Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 21 November 2015 / 9 Kislev 5776

Shemoneh Esrei: Nineteenth Blessing

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
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Blessed are You, G-d, Who blesses His People, Israel, with peace — Amen.

We conclude the final blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei, the central prayer for all Jews, with a blessing for peace. Above all of the treasured acquisitions of life, peace is the foundation of them all. We thus find stated in the Mishna that the Holy One, Blessed is He, did not find a vessel that could contain His Divine blessings other than “shalom”, peace, as it is written: “G-d will give strength to His people; G-d will bless His people with peace (Psalms 29:11). Accordingly, the Rambam writes, “So great is the value of peace that the entire Torah was given for the sole purpose of bringing the world to a state of peace.

A Journey to Peace

The Hebrew word “shalom” has several meanings. It is traditionally translated as “peace”; hence the phrase, “These people are peaceable, shleimim with us (Gen. 24:21).” We also find that it means “whole” or “complete”. One who attains “shleimut” is said to have attained perfection or completeness, as in the verse, “A perfect, shalem, and honest weight you shall have (Dev. 25:15).”

When the people of the world dwelled together as one, with one language, they proved to be unworthy. Amidst their rebellion, G-d separated them across the world, giving each nation its own language. They turned their rebellion on one another, fighting over their differences, bringing war and destruction to the world. We thus pray for the era of peace, when there will be no more war and all the nations will return to dwell as one, as it is stated in Bereishet Rabbah (88:7), “The entire world will join together as one, as it is written, ‘For then I will change the nations to speak a pure language (lashon hakodesh), so that they will all proclaim the name of G-d, to worship Him, united with one belief and ideology’ (Tzephania 3:9).” Radak, Metsudat David)

So too, man originally dwelled in harmony, his body and soul as one. Sadly, after the sin they became separated, like enemies fighting an endless battle; when one rises the other falls. With the rise of the physical ― the domination of the body ― the soul becomes trapped like a prisoner within. However, when body and soul reunite to serve their Maker they become as one again, attaining inner peace, shalom and perfection, shleimut. We thus pray that G-d grant us inner peace in order to serve Him perfectly.

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