Shalom (שָׁלוֹם) (Sephardic Hebrew/Israeli Hebrew: Shalom; Ashkenazi Hebrew/Yiddish: Sholem or Shulem) is a Hebrew word meaning peace, completeness, and welfare and can be used idiomatically to mean both hello and goodbye. As it does in English, it can refer to either peace between two entities (especially between man and God or between two countries), or to the well-being, welfare or safety of an individual or a group of individuals. The word is also found in many other expressions and names. Its equivalent cognate in Arabic is salaam, sliem in Maltese, Shlomo (ܫܠܡܐ) in Syriac-Assyrian and sälam in Ethiopian Semitic languages from the Proto-Semitic root S-L-M.
In Hebrew, the root of the word (usually in a three or occasionally four letter format), and depending on the vowels that are used, has several meanings (that are relevant to the general meaning of the word Shalom); as for example: One meaning is "Whole", another could be the actual verb "Pay" usually in command form. The conjugated verb has other spins that are worth noting, such as: "Hishtalem" meaning "it was worth it" or "Shulam" as "it was paid for" or "Meshulam" as in "paid in advance." Hence one can jokingly say that, "when it's paid-for then there is peace," as in PEACE HAS A PRICE.
The Hebrew term shalom is roughly translated to Romance languages as peace [En.] (i.e. paz [Sp. and Pr.], paix [Fr.], pace [It.]), from the Latin pax. Pax, in Latin, means peace, but it was also used to mean truce or treaty. So, deriving from the definition and use in Latin, most Romance terms simply use the word peace to mean such, and also provides a relational application (be it personal, social or political) – a state of mind and affairs. Peace is an important word in the Christian sacred scriptures and liturgy. Eirene, the Greek term translated to peace, also means quietness and rest. Yet, the importance and transcendence of peace in Christian doctrine and theology might be better understood from the meaning and use of shalom.
Shalom, in the liturgy and in the transcendent message of the Christian scriptures, means more than a state of mind, of being or of affairs. Derived from the Hebrew root shalam – meaning to be safe or complete, and by implication, to be friendly or to reciprocate. Shalom, as term and message, seems to encapsulate a reality and hope of wholeness for the individual, within societal relations, and for the whole world. To say joy and peace, meaning a state of affairs where there is no dispute or war, does not begin to describe the sense of the term. Completeness seems to be at the center of shalom as we will see in the meaning of the term itself, in some derivatives from its root, shalam, in some examples of its uses in Jewish and Christian Scriptures, and in some homophone terms from other Semitic languages.
The noun shalom means safe, for example, well and happy. On a more abstract application, its use points to welfare, for example, health, prosperity, and, peace. It the verb form shalam, though, that provides a deeper understanding of this term in theology, doctrine, and liturgy. Literally translated, shalam signals to a state of safety, but figuratively it points to completeness. In its use in Scripture, shalom describes the actions that lead to a state of soundness, or better yet wholeness. So to say, shalom seems not to merely speak of a state of affairs, but describes a process, an activity, a movement towards fullness. Using the King James Version as reference, James Strong lists the rendering of shalom and shalam, among others, as: • To make amends • To make good • To be (or to make) peace • To restore • Peace • Prosperity • Wellness • Wholeness
The use of shalom in the Scriptures always points towards that transcendent action of wholeness. Shalom is seen in reference to the wellbeing of others (Genesis 43.27, Exodus 4.18), to treaties (I Kings 5.12), and in prayer for the wellbeing of cities or nations (Psalm 122.6, Jeremiah 29.7). Coincidentally, the root shalem, found in Jerusalem, means peaceful (yara to mean to lay or found). Yet, its transcendence lies in its relationship to truth and justice (Psalm 85.10, Isaiah 48.18, 22, 57.19-21). The wholeness of shalom, through justice and truth, inspires the words of hope for the work expected by the messiah, and to refer to its revelation as the time of peace (Haggai 2.7-9, Isaiah 2.2-4, 11.1-9), and to even grant this anointed one the title Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9.6, Micah 5.4-5a).
In the Christian Scriptures, the term eirene is employed to mean peace, but in its application, seeking for it the transcendence of its Hebrew counterpart, peace is better understood in relation to terms like grace (Romans 1.7), righteousness (Romans 14.17), and life (Romans 8.6). It is also employed in benedictions, like that in I Thessalonians 5.23 and Hebrews 13.20-21, perhaps making echo to prayers of peace common throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and Jewish benedictions (Numbers 6.22-27).
This sense of completeness, central to the term shalom could also be confirmed in homophonic terms found in other Semitic languages. The term shelam, of Chaldean origin, seems to mean both peace and restoration. Aramaic derivations of the terms shalom and shalam are said to mean peace, safety, completeness and welfare. The Assyrian term salamu means to be complete, unharmed, paid/atoned. Sulmu, another Assyrian term, means welfare. A closer relation to the idea of shalom as concept and action is seen in the Arabic root salaam. Meaning to be safe, secure, and forgiven, among other things. It also proposes a personal commitment to the concept, action, and transcendence of peace – Salaam is also the root for the terms Muslim and Islam, literally translated, he/she who submits to God and submission to God, respectively.
The Word "shalom" can be used for all parts of speech; as a noun, adjective, verb, and as an adverb. It categorizes all shaloms. The word shalom is used in a variety of expressions and contexts in Hebrew speech and writing:
- Shalom aleichem (שָׁלוֹם עֲלֵיכֶם; "well-being be upon you" or "may you be well"), this expression is used to greet others and is a Hebrew equivalent of "hello". Also, for example; "shabat shalom!" The appropriate response to such a greeting is "upon you be well-being" ( עֲלֵיכֶם שָׁלוֹם, aleichem shalom). This is a cognate of the Arabic Assalamu alaikum. On Erev Shabbat (Sabbath eve), Jewish people have a custom of singing a song which is called Shalom aleichem, before the Kiddush over wine of the Shabbat dinner is recited.
- In the Gospels, Jesus often uses the greeting "Peace be unto you," a translation of shalom aleichem.
- Shalom by itself is a very common abbreviation and it is used in Modern Israeli Hebrew as a greeting, to which the common reply is, Shalom, Shalom. It is also used as a farewell. In this way it is similar to the Hawaiian aloha, the (rather old-fashioned) English good evening and the Indian namaste. Also in Israel, especially among secular people, "bye" (English) and "yallah bye" (a mixture of Arabic and English) is popular. Shalom is also used by Jewish people around the world, and even by many non-Jewish people.
- Shabbat shalom (שַׁבָּת שָׁלוֹם) is a common greeting used on Shabbat. This is most prominent in areas with Mizrahi, Sephardi, or modern Israeli influence. Many Ashkenazi communities in the Jewish diaspora use Yiddish Gut shabbes in preference or interchangeably.
- Ma sh'lom'cha (מַה שְׁלוֹמְךָ; "what is your well-being/peace?") is a Hebrew equivalent of the English "how are you?". This is the form addressed to a single male. The form for addressing a single female is Ma sh'lomech? For addressing several females, Ma sh'lomchen? For a group of males or a mixed-gender group, Ma sh'lomchem?
- Alav hashalom (עַלָיו הַשָּׁלוֹם; "upon him is peace") is a phrase used in some Jewish communities, especially Ashkenazi ones, after mentioning the name of a deceased respected individual.
- Oseh shalom is the part of a passage commonly found as a concluding sentence in much Jewish liturgy (including the birkat hamazon, kaddish and personal amidah prayers). The full sentence is עוֹשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם בִּמְרוֹמָיו, הוּא יַעֲשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם עָלֵינוּ, וְעַל כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן (Oseh shalom bimromav, hu ya'aseh shalom aleynu, ve'al kol Yisrael ve'imru amen), which translates to English as "He who makes peace in His heights may He make peace upon us and upon all Israel; and say, Amen."
- The word Shalom is widely used in popular Israeli songs such as "In Our Garden," "Ratziti Sheteda," and "Shalom Chaverim."
- U.S. President Bill Clinton ended his eulogy for Yitzhak Rabin with the words Shalom, chaver (Goodbye, friend).
- The word 'Lom (and occasionally Sh'lom) have been used (especially by Jewish teenagers) as the contracted forms of Shalom in street slang.
Related words in Modern Hebrew include l'shalem (לְשַׁלֵּם), "to pay" and shalem (שָׁלֵם), "complete".
Use as a name
Shalom as a name for God
The Talmud says "the name of God is 'Peace'" (Pereq ha-Shalom, Shab. 10b), (Judges 6:24); therefor, one is not permitted to greet another with the word shalom in unholy places such as a bathroom (Talmud, Shabbat, 10b).
Shalom as a name for people
The name Shlomo, "His peace" (from shalom, Solomon, שלומו), refers to the God of Peace.
As a name for organizations
Shalom can be part of an organization's name.
As name for synagogues or structures
Shalom is used as part of other names, such as for synagogues, as in:
- Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania designed by famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright
- Neve Shalom Synagogue in İstanbul, Turkey
- Shalom BC, Jewish Information and Referrals in Vancouver, Canada
- Shalom Park in Charlotte, North Carolina and Denver, Colorado
- Shalom Meir Tower in Tel Aviv, Israel
- Shalom Christian Academy in Marion, Pennsylvania
- Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, California
As the name for events
- The 1982 Lebanon War is known in Hebrew as Milhemeth Shlom Hagalil (Hebrew: מלחמת שלום הגליל), which means in English, "The War for the Shalom (or Well-Being) of the Galilee".
- SS Shalom, an ocean liner operated by Zim Lines, Israel 1964-1967.
- Şalom is a Jewish weekly newspaper published in İstanbul, Turkey in Turkish and one page in Ladino (Judaeo-Spanish).
- Shalom is a song by Voltaire, on the CD The Devil's Bris.
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