Shabat Shalom

“We keep blowing up, we’re the issue…We are the fuse and ammunition.” -Switchfoot

Yesterday as I prepared for our sabbath in a quiet Midwestern town, my heart was heavy for my Israeli family.  Officially, Shabbat had already begun for them.  My children ran through the house joyfully screaming “Shabbat Shalom!” (more on this phrase later).  But with rocket being fired at both major cities for the first time in decades, I doubt there are very many hearts and minds at peace in my native country.

I thought of my cousins in the army.  What will a ground invasion mean for them?  I thought of another cousin who just gave birth to a baby boy a few days ago.  What kind of Israel will he grow up in?  I thought of my father, my aunts, and my uncles who served in the Israeli military during multiple wars.  For what?  They bought a generation enough time to grow up with an illusion of peace.  But it couldn’t last.

It’s easy to be disgusted with the leadership on both sides.  It’s easy to point fingers.  But the truth is, we all carry the seeds of  this conflict inside ourselves.  When you watch the coverage or even listen to it on the radio, you hear enraged voices that sound so thoroughly foreign.  It’s a little too easy to imagine that these people really are different.  That they are somehow barbaric, evil, selfish, or just plain unreasonable.  The truth is, they are, but no more or less so than you.

The dozens of Israelis that I have spoken with have no lust for blood.   Their fears are the same fears you would have for yourselves or your children.   The anger expressed by the people of Gaza is the same anger we would expect any reasonable American to feel if their homes were being bombed.  Even the leaders on both sides, who make choices that appear cold and ruthless, really have no easy options.

The bible instruct us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem because it will not come about through human means, military or diplomatic.  This city is more than just a city.  It is emblematic of the human condition.  We are cherished, yet uneasy.   We are beautiful, yet war torn.   We are divided and fallen, yet we rise and rebuild.

I challenge you not to dismiss this conflict as just the same old intractable problem as you switch the channel.  The problem isn’t them.  It’s us.  All of us.  Peace is with how you live with yourself when no one is watching.  It’s how you treat your parents, your siblings, your spouse, the people who push all your buttons.

The common greeting on the Sabbath day is “Shabbat shalom.” While this is usually translated or interpreted as “Shabbat peace,” the Hebraic meaning is much deeper. The word שבת (shabbat) comes from the verb  שבת  meaning “to cease” or “stop,” hence it can mean “to rest” in the sense of stopping from physical activity. Therefore, the Shabbat day is a day of ceasing. The word שלום (shalom) literally means “whole,” or “complete.” Therefore the phrase Shabbat shalom more literally means “May your day of ceasing make you whole and complete.”  -Jeff A. Benner

There is a sabbath,  a day of rest that is available to all of us.  But if  I’m willing to be at war within myself, willing to tolerate conflict in my own household, why should I be surprised that my first cousins in Israel and my distant cousins in Gaza can’t work things out?

What parts of your life are lacking wholeness and completeness?  How can you experience more shalom in your relationships with the people who are hardest for you to love?

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