Shalom (Peace)




Shalom, Shalom, you’ll find Shalom the nicest greeting you know;

It means bonjour, salud, and skoal and twice as much as hello.
It means a million lovely things, like peace be yours, welcome home.
And even when you say goodbye, you say goodbye with Shalom.

It’s a very useful word, it can get you through the day;
All you really need to know,
You can hardly go wrong,
This is your home as long as you say:
Shalom, the nicest greeting I know;
Shalom means twice as much as hello.
It means a million lovely things, like peace be yours, welcome home.
And even when you say goodbye,
If your voice has "I don’t want to go" in it,
Say goodbye with a little "hello" in it,
And say goodbye with shalom.

Jerry Herman, Milk and Honey, 1961

Whether used as a salutation or farewell, shalom can be translated best as “wholeness,” “completeness” or “integrity.” Shalom is commonly translated as “peace,” but it connotes peace in the fullest sense, not merely as the opposite of “war,” “strife,” “contention” or “conflict.” Shalom includes the kind of peace, both internal or external, personal or social, that connotes tranquility, harmony, prosperity, contentment and what some call peace of mind. Its shades of meaning include something akin to the French “le bonheur.” Shalom means the kind of peace which does not imply the eradication differences or the elimination of conflict; rather, shalom points to the kind of peace in which differences are integrated into a complex whole.

The pursuit of peace is as high a value as there is in Judaism. In fact, the Jew is exhorted to act like a “disciple of Aaron [Moses’ brother,the first High Priest of Israel], loving peace and pursuing it.” As a rodef shalom, a pursuer of peace, a Jew must do more than love or appreciate peace; s/he must act to effectuate it. As we are taught in the Book of Psalms, 34:14, “Seek peace, and pursue it.” When a person does so, s/he emulates God, who is called oseh shalom bimromav hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu, “the Maker of peace in the heavens, who will make peace among us [humans].” In fact, Shalom is one of God’s names, implying that peace is an integral constituent of God’s essential nature, and that peace is fundamental to the existence of the world as God’s creation. —From the Tradition (Min Hame’soret) מִן הַמְּסֹרֶת

A woman was accused by her husband of committing adultery with Rabbi Me’ir. Rabbi Me’ir wished to ensure peace between the husband and the wife, so he permitted the woman to spit in his face in the presence of his students. Rabbi Mei’ir told his disciples, when they protested that this was an insult to both Rabb Mei’r and the Torah, “Isn’t it enough that Me’ir honor should be likened to that of the Creator? If God’s holy name, which is written in holiness, may be washed off by the water of bitterness in order to erase jealousy and effect peace between husband and wife (Numbers 5:23), how much the more so does this apply to my honor? —Leviticus Rabbah (Vayikra Rabbah) 9 וַיִרְרָא רַבָּה

If Aaron happened to walk on the highway and was bothered by a wicked man, he would greet him in a cordial manner. If on the next day the wicked man contemplated performing a wicked act, he would think to himself, “If I happen to meet Aaron again, and again he greet me in a cordial manner, how bad will I feel?” In this way Aaron hoped to induce the wicked man to refrain from wrongdoing. And when Aaron happened to hear that two people had argued, he would approach Person A and say, “I have just come from Person B. Now, you think that Person B is your enemy, but what did I see? He beats his chest [at his heart] and rends his clothes, and he cries, ‘I have sinned against my neighbor. Woe is me! I am ashamed to look him in the eye [face].’” And then Aaron would do the same thing at the home of Person B. When, when the two people would meet again, they would hug and embrace. For this reason, when Aaron died, the whole House of Israel wept for him, men and women equally. People said, “So many married couples were reunited by Aaron quarreling that thousands of these families have sons named Aaron in his honor. When he died, 80,000 people named Aaron walked in the funeral procession.” —Chapters of Rabbi Nathan, Avot de Rabbi Natan, 12 אָבוֹת דְרַבִּי נַתָּן

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