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The S.L.M./Sh.L.M Root in Semitic Languages

evilphish

Some people believe that the Hebrew word "Shalom" (שלום) means "peace". However this is not exactly the case. Some people also believe as a result that Islam means "religion of peace", but this is also certainly not the case. This is due to lack of understanding of the Semitic root S.L.M. or Sh.L.M.

In many Semitic languages there was a general duality between the "S" and "Sh" sounds. In the Hebrew alphabet, the same letter - ש - is used for both sounds. So S.L.M can also be Sh.L.M in some cases. In Semitic languages there's a three-letter or four-letter root for verbs and other words, and there are several ways to transform them.

Now the verb S.L.M. is a Semitic root that has a general meaning of wholeness, fullness or completeness. In Hebrew, "Shalam" used to mean ended, but it is no longer really used. "Nishlam" means "ended" as well, and its use is more common, but a bit archaic. "Shilem" is paid for, "Shulam" is was paid for. "Hishtalem" (derived from "Hitshalem") is was worthwhile, or more recently got an extra education. "Hishlim" is completed, and "Huslam" is "was completed".

Now "Shalom" is essentially "well-being" - a state where nothing bad happens. In the political field, it means "peace", but in fact the early word for such peace in Hebrew was "Sheqet" which means "quiet". Judges 3 - "Wa'tishqot ha'aretz Shmonim Shanah" - "and the land was quiet for 80 years".

Shalom is not necessarily about peace between countries. For example one can say "The United States government will do everything to ensure the 'Shalom' of the passengers of the kidnapped plane". And then there was "Milhhemeth Shlom-Hagalil" ("מלחמת שלום-הגליל") which was the "war for the Shalom [or well-being] of the Galilee".

Now about Islam - Islam is the noun form of the Arabic verb "Aslama", which means converted to Islam. Aslama, being S.L.M. was meant to mean a "Complete devotion to one's faith." Similarly "Muslim" (pronounced "Mooss-leem")is someone who is an Islam practictioner. Peace or even well-being have nothing to do with it.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
real_skeptic
Apr. 13th, 2007 10:12 pm (UTC)
No, "shalom" was the opposite of "war" even in the earliest times. Take Deuteronomy 20,10 and on:
כי תקרב אל-עיר להלחם עליה וקראת אליה לשלום. והיה אם-שלום תענך ופתחה לך והיה כל העם הנמצא-בה יהיו לך למס ועבדוך. ואם-לא תשלים עמך ועשתה עמך מלחמה וצרת עליה.

I'm not bothering to transliterate that into English, as both you and I know Hebrew quite well. Anyway the word "shalom" and "lehashlim" here are in the same sense as they are still used today sometimes - "peace" and "make up".

Another example - Joshua 9, 15. The dwellers of Giv'on trick Joshua into an oath of peace: "ויעש להם יהושע שלום ויכרת להם ברית לחיותם וישבעו להם נשיאי העדה". Again you can't possibly interpret this use of "shalom" as "security" or "well being".

And by the way, in English, too, "peace" means "well being" as well as the opposite of war. "Go in peace", "I want some peace and quiet" and so on.
shlomif
Apr. 14th, 2007 05:21 am (UTC)
Peace is not Well-being


And by the way, in English, too, "peace" means "well being" as well as the opposite of war. "Go in peace", "I want some peace and quiet" and so on.




"Go in peace" is probably an Hebraism that stems from "Lekh le'shalom" (לך לשלום). "I want some peace and quiet", is here peace in the sense of sheqet (שקט) or shalwa (שלוה), not in Well-being. Some say that "Shalom Alekha" is "Peace upon you.", but it actually means "May you be well.".


(Anonymous)
Apr. 19th, 2007 07:38 pm (UTC)
Re: Peace is not Well-being
Using "peace" to mean "well being" and "quietness" is common in many languages.

For example, in Romanian, we have quite a lot of expressions which use the word "pace" (peace), like: "lasă-mă în pace" (let me in peace = leave me alone), "nu avea pace" (not having peace = being unsettled, upset), "fii pe pace" (be in peace = don't worry), etc.
shlomif
May. 12th, 2007 03:49 pm (UTC)
Re: Peace is not Well-being
Perhaps, but in Hebrew, "shalom" is essentialy well-being or welfare, and only when applied to the political scene is the equivalent of "peace" in English.

And I believe that "let me in peace", means "let me rest", or "let me be undisturbed", rather than "let me be well".
kehoea
Apr. 19th, 2007 08:10 pm (UTC)
Re: Peace is not Well-being
(Anonymous)
Sep. 12th, 2007 06:49 pm (UTC)
well im not reali boverd to be honest!!
(Anonymous)
May. 14th, 2007 10:31 am (UTC)
You're reaching the wrong conclusions.
Hi Shlomi,

I think you're confusing a word's current meaning with its etymology (how it was created). What you've explained is how the word Shalom came from the root Sh-L-M which originally conveyed some sense of "wholeness". This does not prove, however, that this word's *current* meaning (or even its meaning in the bible) is wholeness, or that this is its only meaning. You even gave another counter example, the verb "leshalem", meaning "to pay". According to your logic, since "leshalem" also comes from the root Sh-L-M, it must mean "to become whole" rather then "to pay", which is absurd - "leshalem" certainly *does* mean "to pay". "Leshalem"'s only connection to wholeness is an etymological one - it's current meaning has nothing to do with wholeness.

The word "Shalom" has several meanings ("semantic fields"); Several of them are shared with the English word "peace", which is why this is a good translation to English. Other meanings are not shared, e.g., "hu higi'a beshalom" (he arrived safely) cannot be translated "He arrived in peace" or "peacefully". But no-one ever said that semantic fields in in different languges fully overlap - they usually don't.
Some of the current ("synchronic") meanings of "Shalom" indeed have to do with the "wholeness" you mentioned; Others have nothing to do with wholeness: "shalom" between two countries, "alav hashalom" (someone being dead), are two examples.

By the way, I don't think the English phrase "go in peace" comes from Hebrew. It may, but you should remember that Latin also had similar idioms, like "pax vobiscum" (peace be with you) or "vade in pace" (go in peace).
Idioms involving the word "peace" are interesting - consider also how it is used in various languages to describe the "calmness" of death - in English we have "Rest in Peace", after the Latin "Requiscat in Pace" (with the same initials, R.I.P), in Hebrew we have "Alav Hashalom" (peace is upon him), in German a cemetery is "Friedhof" (yard of peace), and more.

Nadav Har'El
(Anonymous)
May. 14th, 2007 10:34 am (UTC)
Irony
In fact, ironically, "alav hashalom" means that someone is dead - the furthest you can ever be from "well-being" :-)

Nadav Har'El
shlomif
May. 14th, 2007 12:48 pm (UTC)
Re: You're reaching the wrong conclusions.

You even gave another counter example, the verb "leshalem", meaning "to pay". According to your logic, since "leshalem" also comes from the root Sh-L-M, it must mean "to become whole" rather then "to pay", which is absurd - "leshalem" certainly *does* mean "to pay". "Leshalem"'s only connection to wholeness is an etymological one - it's current meaning has nothing to do with wholeness.




That's not accurate. Shalam or Nishlam is to become whole. On the other hand, "Shilem" which means to pay means to give a full (or whole) worth for the item, so the transaction will be completed. Or compensate in English. It appears in the Bible as well.




Several of them are shared with the English word "peace", which is why this is a good translation to English. - like what?




Others have nothing to do with wholeness: "shalom" between two countries, "alav hashalom" (someone being dead), are two examples.




Actually, "shalom" between two countries means that the countries are being well with each other, and don't fight one another. So it is wholeness or harmony. The English equivalent for this phrase is "peace", but that's not an accurate translation for the Hebrew word "shalom", just because it is translated to this in this context. As for "Alav Hashalom", it probably means that his soul is well or harmonious, or one with God or whatever.


(Anonymous)
May. 16th, 2007 11:25 am (UTC)
Re: You're reaching the wrong conclusions.
>>> Several of them are shared with the English word "peace", which is why this is a good translation to English. - like what?

Let's look at the Even Shoshan dictionary at the meanings of "Shalom". I loosly translated the meanings to English:

1. Quiet, rest [this fits well with English "peace"]
2. A state without war [this fits well with English "peace"]
3. Status, state [not in English "peace"]
4. A greeting [not common in English "peace"]

There are also dozens of idoms listed, many of which can be translated with "peace". E.g., "shalom aleichem" is a literal translation of the latin "Pax Vobiscum" (may peace be with you). "shlom ba'it" - peaceful household. "shofet shalom" - justice of the peace. "alav hashalom"/"nach al mishkavo beshalom" - "resting in peace". Other idioms cannot be literally translated to English - e.g., "ish shlomo", "bo'acha leshalom", "drishat shalom", "chas veshalom".

I don't see how "well-being" is a better translation... For example, "shlom bait" means a peaceful house (no fighting, etc.), not a house doing well, healthy, etc. As I said "Alav Hashalom" is about being peaceful and quite (you have to be, when you're dead :-)), certainly not about well-being (if you're dead, you couldn't be doing worse!).
shlomif
May. 16th, 2007 01:45 pm (UTC)
Re: You're reaching the wrong conclusions.
Who are you, anonymous?
(Anonymous)
Mar. 16th, 2010 01:18 am (UTC)
Re: You're reaching the wrong conclusions.
Actually, shlom ba'it is usually used, at least in Rabbinic sources, to mean the efforts to maintain peace in the home (or one could say, the well-being of the home) and not a home which is peaceful. An example: Shabbath candles are lit primarily for shlom ba'it (in order to maintain peace/well-being); i.e., there is light at night so people are not bumping into each other, the food of the meal can be seen, et al, rather than a house which is cuurently peaceful. I'm not sure how you would say that, maybe "ba'it sh'leimah"? Be'it sh'qeitah?

peace and love,
p-c
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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