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prayer pings #25 it ain't no accident

Make love, not war.

So pleaded the unofficial slogan of the 1960's counter-culture. (Remember?) The phrase applied the verb "make" to both love and war, presuming both love-making and war-making to be conscious, "creative" decisions. Isaiah, we assume, would have articulated the slogan differently. For when Isaiah addressed Cyrus king of Persia, who would soon defeat Babylonia and permit the exiled Jews to return to Zion, he proclaimed to him that although Cyrus did not know it, God had appointed him to these tasks, for it is the Almighty alone who "forms light and creates darkness, makes peace and creates war." In Isaiah's view, peace (and love, I'd suggest) are "made" (עשה) , while war is not "made", but "created" (ברא) .

We recognize this phrase of Isaiah's because the Siddur adapted it for the opening blessing of Shacharit proper, simply appending the "Blessed art thou..." formula to the beginning, and changing הרע (war) to הכל (all). And so it's worth inquiring as to the difference between "making" and "creating", and also what it means that peace is "made", and that war, along with darkness, is "created".

Rabbi David Kimchi (14th century Provence) asserts that the verb "create" as Isaiah uses it, doesn't actually connote a deliberate, creative act at all. While God consciously "makes" light and peace - these would not exist were it not for Divine effort - darkness and war are things that simply fill the vacuum that results when light and peace fail. They are not "made". God merely created the room, the space, within which they would exist when not consciously opposed. This is what ברא means for Isaiah.

It is, one the one hand, a stark prophetic message, and thus a stark opening blessing to Shacharit. But it also ritually instructs us about what peace is, and how peace comes about. It is a fallacy, Isaiah and the Siddur both contend, to think of peace as the homeostasis that will exist on its own, unless specifically disturbed. To the contrary, peace is something that has to be consciously, thoughtfully, strategically, and continuously, made.

From Vayikra Rabba, 9:9 - Chizkiya taught, "Large (or great) is peace. For other mitzvot are conditional, for example, 'IF you see your enemy's donkey struggling beneath its burden etc.' or 'IF you should encounter your friend's ox wandering etc.', or 'IF you should come across a bird's nest etc.'. If the mitzvah comes to your hand, you must do it. But if not, you are not required to do it. But regarding peace it is written, 'Seek peace and pursue it', seek it for your place, and pursue it for other places.

Make love. And by doing so, do not create war.

~Rav Yosef

Wed, February 20 2019 15 Adar I 5779