For the Sake of Shalom

Yael Eckstein  |  November 14, 2022

Fellowship volunteer hugging elderly woman

The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. —Numbers 5:23

Peace, shalom, is a paramount value for both Christians and Jews. Explore this elusive attribute through my devotions and what we can learn about adding it to our lives, our relationships, and our world.

The Jewish sages tell a story about a woman who came home late one Friday night. Her angry husband asked, “Where were you?” She answered, “I attended a lecture by Rabbi Meir at the synagogue.” The jealous husband said, “Don’t come back until you spit in Rabbi Meir’s face.” The woman didn’t know what to do, so she went to the synagogue to pray.

Meanwhile, God revealed to Rabbi Meir what had transpired between that husband and wife. When the woman arrived at the synagogue, Rabbi Meir pretended that he had a problem with his eye. He asked the woman, “Please spit in my eye — it’s the only remedy!” The woman did as she was told and left relieved.

After she left, Rabbi Meir’s students asked, “How could you let yourself be dishonored so?” The rabbi replied, “If God can let His honor be diminished for the sake of harmony in the home, so can I.”

For the Sake of Shalom

Rabbi Meir’s comment about God’s honor being diminished for the sake of harmony in the home is based on a ritual described in Numbers 5:23. We read, “The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water.”

The Bible teaches about the ritual procedure when a woman was suspected of being unfaithful. As part of the process, a series of biblical verses which included God’s name was written on a piece of parchment and dissolved in water that the woman would drink. If nothing happened to her after drinking the water, then she would be vindicated, and the marriage would be restored. 

The rabbis point out that even though it is forbidden to erase or destroy God’s name, God commanded us to erase His name as part of this ritual. As we see in the story of Rabbi Meir, this biblical law teaches us how much God values shalom in the home — He is even willing to sacrifice His own honor by having His name erased to restore harmony between husband and wife.

Friends, if God can let His honor be diminished for the sake of shalom, so can we. For the sake of peace, we can be the first to speak and the first to say I’m sorry. Sometimes, the bigger person is the one who knows how to make himself small. It is in humility that we find our true honor or as we read in Proverbs, “It is to one’s honor to avoid strife.”

Your Turn:

Let go of pride for the sake of shalom. Take a few moments to scan through your relationships and notice if pride comes into play at all when there is a lack of shalom between you and another person.

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