Sunday, February 20, 2011
The World is full of Strife
I have been pretty quiet for these last few weeks as the world has been caught up and continues to be caught up in strife and conflict. The events of these days show us that strife can be as creative as it can be destructive. The struggle both within and without can produce both tremendous good and tremendous evil. This is true not only of strife on a grand scale but for strife at every level. Indeed, as this piece from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov illustrates, all strife bears a common nature, from the conflict of nations to the struggles of the individual with their own multiple selves. I have come back again and again to this piece from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov on the nature of strife and on the nature of struggle. I offer it as a kind of poetic meditation. Please let me know what you think. (As always I love to see parallel texts from the Muslim tradition as well.)
The World is Full of Strife
The entire world is full of strife, between nations of the world, between one city and another. And so in every house, and with the neighbors, between husband and wife and between parents and children.
And yet, no one turns their heart to the ultimate end of life, that people die every day and the day that has past will never be again, that every day brings us closer to death.
Know that each and every form of strife, even that between husband and wife is in reality the same as the struggle between nations. Each member of the family is their own country, and their quarrels are their wars. The qualities of each nation are also reflected in these individuals. Some nations are known for anger, others for blood-thirstiness. Each one has its particular quality. These same traits are found in each household.
Even if you don’t want to fight and you want to live in peace and calm, you are forced into struggle. So it is with nations. A nation may desire peace and make many concessions to achieve it. But no matter how much it tries to remain neutral, it can still be caught up in war. Two opposing sides can demand its allegiance until it is drawn into war against its will.
The same is true in a household. Man is a miniature world. His essence contains the world and everything in it. A man and his family contain the nations of the world, and all their battles.
Thus a man living alone can sometimes go crazy. Right there within him are all the warring nations. His personality is that of the victorious nation. Each time a different nation is victorious, he must change completely and this can drive him insane. He is alone and can’t express the war within him. But when one lives with others, these battles are expressed toward his family and friends…
When the Messiah comes all wars will be abolished. The world will have eternal peace, as it is written, "They will neither hurt nor destroy…" (Isaiah 11:9).
- Sichot HaRan