Ecumenical Corner: Oseh Shalom — Bring us peace
For more than 3,200, years Jews have been singing “Oseh Shalom.” Translated, the song says (loosely):
“Ruler above, bring peace to us, to Israel and the entire world.”
Even though there have been few times in history when the Jews or Israel have seen peace, it is ironic that one of these few times was the Pax Romana. The peace provided by the Roman Empire may have been temporary, but in the time period from about 100 B.C.E. to 70 C.E. there was, at least, not open fighting in the land called Israel or Palestine (whichever flavor you prefer). In this time, the Roman Legate Herod built the Second Temple, which was destroyed about 70 C.E. (A.D.). Also in these times lived Rabbi Hillel and the beginnings of the holidays of Christmas and Chanukah.
About a hundred years apart, Rabbi Hillel and the person some call Rabbi Yeshua (Jesus of Nazareth) brought many of the same messages. Both were teachers who taught peace. Both would have said or sung Oseh Shalom, wishing for a community based on peace and love. Rabbi Hillel famously said, when asked to sum up his religion: “Study the word of Adonoi, and treat the stranger as you would be treated; all the rest is commentary.” Treating the stranger well will promote peace, as the test of Jewish faith is what you actually do rather than what you claim to believe.
In the Christian Bible, Rabbi Yeshua repeats that the stranger should be treated as you would be treated. He famously seeks peace and is an advocate of peaceful resistance and trying to live in harmony with the Romans. Thus it is highly appropriate, in addition to repeating the words of Isaiah that out of the “Root of Jesse” shall come a messenger of peace, that Oseh Shalom shall be sung for the Holiday Season. The Block Island Ecumenical Choir has made a tradition of this for a number of years, singing the song for Thanksgiving, and more recently singing it for the Block Island Lessons and Carols.
Shalom Aleikem, Salaam Alekem, Pax Vobiscum, Peace be With You.