Usually when we hear or think about the word "Shalom" we think about peace between Israel and her neighbours, or one nation and another. But there is another type of shalom, one that is much closer to home. Our sages use a term called "shalom bayit" which means 'peace in the home'. We often overlook this type of peace. We downplay the importance of peace in our homes - between a husband and wife, a brother and sister, a parent and child. But if we look into this week's parsha, Parshat Vaera, we see that time and time again Hashem went out of His way, either personally or through His messengers, to convey to our forefathers and foremothers about the importance of developing peaceful relationships with the people around us, especially at home. Let's take a look at two:

Example #1:
In this week's parsha, Avraham is sent three 'guests'. In truth these three guests are angels sent by Hashem to tell Avraham that he and his wife Sarah, despite their old age, are going to have a child in the next year. We see that in the course of conversation with Avraham the angels ask him "Where is Sarah your wife?" (Bereishit 18:9) Isn't that a strange question for an angel to ask?!?! Surely they are on some spiritual level that they know these kind of things. The gemara (Bava Metzia 87a) explains that they did indeed know where she was, they just wanted to make sure Avraham realised how modest his wife was. She was in the tent preparing a whole meal for them and not being loud and demanding credit. That's very modest, and they wanted Avraham to realise this in order to increase the shalom, the peace, and love, between Avraham and his wife. Surely Avraham and Sarah already had a very healthy marriage and home full of shalom bayit, but these angels still thought it worth improving. That's how much shalom bayit, peace in the home, is worth.

Example #2:
In this very same conversation, when the angels tell Sarah that she is going to become pregnant, she laughs and says "My husband is old! (i.e. how can he still have children!?)". When Hashem tells Avraham that Sarah shouldn't have laughed and rather should have trusted that Hashem is capable of doing whatever He desires, He changes what she said! Instead of telling Avraham that Sarah said "my husband is old", Hashem changes it to say that Sarah said "I am old". We see that, as shocking as it might seem, Hashem lied here and changed what Sarah actually said. The gemara learns from here that a person is actually allowed to lie in order to maintain shalom bayit, peace in the home, even though usually lying is a terrible and dangerous thing. (Of course it's not so simple that lying is allowed at home... and before you go home and start lying through your teeth, ask your local orthodox rabbi exactly what is allowed!) We see again just how important shalom bayit, peace in the home, is. Hashem Himself is willing to lie to maintain it.

There are many more examples, and very powerful ones, where the Torah teaches us the importance of striving to create peaceful relationships with the people we live with, and of course with everyone that we interact with as well. But these are two examples where we see Hashem teaching Avraham and Sarah, the founders of our people and of humanity in general, about Shalom Bayit. Of all the lessons He could teach them, this one comes up again and again. As we read the Torah portion this week, maybe we can apply it to our own lives and try to make the relationships with those around us, especially those closest, a little bit more peaceful.

Shabbat Shalom!

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