Monday, September 15, 2014

Judaism's Top 40: Elul 22, #20 on the countdown: Shalom, Darkhei Shalom, Shalom Bayit

Most know that Shalom means peace, along with hello and goodbye.  It comes from the word shalem, meaning wholeness, perfection, fullness, completeness, contentedness.  Strong's Concordance adds to that list of definitions: health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. In modern Hebrew the obviously related word Shelem means to pay for - to “make whole” and complete the transaction.  Wikipedia adds that Its equivalent cognate in Arabic is salaamsliem in MalteseShlama in Syriac-Assyrian and sälam in Ethiopian Semitic languages from the Proto-Semitic root S-L-M.  Shalom is also a name of God, a common name for males, and a name of a heck of lot of synagogues.    Jews are big fans of shalom.

Darchay Shalom are “ways or peace” and Shalom Bayit, a prime Jewish value unto itself, means “peace in the home.”

As quoted on MyJewishLearning’s site, according to Rabbi Simeon ben Gamliel, three things preserve the world: truth, justice, and peace (Avot 1:18). Peace, however, seems to take precedence even over truth, as the Talmud permits deviation from truth in order to establish peace. In addition, there is a whole category of rabbinic ordinances established mipnei darkhei shalom, in the interest of peace. For example, the Talmud says that Jews are to provide sustenance for non-Jewish poor people mipnei darkhei shalom.

The mezuzah is a symbol of our deep desire for the home to be a place where Godliness dwells, in particular in the interactions between spouses and between parents and children.  This pdf gives some good source material and background. Recent events have prompted a broader discussion of domestic violence. Clearly our society has a long way to go in this area. As Naomi Graetz has written in this summary of Jewish legal views on this topic:

“For many years there has been a myth that domestic violence among Jewish families was infrequent. However, there is much data demonstrating that domestic abuse is a significant and under-recognized behavior in Jewish communities in Israel and the Diaspora. Jewish women typically take a longer time to leave abusive relationships for fear that they will lose their children and because they are aware of the difficulties in obtaining a get, a Jewish divorce document” (Find a more detailed article by Graetz here).

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