AS: The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation created a revolution in our shemiras ha’lashon. Your new book, Live the Blessing, explores making peace between people. Why shalom? Why now?
CCHF: Without shalom, shemiras ha’lashon will last only so long. People who are involved in personal disputes might try not to speak negatively about each other, but it often is just a matter of time before someone’s feelings leach out into the words they say. In addition, without shemiras ha’lashon, shalom doesn’t have a chance. Even if a dispute starts off as a reasonable difference of opinion, once the parties begin talking about each other it will turn into a machlokes. When we focus on shalom, we are not tempted to denigrate other people. This book is meant to show people what shalom and machlokes look like in real life, and to give them tools to choose the right path.
AS: Does making shalom mean we all have to think alike?
CCHF: Not at all. It means making space in our world for other people’s thoughts and perspectives. It doesn’t mean agreeing all the time, but rather, learning to disagree without personal animosity. We need only look at the Twelve Shevatim to know that Hashem had no intention of creating a nation that was all of a kind.
AS: There are chapters about peace between husband and wife, parents and children, neighbors and friends, even between divorced couples. Can we really make peace with everyone in our lives?
CCHF: The chapters give readers a peek at what happens to people’s lives when they stoke conflict and what happens when they work to resolve it or at least cool it down. In any situation, whether it’s family life, marriage, friendships, business relationships, or divorce, shalom brings blessing and machlokes brings destruction. Once we’re convinced of this, we still have much work to do to change our reactions and reframe what we tell ourselves about the people in our lives. We hope the book’s daily readings will spur people to realize that this is the right path — and to take it.
AS: Each chapter also contains advice from prominent rabbanim, therapists, and educators. They are very varied in their perspectives, but is there a theme that unites them?
CCHF: The most prominent common thread in their advice is this: Nobody has ever gained by stoking machlokes and nobody has ever regretted seeking shalom.