Today, Christmas Eve, 2021, I sit at my computer crafting my blog for the CEObuilder January 2022 newsletter. Intermittent snow flurries are frosting my window…it looks and feels just as it should for the Christmas season. That said, my thoughts are about a much more temperate climate, that of Palestine–and He whose birth we celebrate at this time.
My ponderings in this regard were interrupted last evening by an email from a friend and client from the Holy Land. His name is Alon Goshen-Gottstein; he is a Jewish Rabbi and the director of the Elijah Interfaith Institute in Jerusalem. His organization is dedicated to sharing wisdom, fostering peace, and building bonds of friendship among the many and diverse religions of the world.
I want to share the message Alon sent to me, and others of Christian faiths:
To my Christian friends, on this Christmas eve (Christmas Eve arrives earlier in Jerusalem than in the United States),
In thinking of the greetings I would be sending all of you, my thoughts turned to Isaiah 9,5 and the reference to the prince of peace. This is one instance in which much is lost in translation.
The Hebrew speaks of שר שלום, which can be translated as prince of peace, but the word שר also reflects a struggle (compare Hosea 12,5, based, of course, on Genesis. 32,29). Thus, the Prince of peace is really the one who struggles for peace.
I believe this holds an important lesson in the quest for peace, as well as for our common messianic expectation. It is not as if peace is simply a divine portfolio, handed over to some particular personality. Peace is a process that is brought about, through struggle. That struggle is the divine struggle to manifest peace on earth. It is also our struggle, each and every one of us, to realize peace through all the struggles that make up life. And our individual struggles are part of the larger messianic quest and struggle for peace. With God, with our aspirations for the Messiah, we look to peace as the end goal and accept that the path passes through struggles, that are imbued with the goal, with the end peace, that allows us to struggle towards that goal.
May you have a blessed, and a peaceful, Christmas.
Alon’s words of wisdom seemed particularly germane for not only the Christmas season, but for mankind as we begin a new year in an unsettled and often less than peaceful world. In this day and age of such polarization in so many dimensions of life, I personally feel the struggle for peace that Alon suggests as I interact with those who may see the world through different lenses than my own, and who may express their views in shrill and condemning voices.
In striving to follow the admonition of Jesus Christ to love those who despitefully use you, peace does indeed become a struggle, one which regularly reminds me that peace is a personal choice. I have very little, if any, control over the civility (or lack thereof) of others. But I can control myself. I can react without anger or retribution, if I choose to. But that struggles against the natural man within me. I struggle to control my tendency to react, to decide not to respond to unkindness with unkindness of my own. I struggle to be a man of peace, to be a peacemaker, to follow the words and example of the Prince of Peace.
Most people would, I think, describe peace as the absence of stress and struggle. The Hebrew insights Alon has shared illuminate the reality that the opposite is true. Peace as a pursuit is indeed a struggle, a worthy and noble endeavor for us all.
I am grateful for the wisdom of my friend and Peacemaker, Alon Goshen-Gottstein. And receiving such wisdom from the land of the Savior’s birth at this Christmas season is a very special Christmas gift for me. I pray that as we enter 2022 that our leadership goals will include that of facilitating greater peace, and the personal resolve to strive–and even struggle–in that pursuit.
Happy New Year and as Alon would say, Shalom (Hebrew for Peace).