Peace is the road leading to God and God is the road leading to peace. If reality doesn’t bear this out it’s because the world doesn’t yet know God.
For the purpose of this article assume that God is absolute spirituality, the primal force that creates, cares about and is orchestrating the world towards a meaningful purpose. All that exists, exists only by this Will. At the same time that the world is material and the spiritual is absolutely other than material, everything in the world is permeated with this spirit.
You shall be holy for I the Lord your God am holy. (Leviticus 19:2) God is pure spirit, with no limitations or boundaries.
There is an unbridgeable gap between the human and divine. Physicality by definition contains parameters. As a material being I am inextricably tied to materialism. Yet, I am supposed to reflect God’s holiness! I can understand trying to reflect God’s compassion or God’s patience. But how can I even approach God’s holiness?
I cannot separate from the material in the way that God is utterly separate from the material but I can physically keep my body separate from other bodies.
The Hebrew word for a particular individual is perat and the word for privacy is peratiyut. Holiness in human terms is translated as respect for the physical boundaries between people in relationships that are off-limits. This is the answer given by the classical commentator, Rashi.
Alternatively, for commentator Ramban holiness entails separating from what is technically permitted to me. If I eat like a glutton and don’t curb my appetites I will be enslaved to the material. The physical becomes an end to itself.
Whether we take the explanation of Rashi or Ramban, I cannot escape my physicality, nor should I attempt to escape it. An important principle of Judaism is belief that the physical is not bad. It’s just limited. The path to holiness is transcending the physical without departing from the domain of the physical.
Holiness peeks out from in between the cracks of physical boundaries. When all of my material pursuits are in the service of something higher, engaging in physical activities is itself spiritual.
The concept most laden with holiness, according to Rabbi Yizchak HaCohen Kook is peace. Taking our definition of holiness, what makes it so?
The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. The root word, shalem means wholeness. There will be peace only when all of the divergent perspectives come together as one magnificent tapestry.
The world does not recognize shalom as the holiest concept. Why?
The world is expecting to find peace on a superficial, materialistic level, but the material level is intrinsically limited. The material plane of existence is comprised not only of tangible physicality but also the boundaries of separate, individual wills.
Humanism can’t bring the world to perfection because human beings have a limited, utilitarian perspective. They see what’s good for themselves. They even see that cooperation is good for themselves. But they can’t possibly see the big picture of how the good of the whole fits together with the good of all the particulars.
Peace sought only for the sake of utilitarian cooperation will never transcend the superficiality of self-interest. Nor can we wipe out the differences between people and wills. Just as we cannot escape the fact of individual human bodies we cannot escape the fact of individuality. Peace as a holy concept does not wipe out individual difference.
Holiness is transcendence beyond the physical through the physical, the merging of differences without erasing those differences.
Only God, the Creator of all whose one-ness encompasses all existence can join all of the disparate wills together even when they are far removed from each other and far removed from the purpose of existence and bring about the good of the whole and the good of all the particulars.
I once heard about a malfunctioning family that had no doors on the bedrooms. In family systems theory this is called enmeshment. Its members are on top of each other, getting too much into each others business.
The opposite of this is a family that is disengaged. Someone can be missing for weeks without anyone knowing about it.
In a healthy family there is differentiation. The individual members are allowed to be individuals. They don’t all have to be the same. And because of this each one feels he or she belongs and there is a sense of unity overall.
God’s world is like a big family. An unhealthy family is what we are right now. It’s either the humanism that says Imagine there’s no borders… or the religious (and secular) radicalism of force to the point of violence because “everyone has to be like us.”
Shalom is a concept of holiness because it entails transcendence to the spiritual plane, where opposites can be held together. The particulars remain differentiated particulars while being joined by a genuine interest in the good of all. There are borders and boundaries, individual persons and nations who value and cherish the specialness of each and see the good of each as a piece in the beautiful tapestry of the whole.
Whole and holy peace. This is what the world needs.