If one is not supposed to bless his friend with the word "b'Shalom" upon
parting, why did Yakov (in Parshas Vayetze) ask Hashem to return him "in
peace" ("b'Shalom") to his father's home?
(a) Why is it preferable to bless the living with the word "l'Shalom?" The
SEMICHAS CHACHAMIM (on Berachos, by the author of the Megaleh Amukos)
explains that a living person must never stay on the same spiritual level. He
must always be climbing and accomplishing. A dead person, on the other hand,
has already attained whatever spiritual level it is that he will reach. That
is why we wish the living to go "towards peace" ("l'Shalom"), that is,
towards a greater and holier spiritual level, while we wish the not-living to
"rest *in* peace" (b'Shalom).
This is why Yakov did not use the usual phraseology in his Tefilah. Normally,
we wish the other person that he may rise higher and higher upon parting with
us. Yakov, by saying "b'Shalom," meant to say "I will even be satisfied if I
return from the house of Lavan on the *same* spiritual level that I am at
present [without being affected by the wickedness of Lavan]." (KOHELES
YITZCHAK on Parashas Vayetze)
(b) The RITVA and CHIDUSHEI HA'RAN here explain the difference between
"l'Shalom" and "b'Shalom" differently. When one says "go *in* peace," it
implies that only while traveling should there be peace. It does not relate
to what happens upon arrival at the destination. That is why it is not an
appropriate blessing to the living; one should also bless the traveler to
*arrive at his destination* in peace, by saying "go *towards* peace."
"Ba'Shalom" is, however, an appropriate blessing to the deceased, since his
destination is certainly peaceful and it is the "road there" which is fearful
(as the Gemara describes on the bottom of Moed Katan 28a).
Is so, perhaps our Gemara's teaching applies only when the word "Lech" --
"go" -- is used with the word "b'Shalom," denoting that the traveling [alone]
should be in peace. However, Yakov said, "I should *return* b'Shalom,"
meaning that *when he arrives back home* he should be in peace. Thus, in the
context, it was an appropriate expression.
(c) Alternatively, perhaps Yakov was indeed requesting to be returned to his
father's house *after death*, and that is why he used the word "b'Shalom."
That is, he was asking Hashem to allow him to be buried in the Cave of
Machpelah along with his father. This wish was granted to him when Esav
accepted all of Yakov's wealth in return for his portion in the Cave (see
Rashi, Bereishis 50:5). (M. Kornfeld)