple that would accompany the children of Israel through their 40 years in the desert and then for 500 years more. Finally, in King Solomon’s time, the portable Temple became a permanent structure. From then on, through destruction and reconstruction, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem would remain the site of God’s home.

The Jewish sages note that the Haftorah begins not with the actual construction of the Temple, but first with a short prelude. In the first verse, the Scripture explains that Solomon, in his great wisdom, made peace with his neighbor Hiram. This information is charged with meaning, the sages explain. It teaches us that peace is a pre-requisite for building the House of God.

This isn’t just practical advice – it has a spiritual meaning. The sages teach that one of God’s names is “Peace.” God’s essence is peace, so the more we have peace, the more we will be able to encounter God. A war-torn, strife-ridden environment isn’t conducive to godliness. If we want to have a deep and meaningful relationship with God, we will have to sort out our relationships with each other.

In last week’s Torah portion, we read about the laws and regulations that govern interpersonal relationships. Included in that reading were the laws regarding personal and property damage and the laws of helping the poor and vulnerable. It was an entire dictum on how to attain a peaceful society! Only once that section is concluded does the reading regarding the Tabernacle begin because God’s house can only be built on the foundation of a peaceful and just society.

Some people put a tremendous amount of time and effort into becoming “close to God.” They want to feel His presence and enjoy His proximity. They may spend a lot of time in study and prayer, but that is not enough. As both Solomon and David understood, closeness to God can never come at the expense of our relationships with people. You won’t find a bitter and inconsiderate individual who is simultaneously close to God.

If we want to experience the peace of God, we have to make peace with each other. And if we want to be able to build His Temple, we must start by building better relationships with all His children.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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