June 10, 2022

Sometimes this column provides an opportunity to share a story from the weekly Torah portion. Sometimes it is just a verse. This week, however, we drill down to one word because of its extraordinary ability to teach us so much in its single poignancy, “shalom.”

Shalom is often one of the first Hebrew words learned by Jews and non-Jews alike. This single word with seemingly contradictory definitions is learned easily but misunderstood repeatedly. How can one word in Hebrew mean “hello,” “goodbye,” and “peace” at the same time?

In this week’s Torah portion, Naso, we read the celebrated words of the priestly blessing in Numbers 6:24-26. This powerful blessing has much to teach us all. The build-up from Gd’s blessing and protection (verse 24), to receipt of Gd’s kindness and graciousness (25), and then the ultimate culmination with Gd’s gift of “peace”(26). We cannot overlook these stages when reflecting on this word’s contemporary use.

Hello is the greeting of arrival and how we welcome one another. Goodbye is used for departure and separation from one another. Yet, peace is a message we can offer to someone as they arrive or leave. Offering someone peace is our timeless form of Gdliness.

In Pirke Avot, the Ethics of our Fathers, we read in 1:12 that our great sage Hillel used to say, “Be like the disciples of Aaron, love peace and pursue peace, love humanity and draw them close to Torah.” Not only is receiving peace the ultimate gift to obtain but we are also taught that we should “love it” and “pursue it” in order to help others grow and find their peace.

Too often we read of someone who seemingly has it all. A person whose social media is full of vigor, happy photos, grand experiences, and endless material possessions. Yet, sometimes these same individuals live in tremendous pain and suffering. They have anything but peace in their heart and mind. We see milliseconds of each other’s lives, filtered, and staged, with props and chattels to glorify the photo, meme, or video. But do we ever see the peace?

I have a secret; I love sunrises and sunsets. Outdoors is where I find my place of peace. A trail, a long drive, a walk on the beach, or even looking out of a plane window at 30,000 ft. These are the places where I find peace.

This week I encourage all of us to take some time away from social media, from the technology, from the 24/7/365 connectedness to others and find some selfish time to really find our place of peace. This is what Shabbat was created to be (Genesis 2:3). A time for us to ground ourselves in the world. Gd literally created Shabbat for us as a way to “cease” from the daily rigor and realities of the material world and find a place of peace in order to regroup, recharge, and reevaluate how we live our lives during the other six days of the week. Finding peace is what Gd wants for us. Finding peace is what Gd wants to give us.

May we all find a few precious moments to love peace, pursue peace, and find peace. Because we need to find our place of peace in order to be…


Shabbat shalom,