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    Wisdom brings peace – T’rumah

    The Haftarah opens magnificently: “And the Lord gave Solomon wisdom, as He had promised him” (I Kings 5:26).

    Everybody knows that Solomon was renowned for his wisdom, and the Biblical books to which his name is attached offer an amazing sampling of wise sayings.

    What is often overlooked is how the Haftarah continues after the initial reference to the gift of wisdom: “and there was peace between Hiram and Solomon”. The two things must be connected – wisdom and peace.

    Hiram, king of Tyre, was Solomon’s most powerful neighbour, and it was to the advantage of both to have a treaty of peace. The avenue to peace was wisdom. Not just statesmanship, but wisdom.

    The definition of wisdom, according to Pirkei Avot (4:1), is the ability to learn from other people (“Who is wise? He who learns from all men”). Learning from all men implies recognising that they also have a point of view, they also have feelings, they also have rights. If you are dogmatic and doctrinaire you may feel good inside but you are not wise, nor will you have peace.

    A well known liturgical custom illustrates the point. Why, at the end of the Amidah and Kaddish, do we take three steps backward when we say, Oseh shalom bim’romav – “He who makes peace in His high places, may He make peace for us and for all Israel”?

    Because there will never be peace if you are not prepared to take a step backwards and recognise that the other person, group, nation or point of view deserves to be heard and not adamantly dismissed as automatically useless and unworthy of even a modicum of respect.

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