Peace and Perfection

Question

Hi Rabbi, with all the history of wars, violence and seemingly non-stop tragedy in the world, do you think that we can really do something to achieve world peace? I certainly hope so, but I’m starting to be a little cynical. Thanks!

6 months

Answers

  1. Each of us can and should try to do whatever possible to make the world a peaceful, fair and good place, but I’m not sure that we – as much as we can try – can truly be successful in achieving true peace in the world without help from Above.

    Nothing is more desired or desirable in this world than peace. And yet nothing seems more elusive. All people want peace. Everyone wants to sit under his fig tree, secure that no one will come and take away his family, his house or his possessions. And yet almost since the beginning of time, peace has been the most elusive dream of mankind. Why is world peace such a difficult, a seemingly impossible, thing to achieve?

    If there’s one Hebrew word that everyone knows, it’s shalom – peace. However, shalom has another function in Hebrew: It is also the Jewish (and Arab) form of greeting.

    The Talmud tells us that Shalom is one of God’s names, and thus it is forbidden to wish someone “Shalom” in a bathhouse. Why should we greet each other with “Shalom,” which is one of God’s names? Why don’t we just say “Hi!”?

    Shalom means “perfection,” “completion.” This world is a creation which is inherently lacking. That’s the way it’s meant to be. The whole purpose of this world is to be a place which strives to arrive beyond itself.

    The word for “earth” in Hebrew is aretz which comes from the root rutz – “to run.” This world is always running, moving towards its completion – but it can never complete itself. Its completion can only come from outside itself. It can only come from Above. The word for “Heaven” in Hebrew is shamayim. This can also be pronounced shamim – the plural of the word “there.” This world is always “running” to “there” – outside and beyond itself.

    This world contains many wonderful things – truth, kindness, love, mercy – but perfection isn’t one of them. And that is why God’s name is Shalom, Perfection. God is the Perfection of all the lacking of this world. Only God can bring this world to its ultimate “there.”

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team