A prominent Jewish prayer concludes “May He who made peace in the heavens grant peace to us on Earth.” What does it mean to create peace in the heavens? Ancient man looked up into the sky and he saw the sun and the rain clouds. And he would say to himself “How can fire and water, sun and rain coexist in the same sky? Either the water would put out the fire, or the fire would dry up the water.” How do they get along? It must be a miracle. The sun says, “If I dry up the rain clouds, as I probably could, the world will not survive without rain.” The clouds say, “If we extinguish the sun, the world will perish in darkness.” So the fire and the water make peace, realizing that if either one of them achieved a total victory, the world could not endure.

When we pray for God to grant us the sort of peace He ordained in heavens, this is the miracle we ask for. How can men and women live together happily? They are opposites; their needs are different, their rhythms are different. It takes a miracle for them to bridge those differences and unite the masculine side of God’s image with the feminine side.

How can Arabs and Israelis learn to live together? Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants? Black South Africans and white South Africans? It takes a miracle for them to realize that if they won, if they had it all and the other side had nothing, the world could not survive their victory. Only by making room for everyone in the world, even for our enemies, can the world survive.

May God show us the miracle of Shalom, of making room for each other and giving up the illusion of victory in the heavens, grant a similar miracle to all of us who inhabit the earth.

Rabbi Harold S. Kushner