Question:

I have heard "shalom" for years, but I don't know the meaning of the word. Can you help me understand this apparently profound word?

Answer:

I should know the meaning of the word as it's also my son's name...

Shalom, like many Hebrew words, has more than one meaning.

Shalom means peace, and is rooted in the word שלם (shaleim), which means completion. Without peace, there can be no completion...

Shalom is also commonly used as a greeting and salutation.

Shalom is also one of the Divine names, as such one should not greet a friend with "Shalom!" when in a place, such as a lavatory, where it is forbidden to pronounce G‑d's name.1

Shalom is also a common boy's name, though, interestingly, the Talmud refers to it as a woman's name (the name of Rabbi Eliezer's wife).

There are many references to this word and its variations throughout the Torah, Talmud and the commentaries. One I like in particular is the Mishnah that says: "G‑d did not find a vessel that could hold blessing other than shalom (peace)."

The more shalom we bring to the world, the quicker will we attain completion and true, everlasting peace.

Let me know if this helps,

Chani Benjaminson
Chabad.org