Peace: Jewish Traditional Sources

The concept of peace is deeply ingrained in the Jewish legal and ethical system.

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1. Why is peacemaking not an option here? Won't rebuking just make things worse?

Bar Kapara said, "How great is peace that even the Torah has stretched the truth in order to bring peace between Abraham and Sarah. As it is written, "And Sarah laughed to herself saying...my master is old..." (Genesis 18). And later it is written, [that she said] "And I am old."

Peace Chapter Navigator

1. Do you agree that truth should be sacrificed for peace?

2. Can peace be built on falsehood?

Rabbi Yehoshua said: How great is peace, for the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, is peace, as it is said, "And he (Gideon) called [Him] God of Peace" (Judges 6:24).

Rabbi Hiyya bar Aba said: Therefore, it is forbidden to greet (literally, to ask about the shalom, well-being) of someone in a polluted place. Why? Because it is written, "So Gideon built there an altar to the Lord and called it God of Peace" (Judges 6:24, read literally). If an altar which does not eat, drink, or smell, and is built only for the atonement of Israel, is called "Peace," how much more so is the one who loves and pursues peace, who offers and returns greetings, and who makes peace between Israel and their Father in heaven?

Rabbi Yossi Hagalili says: Even the Messiah's name is "Shalom," as it is said, "(He has been named 'The Mighty God is planning grace;) the Eternal Father, a peaceable ruler (Sar Hashalom)" (Isaiah 9:6).

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1. How does Rabbi Yehoshua prove that peace is a Name of God?

2. Rabbi Hiyya Bar Aba derives a law from this. How has he made a mere greeting of a friend a sacred occasion?

Genesis Rabba 38:6

Rebbe (Yehuda Hanassi) said: How great is peace, for even if Israel practice idolatry but manage to maintain peace among themselves, the Holy One, blessed be He, says, so to speak, "I have no dominion over them"; for it is said, Ephraim is united in idol-worship; let him alone (Hosea 4:17). But when their hearts are divided, what is written? Their heart is divided; now shall they bear their guilt. (Ibid10: 2). So, here you learn how great is peace and how despised is discord.

Midrash Navigator

1. What does it mean for God to appreciate the unity of a blatant rebellion?

Babylonian Talmud, Gitin 61a

The Rabbis taught: One sustains the gentile poor with the Jewish poor, visits the gentile sick with the Jewish sick, and buries the gentile dead with the Jewish dead, because of ways of peace.

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Rabbi Avi Weinstein

Rabbi Avi Weinstein is the Head of Jewish Studies at the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy in Kansas City.