וידבר ה' אל משה לאמר, דבר אל אהרן ואל בניו לאמר כה תברכו את בני ישראל אמור להם וגו', וישם לך שלום.
“And Hashem said to Moshe so to speak: Speak to Aharon and his children and tell them, ‘Thus you shall bless the Bnei Yisroel; tell them… and He will bring upon you peace.’” (Bamidbar 6)
The blessing of Bnei Yisroel concludes with the words vayasem l’cha shalom – and bring “for you” peace. The verse speaks in the singular, which seems unusual in this context. Peace is a state of harmony between two or more people; therefore the verse should be speaking in plural form, addressing all of Bnei Yisroel as a community. How do we understand the meaning of this blessing of peace? After all, there is always peace between a person and himself.
The truth is that there is a very strong need for peace between man and himself. We are physical beings infused with a neshama, a spark of Hashem. The neshama is all purity and holiness, and it is sent into a physical body which is the extreme opposite of everything the soul stands for. The body desires physical pleasures and materialism, while the neshama pines for Hashem and desires Torah and mitzvos. This causes the person to be in a constant state of disharmony. One part of him desires physical gratification while another part of him yearns for spiritual fulfillment.
There are three ways of making peace between body and soul. One option is for the body to submit to the soul and tame its desires for the sake of the neshama. The body acknowledges that the soul is the true “boss” and gives over full leadership to the neshama. Another option is for the body and soul compromise; sometimes the body submits to the soul and other times the soul submits to the body. The third option, which is a most unfortunate situation, is for the soul to be totally ruled by the body, its voice silenced by the body’s overpowering desire for physical gratification.
This third option cannot really be considered a state of peace, as Dovid Hamelech says in Tehillim (38:4): “There is no peace in myself because of my sins.” The holy Ari says that each of the 248 organs in our bodies corresponds to one of the 248 positive commandments, and each of the 365 sinews in our bodies corresponds to one of the 365 negative commandments. When a person commits a transgression, the corresponding body part becomes spiritually defected. A person who follows his evil inclination and pursues physical pleasures ends up with a spiritually defected body. Such a situation is very far from peaceful; the person feels torn apart between inner and outer forces.
The soul has three parts, called the nefesh, ruach and neshama. These parts of the soul reside in the מח – brain, the לב – heart, and the כבד – liver. When a person is properly balanced, then his brain controls the desires of his heart and all his actions, which are symbolized by the liver. In this order of control, the word “melech” emerges through the first letters of the words מח, לב, כבד - which means that he is a true “king.” When the order is reversed, and the person’s actions are controlled by his heart and then his brain follows with twisted logic to sanction his deeds, the word “kalem” emerges through the first letters of the words כבד, לב, מח – which means “destroy.” This shows us that when a person’s physical desires are ruled by his soul, he is compared to a king and there is true peace within himself. On the other hand, when the person’s bodily desires rules his actions and his soul is forced to submit to his physical desires, then there is no peace within himself.
One of the names of Hashem is Shalom – peace. When a person performs Hashem’s will his soul is truly at peace. This is the meaning of the blessing in the above-mentioned verse: “He will bring upon you peace” – you will be fully at peace with yourself.
We’ve spoken many times about the great power of achdus – unity. When the Jewish people are united they have the ability to overcome the yetzer hara together, because the power of so many souls that come together is very great. But let us think for a moment: when the Jewish people are together, the power of the neshamas is matched with an equal number of bodies and all of their base desires, so what is the gain?
However, the Zohar writes that the Forces of Holiness come together, but the Forces of Impurity are divided – there is no unity among them. Therefore, when the Jewish people are united as one, their souls unite into one strong Force of Holiness, while their evil inclinations remain divided and therefore small in comparison. This is how a true state of shalom – peace is achieved.
This is also why the gathering that takes place on the first Friday night after the birth of a baby boy is called a “Shalom Zachor.” We welcome the newest member of the Jewish people with a strong message that when there is unity among Klal Yisroel, such as during the joyful gathering in honor of the new baby, that is when a person can find true inner peace and overcome his yetzer hara. That is when we can truly say that it is “Shabbos shalom umvorach” - a Shabbos of peace and blessing.