by Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik e.V. – An important interview we did last summer with Adam Keller of Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Block. A very challening matter in these difficult days of open confrontation in Palestine.
THE IDEAL OF PEACE IN JUDAISM
Peace is a concept that is central to Judaism. Along with truth and justice, it is one of the three key Jewish values.
Peace is what will save the Jewish people: “God announceth to Jerusalem that they [Israel] will be redeemed only through peace.” Deuteronomy Rabah 5:15
The Jewish people’s desire for peace has been expressed for thousands of years in our prayers and in biblical and rabbinic sources.
And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
Great is peace since all other blessings are included in it. (Vayikrah Rabbah 9) The only reason that the Holy One, blessed be He, created the world was so that there would be peace among humankind. (Bamidbar Rabbah 12A)
Grant peace, welfare, blessing, grace, lovingkindness, and mercy unto us and unto all Israel, your people.
We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their people in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation … with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.
Please bless the State of Israel…spread over it the shelter of Your peace. Grant peace unto the land, lasting joy to its inhabitants. Remove from us all hatred and hostility, jealousy and cruelty. And plant in our hearts love and friendship, peace and companionship. Speedily fulfill the vision of Your prophet: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
The Hebrew word for peace, ‘SHALOM,’ comes from a root meaning ‘completeness’ and ‘perfection’. So when there is peace in Jewish terms, that means things are perfect: there is calm, security, prosperity and a general feeling of physical and spiritual well-being. It doesn’t just mean there is no war.
In Hebrew, to ask someone how they are (“How are you?”) we say “Ma shlomcha?” ‘Shlomcha’ literally means ‘your peace’, so we are actually asking them “How’s your state of peace?” This shows how important living in a state of peace is in Jewish thinking.
The Jewish obligation to pursue peace
Peace is so important a concept in Judaism that Jews have a religious obligation to pursue it.“Seek peace, and pursue it’ ‑ seek it in your own place, and pursue it even to another place as well.” Leviticus Rabah 9:9
We are told that “He who establishes peace between man and his fellow, between husband and wife, between two cities, two nations, two families or two governments…no harm should come to him.” Mekhilta Bahodesh 12
And even that “one may deviate from the truth for the sake of peace…it is permissible to utter a falsehood for the purpose of making peace between a man and his fellow.” BT Yevamot 65b and Derekh Erez Zuta.
Lynda Ben-Menashe 2007