SHALOM

By Gloria Levi

 

Peace.. ..shalom..What does it mean? I discovered that the word 'shalom' is a very nuanced word. It means many things both as a noun and as a verb. "Shalom" permeates our writings and our heritage. It is mentioned 397 times in the Tanach.

 

As a noun, in the biblical meaning,  'shalom' means completeness, fulfillment,  soundness, well-being, safety, health, prosperity, quiet, tranquility, contentment, sufficiency to have one's legitimate desires met (not just the survival needs of getting by).

 

But Hebrew is primarily a language of action and so it is also a verb. Shalom does NOT mean the absence of war! It means to finish, to heal, to reward, to fulfill an obligation arising from an agreement between 2 parties. For example, to pay (l'shalem) involves a relationship of trust to fulfill an obligation or responsibility. To make restitution 'shalom' as action embodies justice. "eyn tsedek, eyn shalom"

 

So I ask myself, "Recognizing the nuanced meanings of the word, "shalom", how should I go about writing a prayer for peace?"

 

I have felt very alienated from the more traditional prayers for peace which we sometimes offer in Shul. The phrases are generally abstract and flowery. They do not speak to me. So I decided to write this prayer in the form of a lament. A lament  is my protest hurled at G-d, blurting out suffering, giving voice to pain, abuse, isolation and oppression. They say, G-d responds when He hears our cries.  So I stand here today to plead their cause, to put to words, to articulate that pain.

 

Several of the following sentences have been excerpted from Prayer for Israel by R. Victor Reinstein. (They are italicised)

 

 

 

 

                                     A    Prayer for Israel

 

Ribono shel Olam, Master of the Universe, Just as you heard the cries of the Israelites in Egypt, hear our cry from the heart. We, this holy congregation, through our covenant implore You. Protect our people upon our land. Calm and soothe them, return our captives, and let terror be no more. Help us to remember that we are one people, and let not wanton hatred that brought down the walls of Your House divide us yet again from each other and from You.

 

From our pain and fear, we lash out destructive fury. Open our eyes to the illusions of military might. We pour our hearts out to You in anguish for the suffering of all your children. "Eli Eli, lama azavtani..My G-d, my G-d why have you forsaken us?" Hear the cries and wails of Israeli and Palestinian mothers over their wounded and maimed children. See the gaunt faces of parents who haven't enough food for their children. Protect the children, their fragile bodies and tender souls. Ease their parents' fear and give them reason to hope.

 

We have lost our way and descended into shameful degradation, gratuitous cruelty and ugliness. Even in the midst of the plagues, we did not demonize the Egyptians but rather expressed our compassion for their pain. Tayereh, Zeeseh Got, bring us back to the path. Rearrange our human hearts and awaken shalom there. G-d of our ancestors, we are the clay and You are our potter. Guide us to the wisdom of another way. Give us the courage to dare, to risk, to remove the chains of fear, suspicion and paranoia, and to do justice.  As we repeat over and over again the enduring attributes of G-d, "merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abiding in steadfast love and faithfulness", may those traits become embodied within us.

 

And let us say, "Amen"

 

 

 

 

 

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