The Hebrew term “shalom” is usually translated in English as “peace” – a word which refers to the absence of conflict, as well as to the state of calmness which results from the absence of conflict. This translation, however, does not convey the full meaning of the term “shalom” which is related to the Hebrew term “shalem” – whole. Shalom is not just the absence of conflict among diverse forces; shalom is also the harmonious interaction of these diverse forces which leads to a state of wholeness. This insight can give us a deeper understanding of the following teaching from the Talmud (Megilla 18a):
“The blessing of the Holy One, Blessed be He, is shalom, as it is said, ‘Hashem will bless His people with shalom” (Psalm 29:11).
On Friday, the media reported on a disagreement between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu regarding the “peace process” that would bring an end to the conflict between Israel and its enemies. The next day was Shabbos, and in the Torah portion of this Shabbos, we find the following Divine message regarding the peace process in the Promised Land:
“If you will go in
My statutes and keep
My mitzvos…You will
dwell securely in
your land. I will
provide shalom in
(Leviticus: 26:3, 5,
The above verses indicate that the way to gain security and shalom in the Promised Land is through fulfilling the precepts of the Torah – the Divine Teaching. As we know, the verses in the Torah have various levels of meaning. In this spirit, I will share with you two interpretations of the above verses which are cited in the commentary of Rav Chaim ben Atar, a leading 18th century sage and kabbalist who lived in Morroco and who later moved to Jerusalem. He became known as the “Ohr HaChaim” (Light of Life), as this was the name of the commentary that he wrote on the Torah – a commentary which became highly regarded by Torah scholars in both Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities.
“You will dwell securely in your land.” – The Ohr HaChaim points out that this Divine promise is emphasizing “your” land; thus, this Divine promise can be explained in the following manner:
“The whole world will recognize and know that it is your land.”
In what way will our fulfilling the precepts of the Divine Teaching in the Promised Land cause the whole world to recognize and know that this is our land? The beginning of an answer can be found in the following message that Moshe, our teacher, gave to our people before we entered the Promised Land:
“See! I have taught you statutes and social laws, as Hashem, my God, has commanded me, to do so in the midst of the Land to which you come, to possess it. You shall safeguard and fulfill them, for it is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the peoples, who shall hear all these statutes and who shall say, ‘Surely a wise and understanding people is this great nation!’ ” (Deuteronomy 4:5, 6)
According to the above message of Moshe, our fulfilling the precepts of the Torah in the Promised Land will enable us to develop a model society which will gain the admiration of the peoples. This admiration will also inspire them to emulate our spiritual example; thus, the Prophet Isaiah later conveyed to the people of Zion the following prophecy: “Nations will go by your light” (Isaiah 60:3).
The spiritual inspiration that the nations will gain from our being in Zion will therefore cause them to recognize our Divine right to live in Zion.
In the above passage regarding the peace process in the Promised Land, Hashem also states: “I will provide shalom in the land” (Leviticus 26:6). The Ohr HaChaim points out that Hashem does not state “your land” – a specific reference to the Land of Israel. Instead, Hashem states “the land” – a general term which may be referring to the entire world; thus, Hashem is promising our people that when we fulfill the precepts of the Divine Teaching in the Promised Land, “there will be shalom in the entire world” (commentary on Leviticus 26:6). The Prophet Isaiah elaborates on this idea in the following prophecy regarding the messianic era:
“For from Zion will go forth Torah, and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem... they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift sword against nation, and they will no longer study warfare.” (Isaiah 2:3, 4)
May we and all humanity be blessed with true shalom.
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen
“A Song of Ascents: When Hashem will return the captivity of Zion, we will be like dreamers. Then our mouth will be filled with laughter and our tongue with joyous song; then will they declare among the nations, ‘Hashem has done great things for them.’ ” (Psalm 126:1, 2)