The Mission of Business as Wholeness
Modern Hebrew speakers use the same word for “hello,” and “goodbye”—but for some Jews, it’s not kosher to use in the restroom because it also is a nickname for God. In the Hebrew Bible, it means peace, prosperity, or well-being. When you greet someone with this, you’re not just saying hello, you are wishing a blessing of peace and prosperity on them.
The word shalom is the sort of word linguists get bleary-eyed about. It is elegant in form and sound, deep in meaning, and quick to say. It can be a greeting—and the subject of a dissertation.
For many Jews it is their mission statement, their highest ideal. They prioritize well-being and wholeness over everything, so for the Orthodox, the goal of their business, their social clubs, their churches, and their family lives, is to restore wholeness to what is broken. They see life as dis-integrated, and they seek the Joy of re-integration.
To pipe it over to American culture is very difficult, given that our word “peace” usually denotes war and peace, while shalom is more of a quality of life thing. For Americans to seek wholeness in life may be to reassess our mission statements and add a measure of religion and purpose back into everything we do.
According to Andrew Delbanco, American philosopher and professor at NYU, our culture is ripe for this renewal. In his book The End of the American Dream, Delbanco defines the core American values as achievement and acquisition. We define success and measure that success by how much we achieve and what we can acquire in our lives. We like getting stuff and getting stuff done: it’s the American Dream.
The Hebrew Dream is to restore the world, while the American Dream is to conquer and enjoy the world.
The Hebrew Bible is full of prophecies about the Messiah, a character Christians see as Jesus of Naazareth. In Him we see the truest example of shalom, from the prophecies about Him, to the life that He lived.
For example, the Old Testament prophet Isaiah uses the word shalom in his famous Servant Song of chapter 53, describing Jesus: “The chastisement of our
peace (shalom) was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” The message is that Jesus paid the price for our shalom, so now we can go experience and spread shalom. We get to use business, life, family, hobbies, everything, to experience inner peace and wholeness personally and spread that corporately.
We Americans don’t just want stuff and stuff getting done; we want purpose. Without that purpose, business becomes rote and empty. It may be that shalom is the mission statement we’ve always needed.
Kerrigan Capital and Risk Management
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