Seasons of the Moon
my ivory tower
turns out to be
a concrete blockhouse.
can I break down the walls
or will I just keep printing
the same old stationery?
The Ivory Tower.
The Ivory Tower.

Nothing is more desired in this world than shalom, peace. And yet nothing is more evanescent. Everyone wants peace. Every person wants to sit under his fig tree, secure that no one will come and take away his family and his money. Yet almost since the beginning of time, peace has been elusive and often illusory.

Shalom is also the hebrew form of greeting. The Talmud tells us that it is forbidden to wish someone "shalom" in a bathhouse, because Shalom is the Name of God, and it's not fitting to utter God's Name in a bathhouse.

What does it mean that God's Name is Shalom?

Real shalom doesn't exist in this world. Shalom means perfection, completion. The world is a creation that is lacking, a place that strives to arrive somewhere beyond this world. The word for "earth" in hebrew is aretz, which comes from the root rutz, "to run," because this world is always running, moving toward its completion. But its completion comes from above. The word for "heaven" in hebrew is Shamayim, from the root sham, which means "there." This world is always "running" to "there" - outside and beyond itself.

The world contains many wonderful things - truth, kindness, love, mercy - but perfection isn't one of them. Perfection and completion are beyond the scope of the creation. This is why God's Name is Shalom. God is the Perfection of all the lacking of this world. Every single thing in this world finds its fulfillment, its completion, in him. It's not here. It's above. It's "there."

That's why we wish people "Shabbat Shalom!" Shabbat is the completion of creation, its purpose and its fulfillment. When we say "Shabbat Shalom!" we bless each other that Shabbat itself should be shalom - that it should be the completion of all our deficiencies to the extent possible in this world. For Shabbat is one-sixtieth of the World to Come. Shabbat itself is Shalom. It's the "there" that is here in this world.

In the book of Ruth, Boaz greets the harvesters by using the Name of God. From here we learn that a Jew may use God's Name as a greeting and it is not considered to be taking the Name of heaven in vain.

In fact, according to one opinion we are obliged to greet each other with God's Name by saying "shalom." But why should we be obliged to use God's Name, Shalom? What's wrong with "Good morning!" or "have a nice day!"

Sometimes we feel like we are a million miles from everyone else.

But no man is an island. When two people meet, the essence of their meeting is to make each other more complete. The fundamental purpose of all relationships, however deep or superficial, is to help the other person achieve perfection.

God placed us in a world that demands to be perfected. Our whole relationship with the world and everything in it is a "peace process" - a process of bringing every person and every blade of grass to a state of completion, for that is the true definition of peace.

In the Torah, when our forefather Yaakov lay his head down to sleep, the stones all wanted to be the stone upon which Yaakov would lay his head. They gathered together and became one. What do we learn from this? The message of the stones is that fulfillment results from the connection of disparate entities into a single whole.

On the seventeenth of Tammuz, we begin a period of sadness. The crowning disaster of this period was the destruction of the holy Temple by the Romans on the ninth of Av. Our Sages teach us that baseless hatred between Jews was the cause of this debacle.

When we hate someone without a reason, we ignore the fact that God created every person and every thing in this world for a purpose. Baseless hatred means that we disregard the fact that our job in this world is to bring each other to a state of fulfillment and completion.

All connection between us and our fellow beings - all relationships - must be with the intention to bring each other to a completed state. That's why when Jews meet they are obliged to wish each other "Shalom!" When we seek to bring each other to a state of completion, to Shalom, the world reaches its ultimate fulfillment.

That's the true meaning of the peace process.

More articles available at Ohr Somayach's website.