Pirke Avot 1:12

Hillel says:

Be among the disciples of Aaron,

loving peace and pursuing peace;

loving people and bringing them closer to the Torah.

Hillel lived shortly before the time of Jesus and is one of the greatest and most respected rabbis of any age.

Be among the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace.  Aaron is one of the most beloved figures in the Hebrew bible.  He was the brother of Moses – and where Moses was reluctant to speak in public, Aaron was drafted to speak in his place.  Moses and Aaron were a formidable team.

From the descendants of Aaron came the priests of the temple.   He functioned as the first high priest.  In the rabbinic tradition that developed and surrounded the Torah Aaron was identified in a special way as a peace-maker.

The sages say that when Aaron became aware that two persons were caught up in a dispute that he would go to each of them urging them to reconcile, even if it greatly compromised his own dignity to be involved with small matters.

The sages note that we are urged not just to love peace but to actively pursue it.  It is not enough to prefer it, to enjoy it, to desire it for ourselves and our loved ones.  We must work actively, as Aaron did, to bring it about in ourselves, in our families, in our religious communities, in our neighborhoods, in our cities, our country, and the world.

St. Francis of Assisi

This prayer is associated with St. Francis of Assisi.  It certainly expresses his approach to life and faith.  However, St. Francis lived about 800 years ago and this prayer first circulated at the time of World War I.  Apparently it was printed on a prayer card that had an image of St. Francis on the other side.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

 

Loving people and bringing them closer to the Torah.  Seems fairly clear!  Loving others helps bring about peace because love for others, including sinners and folks involved in arguments, brings out the best in them.

We are reminded in this saying as well – loving people involves a lot of things.  It may mean providing food or money in an emergency.  It may mean teaching them a skill or helping them find a job.  Whether we help for the short term or the long term – there is still more.  Real love means also speaking with them of the Scriptures and our faith.

Some questions to think about:

  1. Where is there discord in your life and family and neighborhood?
  2. What can you do about it?  Have you tried?
  3. What is the worst that can happen by your intervention?  What is the best that can happen?