What are we fighting for?

What does it mean to be a Rodef Shalom (a pursuer of peace)? In our tradition this seems to be an important attribute that we are directed to hold as a core value. Does it mean peace at any cost? Aren’t there some things we have to fight for, or fight about?

In this weeks Parsha, Moses’ leadership is challenged by his cousin (Korach). The challenge itself isn’t the heart of the story, though – it is the lessons we glean about conflict that are centrally important. The question we learn to ask ourselves about when it is appropriate to engage in conflict is one of ego: am I in this conflict simply to stoke my own self-esteem, or am I engaged in a meaningful process in pursuit of something outside of my self.

Gesher completed a first year of participation in a program called Rodef Shalom in our Middle School, and we look forward to a second year beginning in the fall. The program was conceived and is run from Pardes, a well-known educational institution in Jerusalem. It focuses on teaching skills that can broadly be described as useful for constructive conflict, and a core idea is that there are some disagreements that are L’Shem Shamayim (in heaven’s name) and some that are not. Those that are worthy are actually important to pursue in the name of ultimate peace.

With a general focus on practicing skills necessary for empathy (like active listening, role playing, etc.), Rodef Shalom places social-emotional development within the framework of Jewish texts – a perfect fit for a school like Gesher, where our aim is always to integrate Jewish identity in relevant, meaningful ways. This year, Middle School students and faculty used part of this process to write a Haskamah (agreement) that informed and clarified expectations for behavior, conduct, and discipline in grades 6-8.

This Shabbat, talk to your children about your family handles conflict. Is it open, or behind closed doors? Is it resolved quickly or does it take a long time? How does it make you and your children feel?

Shabbat Shalom,