The Art of Peacemaking

Eliyahu McLean, Israel

'Rodef Shalom', or 'Pursuer of Peace', and Director of Jerusalem Peacemakers.

(Submitted by the author and originally published in 'The Art of Living')

In our increasingly polarized world, traditional Jewish teachings about peace can offer us wisdom that we can apply in our current predicament. The word shalom in Hebrew means peace.
From the same root in Hebrew comes the word shalem, or wholeness. The great Hassidic philosopher Rebbe Nachman taught that the highest, or absolute, peace is the peace between opposites.

That is, it is our task to seek the unity in the opposites, to seek to bring wholeness within ourselves and to our families, communities and nations.

The real significance of peace is to join opposites. We shouldn’t be troubled when we come across someone who is our exact opposite and whose thoughts are contrary to our own. Neither
should we conclude that we will never be able to live together harmoniously. The laws of physics dictate that opposites attract. Absolute peace is achieved through the effort to make peace
between opposites, just as Hashem – Hebrew for ‘The Name’, or God – makes peace in His High Places between fire and water, which are also opposing forces. In our work in the Holy Land we have brought together Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druze religious leaders, in a group called ‘The Abrahamic Reunion’. We jointly issued ‘A Call for Reconciliation’ after the Lebanon war
to show cooperation among the faiths by example, and that our destiny is to live together as one family.

In this and many other gatherings for prayer and dialogue, we have succeeded in bringing together many Palestinians and Israelis who otherwise would have seen each other as enemies.
The atmosphere of both safety and unity at our gatherings helps to re-build trust between opposing national and religious communities. In this process we come to re-humanize ‘the other’ and to take down the walls of fear that separate us.

The ancient Jewish sage Hillel taught us in the Pirkei Avot, or ‘Ethics of the Fathers’, to be like the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace. If we define peace, shalom, as shalem - seeking wholeness - then wherever we live, we should seek to become a bridge between different worlds. We can bring awareness to people and situations that may seem to oppose each other on one (political, social, religious) level, yet resonate together on a deeper, perhaps hidden level.

My teacher Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, always taught that we should wear our Moshiach, or Messiah glasses, at all times, that is, to see the world through the eyes of the Messiah, not just to see the world as it is, broken, but how it has the potential to be mended … to see the potential for healing, transformation, and wholeness in every situation.



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