At services during B’nei Mitzvah Boot Camp this week, we discussed the meaning of the prayer Oseh Shalom. Specifically, I asked the students to define the word peace. “Not at war.” “No conflict.” “No violence.” The students phrased all of their initial answers in the negative, peace as the absence of something. It took thoughtful discussion to articulate answers phrased in the positive, to describe what peace IS instead of what peace is NOT.
The question seems so very relevant after the last few weeks. Increasing violence in the West Bank and Israel, the death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis and a police officer killed in California’s Central Valley, the deadly shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay – so much violence and pain, discrimination and prejudiced hate. And accompanying the news, a certain numbness, a feeling that this is just the world we live in.
And that is why we pray. We overcome numbness when we reflect on the meaning of Shalom, of peace: tranquility, calm, stillness, wholeness, security, harmony, concord, freedom, quiet. With our prayer Oseh Shalom, we hope for peace for all Israel, for the whole world. With our prayer Oseh Shalom, we remind ourselves to create peace in our communities, our workplaces, our schools, our families and, first, within ourselves:
עוֹשה שָׁלוֹם בִּמְרומָיו הוּא יַעֲשה שָׁלום עָלֵינוּ וְעַל כָּל יִשרָאֵל וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן:
Oseh shalom bimromav hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu v’al kol Yisrael v’imru: Amen.
May the one who makes peace in the high heavens make peace for us, for all Israel and all who inhabit the earth. And let us say: Amen.