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The essential meaning of "Shalom"


There is a time to pray and a time to act


From Rabbi Rick Sherwin

The Hebrew word shalom is generally translated as peace, but it means much more. The word denotes wholeness, a coming together of disparate parts. The essential meaning of shalom is pulling together, and the antithesis of shalom is falling apart: the opposite of peace is pieces. Thus, Shalom is not merely a state of being, but rather is a call to action. We must protect each other’s rights and safeguard each other’s dignity as we pull together and forge a commonality of shalom and peace.

A story: Moses and the Children of Israel are trapped! The Red Sea stands before them, blocking their path to freedom, and Pharaoh with his chariots and army is closing in. Moses offers a lengthy prayer, reminding God of all the promises that were made to Abraham and to the generations that preceded Egyptian bondage, and calls for God to support the former slaves with compassion and justice. Suddenly, God interrupts Moses’ prayer: Why are you praying when My People are looking to see what you are going to do? I gave you the strength to act, and now it is you who must act. Moses stopped his prayer, looked at his People, then looked at the other side of the Red Sea. Slowly, he picks up his rod and extends it over the water. He tells the Israelites, “We need to start moving, my friends. Just remember to keep your eyes focused on the other side, and we will get there.

There is a time to pray and a time to act. It is not always clear where that line separates the two, and then the time comes when it is abundantly clear that it is time to act.


Rabbi Rick Sherwin, a graduate of UCLA, was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Rabbi Rick’s passion is filling spiritual services and interfaith educational programs with creativity, relevance, dialogue, and humor.



Inspiration, Rabbi Rick Sherwin, Shalom


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