Skip to main content

Peace

PEACE

PEACE (Heb. שָׁלוֹם, shalom).

In the Bible

The verb shalem (so both the perfect, Gen. 15:16, and the participle, Gen. 33:18) in the qal means "to be whole, complete, or sound."

"peace."

The range of nuances is rather wide. That the iniquity of the Amorites has not yet become shalem (Gen. 15:16) means that it is not yet complete. That Jacob arrived shalem in the city of Shechem (Gen. 33:18) means that he arrived there safe. To be shalem with somebody means to be loyal to him (Gen. 34:21; i Kings 8:61; 11:4; etc.), and one's sholem (Ps. 7:5) is one's ally. Although recent translations show a great improvement in this regard, the noun shalom is still interpreted to mean "peace" more often than is warranted. It, of course, very frequently means health and/or well-being: Genesis 29:6 (twice); 37:14 (twice); 43:28. In this sense, shalom is frequently equivalent to a sentence, "It is well," and le may be added to express the English "with"; shalom is used alone in this way in ii Samuel 18:28, and with le in ii Samuel 18:29, 32. In Genesis 43:23 and Judges 19:20, "It is well with you" is equivalent to "Don't worry about that," referring in the second case to a roof under which to spend the night (the last clause in verse 18). That the antithesis in Isaiah 45:7 is not between "peace" and "evil," but between prosperity (shalom) and adversity (raʿ), has happily long been the dominant view (cf. shalom, ṭov, yeshuʿah, Isa. 52:7). It needs to be noted, however, that not "peace" but safety is the meaning of shalom in Leviticus 26:6 (cf. verses 25bb–26: within the land, they shall dwell secure – with never a savage beast or an invader – but only because the enemy will be kept out by dint of successful warfare); Jeremiah 12:12; Zechariah 8:10; and elsewhere. In the above-cited verse Isaiah 52:7, shalom stands in synonymous parallelism with ṭov in the sense of physical good; it likewise shares with ṭov the sense of moral good. Thus ṭov has the former meaning in Psalm 34:13 and the latter one in verse 15 – where it is paralleled by shalom. Translate:

(13) Is there anyone among you who desires life, is eager for longevity and to experience well-being (ṭov)? (14) Then guard your tongue against evil and your lips against speaking deceit. (15) Shun evil and do good (ṭov); seek and pursue integrity/equity (shalom). For the interpretation of Psalm 37:37b, it makes no difference whether or not one reads in 37a shemor ṭov u-reʿeh yosher, "practice probity and cultivate equity" (in light of verse 3 where, conversely, shekhon ereẓ is to be emended to shemor ẓedek (ẓedeq), "practice righteousness," in light of the preceding "do good" and the following "cultivate honesty" as well as the shemor of this verse): 37b must in any case be translated "for there is a happy future for the man of integrity." Similarly, in Zechariah 8:16, in which the second ʾemet is obviously an erroneous repetition of the first, the sense is: "Speak the truth to each other, and judge equitably (lit. judge judgment of equity [shalom]) in your gates." And again in verse 19: "… The Fast of the Fourth Month, and the Fast of the Fifth Month, and the Fast of the Seventh Month, and the Fast of the Tenth Month shall become [occasions of] rejoicing and gladness and happy seasons for the House of Judah – only love truth and equity [shalom]." (Alluding to this verse, Esth. 9:30 characterizes Queen Esther's ordinance for the observation of the new holidays–the Purim of the provinces and the Purim of Shushan – as "an ordinance of equity and truth.") The parallelism alone would not suffice to tip the balance in favor of this meaning of shalom in Psalm 72:3, 7, for in Isaiah 60:17 the context precludes any interpretation of shalom/ẓedaqah other than "prosperity/success" (see *Righteousness). In Psalm 72:3, however, the context points once again to "equity." The prosperity of the country (in contrast to that of the king) is actually treated only in one corrupt verse near the end (verse 16). Finally, Y. Muffs has pointed out that, in light of the Akkadian idiom šalmeš atalluku (maḥar x), be-shalom uve-mishor halakh itti, Malachi 2:6, means "he served me with integrity and equity" (more idiomatically, "loyally and conscientiously" – H.L. Ginsberg). Even apart from the Akkadian evidence, the sense of Malachi 2:6 is clear from the foregoing and from the context: Levi, the ancestor of the priestly caste, saved the masses (rabbim), or laity by his conscientiousness in making torah rulings, from committing ritual offenses; his unworthy descendants, by being lax in this regard, often out of partiality, make the masses (rabbim), or laity, stumble by their rulings (torah).

peace and the like

Of course shalom does mean "peace" too. But first it must be pointed out that it often approaches this meaning without quite reaching it. yhwh's berit (covenant) of shalom with Phinehas (Num. 25:12) and with Zion (Isa. 54:10) were, for pity's sake, neither peace treaties terminating previous wars nor nonaggression pacts to refrain from starting new ones. They were solemn – actually unilateral – promises of divine grace. So too the *priestly blessing (Num. 6:24–26), after wishing yhwh's blessing, protection, friendliness, favor, and benignity, ends not, bathetically, with "and may He grant you peace" but, appropriately, "and may He extend grace (shalom) to you." In Jeremiah 16:5, yhwh's grace (shalom) is explicated as "kindness (ḥesed) and mercy (raḥamim)"; and in light of that passage it is probable that a vav has been lost at the end of Num. 6:24–26 before the initial vav of verse 27, so that shelomo, is to be read "His grace." In line with this is the phrase "intentions of shalom" for "gracious kind, intentions" (on the part of yhwh) in Jeremiah 29:11. A step closer to mere "peace" is "friendship" (or "alliance"), which sense shalom has in Judges 4:17: "there was shalom between King Jabin of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite," so that Jabin's general Sisera, fleeing from the Israelites, believed that he would find safety in the tent of Heber. So, too, one's shalom-men are one's friends or allies; Jeremiah 20:10; 38:22; Obadiah 7. Finally, shalom obviously means precisely "peace" in i Kings 2:5; Psalm 120:7; Ecclesiastes 3:8; Job 15:21, in which passage it stands in antithesis to war or marauding; but the cases in which this sense can be attributed to the word in good conscience are a small proportion of the total number of its occurrences. Thus it is not true that in Deuteronomy 20:10 the Torah required Israel to invite its adversary "to settle the dispute amicably" "before the commencement of hostilities." The Israelite army has already been mobilized, verse 2a, and has already marched up to an enemy city (not necessarily the first), verse 10a, and it now invites the city not "to settle the dispute amicably" but to surrender on ignominious terms in order to avoid a worse fate (verses 10–17). Shalom here means not peace but submission, and the verb hishlim definitely means not "to make peace" but "to submit," not only in Deuteronomy 20:12 but also in Joshua 10:1, 4; 11:19; ii Samuel 10:19; i Chronicles 19:19; and presumably also i Kings 22:45; Proverbs 16:7. *Isaiah's vision of an age where there would be no more war between nations, Isaiah 4:2–4 (Micah 4:1ff.), is unparalleled. It should not, however, be confused with pacifism. The reason for his opposition to alliances is explained in the Book of *Isaiah. It does not mean that he believed that self-defense was wrong. On the contrary, he predicts that in a penitent Judah those charged with defense (so long as defense, despite 2:2–4, remains necessary) will be endowed with charismatic valor (Isa. 28:6).

[Harold Louis Ginsberg]

In the Talmud

With the possible exception of *justice, peace is the most exalted ideal of the rabbis of the Talmud. No words of praise are too exaggerated to emphasize the importance of this ideal. On the statement of Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel, "By three things the world is preserved, by truth, by judgment, and by peace" (Avot 1:18), the Talmud declares that they are in effect one, since "if judgment is executed, truth is vindicated, and peace prevails" (tj, Ta'an. 4:2, 68a). The rabbis interpret Hosea 4:17 to teach that "even if Israel is tied to idols, leave him, as long as peace prevails within it" (Gen. R. 38:6). The role of the scholars is to increase peace in the world (Ber. 64a), and it is to bring the rule of peace that Elijah will come (Eduy. 8:7). There is not a blessing or prayer in the liturgy, the Amidah, the Kaddish, the Priestly Blessing, and the Grace after Meals, which does not conclude with the prayer for peace (Lev. R. 9:9). "Shalom" is the standard greeting among Jews both on meeting and on saying farewell, so that the phrase for greeting and for answering the greeting is "to enquire of the peace of " and to "answer the peace of " (Ber. 2:1, 4b). Shalom is one of the names of God (Shab. 10b; Lev. R. 9:9). "The Holy One, blessed be He, found no vessel more worthy of retaining a blessing within it than peace" (Uk. 3:12).

It is permitted to deviate from the strict line of truth in order to establish peace (Yev. 65b), and the Talmud declares with regard to Numbers 5:23, "if in order to establish peace between husband and wife the Name of God, which was written in holiness, may be blotted out, how much more so to bring about peace for the world as a whole" (tj, Sot. 1:4, 16d). It will be seen that the ideal of peace encompasses the whole gamut of human relationship, between man and his fellowman, and between nation and nation, bringing about the ideal of universal peace.

*Aaron is regarded as the prototype of the ideal of peace (Avot 1:12; cf. Yoma 71b), and in the parallel passage in Avotde-Rabbi Nathan (12, p. 48) there is a loving and detailed account of the manner in which he used to devote himself to the bringing about of his ideal. In this Aaron stands in contrast to his brother Moses, who exemplifies the ideal of justice. Aaron's assent to the demand of the people to fashion the golden calf is contrasted with Moses' demands as the rival claims of the ideals of peace and justice when they clash, and the one can be achieved only at the price of the denial of the other, Moses maintaining, "Let justice pierce the mountain" (cf. "Fiat Justitia, Ruat Coelum"), whereas Aaron maintained the love and pursuit of peace at all cost. In a similar vein is the homily of Rabban Johanan b. Zakkai on the injunction that no iron tool was to be used in the building of the altar, which had to be made of "whole stones" ("avanim shelemot" interpreted as "stones which bring peace" Deut. 27:5–6; cf. Ex. 20:22). "Is it not an a fortiori argument? If the stones of the altar which can neither see nor hear nor speak, but because they bring peace between Israel and their Father in Heaven, the Holy One, blessed be He said, 'thou shalt lift up no iron tool upon them'; how much more so he who brings about peace between man and his fellow, between husband and wife, between city and city, between nation and nation, between government and government, and between family and family" (Mekh., Ba-Ḥodesh, ii). Abbaye's favorite maxim was "man should always strive to increase peace with his brother, his relations, with every other man, even with the heathen in the market place, in order that he be beloved on high and well-liked on earth, and acceptable to his fellowman" (Ber. 17a; ser 26), and there is a whole series of enactments and adjustments of the law made "in the interest of peace" (mipenei darkhei shalom).

Nevertheless, Judaism is not uncompromisingly pacifist in its outlook. It sees universal peace as an ideal which will be achieved only in the messianic age, and Maimonides concludes his famous Code with the declaration that in that era there will be "neither famine nor war, neither jealousy nor strife." Judaism believes that war is sometimes morally justified and divides war into "the war of mitzvah," "the obligatory war" (milḥemet ḥovah; the war of the two are sometimes identified), and the optional war (cf. Maim. Yad, Melakhim 5–7; see *Mitzvah). Nevertheless, the whole weight of the ethics of the rabbis recoiled from the glorification of war. This attitude is strikingly expressed in a Mishnah (Shab. 6:4) which lays it down that a man may not go out wearing his arms on the Sabbath, and "if he did so he is obligated to bring a sin-offering." In answer to the opposite opinion that they can be regarded as adornments, the rabbis indignantly retorted, "they are nought but a reproach, as it is written, 'and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning-hooks, Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more'" (Isa. 2:4).

[Louis Isaac Rabinowitz]

In Post-Talmudic Jewish Thought

The medieval Jewish thinkers discuss peace under the two headings of world peace and of the avoidance of internal strife and contention in the Jewish community. Jews in the Middle Ages had no voice in international affairs. World peace in the here and now was for them a purely academic question. Their discussions of it, consequently, are in a messianic context. Saadiah (Emunot ve-Deot 7:10) points to the continuing wars among nations, including wars of religion, to demonstrate that the prophetic vision of peace on earth can only apply to the messianic age. Maimonides (Yad, Melakhim 12:5) similarly considers the establishment of peace for all mankind to be an accomplishment of the Messiah. David Kimḥi (to Isa. 2:4) states that the nations will bring their disputes to the Messiah for arbitration. He will decide so wisely and justly that war between nations will be purposeless. It has frequently been pointed out that in medieval illustrated Haggadot the wicked son is depicted as a warrior, the wise son as a peace-loving sage.

Joseph Albo (Sefer ha-Ikkarim 4:51) defines peace as the harmony of opposites. There is no virtue in one extreme predominating over another, but only in the harmony between the irascible and the patient, the niggardly and the extravagant, and so on. Peace of mind means the attainment of harmony among the different parts of the soul. Isaac Arama (Akedat Yiẓḥak, 74) holds that the conventional view of peace as a mere negation of strife fails to do justice to the richness of the concept. Peace is a positive thing, the essential means by which men of differing temperaments and opinions can work together for the common good. Pearls of individual virtue would be dim in isolation if not for the string of peace that binds them together and so increases their luster. That is why peace is a name of God, for it is He who gives unity to the whole of creation.

[Louis Jacobs]

Medieval Jewish thinkers suggested three fundamental concepts regarding the way to make an end to war and to bring about a state of peace. According to the first, this can be done by reforming man qua man – that is, by changing the consciousness of the individual. Putting an end to war involves subduing those internal impulses and motives that impel people to violence. Peace will come about as a consequence of the perfection – either intellectual or psychological – of humankind. Maimonides, for instance, viewed the prophetic vision of peace as a natural and necessary outgrowth of the dominion of the intellect over man's destructive impulses. For him, violence and war, the inflicting of harm by people on one another, have their source in irrationality and ignorance. However, the apprehension of truth – "knowledge of God" – displaces man's awareness from his attachment to illusory goods and interests, and completely eliminates the irrational factors that give rise to mutual conflict between individuals, groups, and nations (Guide 3:11: Laws of Kings, 12:1). Similarly, Abraham bar Hiyya describes the peace foretold by the prophets as the consequence of a radical change in human consciousness. However, it is in the realm of interpersonal relations that this transformation is to take place. Man's destructive impulses are to be overcome not by intellect, but by the sense of intimacy and mutual identification that will grow among people once they have all chosen to adopt the same path. The projected utopian peace will be expressed and embodied in the universal effectiveness of the commandment to "love thy neighbor as thyself " (Hegyon ha-Nefesh, ed. G. Wigoder, p. 150).

According to a second concept, peace will come about by reconstructing the international framework – that is, by creating a new world order, either through law and justice or through domination and force. The image of world peace described by several medieval commentators and thinkers took the form of a judicial arrangement between the rival nations, a kind of an international court that would mediate their quarrels and conflicts. This vision speaks not of a human society that has risen above all striving; it speaks, rather, of a procedure for conflict resolution presided over by a supreme, utopian judge whose authority and righteousness are accepted by all. For instance, for David *Kimḥi (Commentary on Micah, 4, 3) and Isaac *Arama (Akedat Yiẓḥak, gate 46, 133b), the prophetic tiding "and he shall judge between the nations" (Isa. 2:4; Micah 4:3), does not refer to the kingship of God but to the sages of Jerusalem or to the messiah. They therefore granted the judicial institution universal authority. Other thinkers, however, interpreted the envisioned international structure as a kind of Pax Judaica, a single, central government in Zion to which all people would be subject. These portrayals, of a destined universal domination of the people of Israel or the king-messiah rest upon biblical or midrashic sources, but they also reflect contemporary historical reality: living out the present in submission, subject to the gentile powers, thinkers like *Saadiah Gaon (Doctrines and Beliefs, 8, 8) and *Albo anticipate a complete reverse.

Finally, according to a third concept, peace will be achieved by an internal reformation of society – that is, by a change in the socio-political order. Peace will come about as a result of either the annulment or the improvement of existing political structures. Isaac *Abrabanel foresaw a universal theocracy, the kingship of God on earth. Ultimate peace would involve the disappearance of national and political boundaries and the abrogation of political structures through the unification of all humanity in the light of monotheistic faith – that is to say, through the religious perfection of humanity (Commentary to Isa. 2;4, Commentary to Micah 4). Isaac Arama, however, discusses peace and war in relation to the law of the state, the present operative political and judicial order. Unlike the conceptions described above, in which peace was portrayed primarily from a utopian point of view, Arama looks at this issue in light of actual, contemporary historical reality as well. "For if the social order and law (nimmus) are defective and distant from the natural truth […] quarrel and strife cannot but break out amongst them" (Akedat Yiẓḥak, 46). It is thus the task of the lawgiver to ordain a social order that will educe such motives, both on the part of the ruler and on the part of his subjects.

[Aviezer Ravitzky (2nd ed.)]

In Modern Jewish Thought

Modern Jewish thought, without any denominational differences, except possibly on the question of religious toleration, is unanimous on the great value of peace. Morris Joseph (Judaism as Creed and Life (1903), 456–7) is typical of the whole modern trend when he writes that only the peace-loving Jew is a true follower of the prophets, that the greatest sacrifices should be made to avoid war, that a Jew cannot consistently belong to a war party, and that the Jew's religion, history, and mission all pledge him to a policy of peace, as a citizen as well as an individual. A.I. Kook, commenting on the ruling that the office of the priest "anointed for war" (Deut. 20:2–4) is not a hereditary one, remarks that the idea of a hereditary position is to express permanence in human affairs. However, peace is the only state deserving of permanence. Consequently, there can be no question of a hereditary appointment for a functionary connected with warfare, but only for one who operates in times of peace (Zevin: Le-Or ha-Halakhah (1946), 27–28). The Reform Union Prayer Book contains this prayer: "Grant us peace, Thy most precious gift, O Thou eternal source of peace, and enable Israel to be its messenger unto the peoples of the earth. Bless our country that it may ever be a stronghold of peace, and its advocate in the council of nations."

[Louis Jacobs]

bibliography:

in the bible: Koehler-Baumgartner, 973–4; Y. Muffs, Studies in the Aramaic Legal Papyri from Elephantine (1969), 203–4. in talmud: G.F. Moore, Judaism, 2 (1927), 195–7; J.S. Kornfeld, Judaism and International Peace (193ff.); A. Cronbach, in: ccary, 46 (1936), 198–221; M. Wald, Jewish Teaching on Peace (1944); L.I. Rabinowitz, in: jqr, 58 (1967/68), 148 no. 20. add. bibliography: A. Ravitzky, "Peace," in: A.A. Cohen and P. Mendes-Flohr (eds.), Contemporary Jewish Religious Thought (1987), 685–702.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Peace." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Peace." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/peace-0

"Peace." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved August 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/peace-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.