I asked my daughter recently if she thinks it is better to greet her friends with the word “Hi” or with the word “Shalom.”
“Of course with ‘Hi'” she said. “Who says ‘Shalom?'”
Well, her mother tries to. Especially recently.
Shalom is not just a less Western way of saying “hi” or “goodbye.” The word is packed with significance.
Shalom is one of God’s names, so that every time I greet someone, I am essentially blessing them with nearness to God.
Shalom also expresses a desire for wholeness – shlemut.
It may take a drop longer to open e-mails or phone messages with “Shalom,” but the connection it expresses to the person I am writing is worth the effort.
Chassidic Jews still often greet one another “Shalom Aleichem” and “Aleichem Shalom!” – a small reminder of Eastern Europe and a heartwarming, genuine expression of love between people.
Six of the 176 Psukim of Parshat Naso – the longest Parsha in the Torah – are about the Priestly Blessing of peace, Birkat Kohanim.
In Israel, we have the opportunity to receive this amazing blessing every day, during morning and afternoon prayers, on Shabbatot and on Chagim.
The Kohanim are asked to bless the community “with love” – and if a Kohen is in deep conflict with someone, he cannot fulfill this function.
Our commentators divide the three parts of Birkat Kohanim into material bounty, spiritual bounty, and an ultimate blessing connected to our destiny among the nations.
“May God bless you and watch over you” – May He grant you physical bounty, and help you retain it, and use it for the good.
“May God cause His countenance to shine upon you and favor you” – May you be enlightened by Torah and a loving connection to God, which will radiate outwards, so that you find dearness – “chen” – in the eyes of people and God.
And when these material and spiritual blessings create refined behavior and proud Jewish identity, others will be drawn to the People of Israel’s values of faith, justice and truth, leading to the final blessing:
“May God raise His countenance towards you and grant you Peace.”
The Slonimer Rebbe reminds us that Peace is not absence of war, but refined harmony, wholeness of body and spirit, on a personal, national, and international level.
“They shall bestow My Name upon the children of Israel, so that I will bless them.” (Bamidbar 6:23)
May we be aware of and grateful for these blessings, including the myriad miracles that continue to protect us from thousands of missiles and violent attacks on Jewish life by Hamas and its sympathizers, over the past 12 days.
May all those who love Israel know the blessing of true peace and wholeness, very soon.