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Document Type

Speech

Abstract

We can only consider the role of peacemaking in Jewish law after examining the meaning and place of peace. Accuracy prevents me from opening with some platitude about how peace occupies a central, pivotal position in Jewish thought. It doesn't. Peace and peacemaking have a curious habit of not turning up in the middle of things, but all the way at the end. There are too many instances of this to be coincidental. There are nineteen blessings in the Amidah, the central (indeed!) prayer that Jews recite three times a day, every weekday of their lives. The very last blessing is about peace. Kaddish, the familiar prayer recited many times a day through the long period of mourning for close relatives, ends with a statement that He Who makes peace on high will bring peace to us. The Priestly Blessing, three sparse Biblical verses used in the Jerusalem Temple and beyond to channel Divine beneficence to Man, concludes with the word shalom, peace. The last offering mentioned in Levticus is the shelamim, or peace-offering. The Mishnah, which serves as the backbone of the Talmud from which virtually all Jewish law emanates, concludes with a thought about peace, which is also its absolutely final word.