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'May G-d bless you and keep you.'
'May G-d shine His Face on you, and favor you.'
'May G-d show you kindness and grant you peace.' (6:25-7)
The above is the Birkat Kohanim - the daily Priestly blessing to the Israelites. Its final word is shalom - peace. As in the Birkat Kohanim, the word shalom is a much-used word at the end of prayers. The final part of the Amidah ends with shalom. So does the Grace after Meals. So does the full Kaddish. And so does the final berach on Shabbat before the Amidah of the Aravit service.
What is the importance of the word shalom occurring at the end of Birchat Kohanim? What light does that throw on the use of shalom at the end of prayers in general?
Shalom is peace. But there is peace, and there is peace. You are at peace with those you pass in the street. But that is a small achievement, as you do not know them. Real peace may be illustrated with the following scenarios.
A young single person finds himself boarding within the household of a family of strangers for a period of, say, nine months - from September to June. He does not get full privacy - he interacts with the family members every times he goes through the front door, every time he uses the facilities, and sits down to have a meal. He has to negotiate his routine to fit in with the way things are done with that household. His relationship with those he shares part of his life may go one of the following two ways:
He may start with every intention of making his relationship with the family a success. 'The best lodger they ever had!' 'Life-long friends!' 'Just like a new member of the family!' He will - at the outset - seek to fit in, 'be a good boy', offer his 'advice', volunteer with chores, join in with family activities, and ignore less that acceptable encroachments on his privacy and private affairs. He does not set the boundaries he himself deserves. But tensions (at first nobly ignored) mount over the first few months, sacrificing mutual respect, passing the threshold level of tolerance, leading to an 'explosion', a sudden 'departure', and bitter feelings on all sides.
He may instead keep a relatively low profile at first, accepting that working domestic relationships develop over time, and should not be forced. He will keep his family contacts to a minimum - at first. He will politely, but firmly, let the household know his routine - and firmly negotiate any differences, without compromising unduly on his own boundaries. He will also keep in mind that the family is just as happy for this relationship to work out as he is (after all they depend on it for a living) - and successfully convey that notion. There will be differences, tensions, and the odd confrontation here and there - but goodwill and social intelligence on both sides will - over time - enable the relationship to settle down, with both sides duly adjusting. As mutual trust grows - a product of intelligently handling the initial confrontations - trust develops and by the time the period of lodging has ended, after the nine month period, the relationship has gone from a mere business one to: 'The best lodger we ever had!' 'Life-long friends!' 'Just like a new member of the family!'
The above exemplifies how peace develops in any scenario - domestically, at work, even between groups, peoples, and nations. Suspicion-free, real shalom is not something taken for granted - it does not come in disposable wrappers, on the cheap. It cannot be forced on anyone - whether by pious exhortation or international treaty. It is valuable product of successful relationships built up over time - with sensitivity, effort, and patient adjustment on both sides, sealed with siyyata dishmaya - Help from Heaven.
That signifies shalom occurring at the end of the prayers - it is a final, developed, 'end' product. And in that light, the Priestly Blessing may be amplified:
'May G-d bless you and keep you.' - initially, when you set out to mix and relate with new people, to purposeful ends. Even when at the outset things becomes a little lonely, and do not deliver what you want. (He may also help you to keep your temper when you just can't see any light at the end of the tunnel)
'May G-d shine His Face on you, and favor you.' - very much needed, as you feel out on limb, when you strive to make suitable adjustments following initial differences and conflicts. And you recognize that the other side has to recognize your boundaries (as you do) and acclimatize to your interactions and positive contributions - and most important, see them in that light.
'May G-d show you kindness and grant you peace.' - that your efforts to 'make things work' will indeed be appropriately reciprocated by the other party - leading to a productive, trust-based, mutually beneficial, and mutually respectful peace which is a source of strength to all parties.
And in the next verse, G-d promises that after that process he will indeed grant that siyyata dishmaya: 'I will put My Name on the Israelites and I will bless them' (6:28).
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: email@example.com for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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