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The Ideal of Peace in Judaism

judaism peace essay

Peace is a concept that is central to Judaism. Along with truth and justice, it is one of the three key Jewish values.

Peace, according to the Jewish sages, is the ultimate purpose of the whole Torah: “All that is written in the Torah was written for the sake of peace.” Tanhuma Shoftim 18

Peace is what will save the Jewish people: “God announceth to Jerusalem that they [Israel] will be redeemed only through peace.” Deuteronomy Rabah 5:15 The Jewish people’s desire for peace has been expressed for thousands of years in our prayers and in biblical and rabbinic sources.

In the words of the prophets (Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3) And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

In the Ethics of the Fathers Hillel says: “Be among the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace…” (Ethics of the Fathers 1:12)

In the Midrash Great is peace since all other blessings are included in it. (Vayikrah Rabbah 9) The only reason that the Holy One, blessed be He, created the world was so that there would be peace among humankind. (Bamidbar Rabbah 12A)

In the Amidah (Daily Standing Prayer of 19 blessings) Grant peace, welfare, blessing, grace, lovingkindness, and mercy unto us and unto all Israel, your people.

In Israel’s Declaration of Independence We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their people in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation … with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.

In the prayer for the State of Israel Please bless the State of Israel…spread over it the shelter of Your peace. Grant peace unto the land, lasting joy to its inhabitants. Remove from us all hatred and hostility, jealousy and cruelty. And plant in our hearts love and friendship, peace and companionship. Speedily fulfill the vision of Your prophet: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

The Hebrew word for peace, ‘SHALOM,’ comes from a root meaning ‘completeness’ and ‘perfection’. So when there is peace in Jewish terms, that means things are perfect: there is calm, security, prosperity and a general feeling of physical and spiritual well-being. It doesn’t just mean there is no war.

In Hebrew, to ask someone how they are (“How are you?”) we say “Ma shlomcha?” ‘Shlomcha’ literally means ‘your peace’, so we are actually asking them “How’s your state of peace?” This shows how important living in a state of peace is in Jewish thinking.

The Jewish obligation to pursue peace

Peace is so important a concept in Judaism that Jews have a religious obligation to pursue it. “Seek peace, and pursue it’ ‑ seek it in your own place, and pursue it even to another place as well.” Leviticus Rabah 9:9

We are told that “He who establishes peace between man and his fellow, between husband and wife, between two cities, two nations, two families or two governments…no harm should come to him.” Mekhilta Bahodesh 12

And even that “one may deviate from the truth for the sake of peace…it is permissible to utter a falsehood for the purpose of making peace between a man and his fellow.” BT Yevamot 65b and Derekh Erez Zuta.

Lynda Ben-Menashe 2007

National Pacifism

judaism peace essay

There are those who would argue that if you defend yourself with violence, you perpetuate an endless cycle of violence. It sees non-violent protest as a way of ending this cycle.

This view is not new; indeed, some pacifists trace this idea to a passage in Josephus’ The Jewish War (Book II chapter 16). In a speech by Agrippa, (the Jewish king during the Jewish revolt of 66 CE), he exhorts the crowd, which wants to revolt against the Roman Governor Florus, to be patient. He tells them: “Now nothing so much damps the force of strokes as bearing them with patience; and the quietness of those who are injured diverts the injurious persons from afflicting.”

This view can also be called the ‘shveig shtill’ (‘stay quiet’ in Yiddish) view of pacifism; it assumes that people will receive goodwill if they remain meek, passive and useful. Indeed, the Talmud (Gittin 57a) considers the Jewish revolt a tragic mistake, resulting in an immense loss of life in the face of overwhelming power. The tactic of ‘shveig shtill’ was often the refuge of Jews in antisemitic societies, where they found it best to avoid making waves, and to offer complete cooperation to those in authority. Basically it is the pacifism of the powerless.

There is a well known Jewish joke that illustrates this point. Two Jews are about to be executed by a firing squad. As they are handed their blindfolds, one of the Jews refuses to put his on. The second Jew, mortified by this act of rebellion, turns to his friend and says, “Please, don’t make trouble!”

Non-Violent Resistance

It is often argued that non-violence, by virtue of its moral authority, can be a successful form of resistance to oppression. The classic example is the success of Gandhi in getting the British to leave India through non-violent protest. However, as Michael Walzer points out in his book Just and Unjust Wars, Gandhi succeeded because a country with a massive population was opposing an empire tired and weakened after World War II, and an empire with a tradition of respect for human rights. For the 6,000,000 Jews getting murdered in Europe, Gandhi had no practical advice. He advised Rabbi Leo Baeck, the leader of German Jewry during the Holocaust, that he should get all German Jews to commit mass suicide; this he said would focus the world’s attention on Hitler’s inhumanity. To this Baeck replied that “we Jews know, that it is God’s singular commandment, to live.” Non-violent protest would, of course, have achieved nothing.


There is no tradition of individual pacifism as a value in Judaism. Rather there is an obligation for the individual to protect his / her life – even by force.

“If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck so that he dies, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it happens after sunrise, he is guilty of bloodshed.” Exodus 22:2.

The law explains that if someone breaks into a home at night, the victim may assume his life is in danger and is allowed to kill the criminal; if the aggressor confronts the victim by daylight, there are other options of self-defence.

The commentator Rashi comments: The life of the aggressor and victim are not equal. If only one will survive, it is our obligation to make certain it is the victim.

The “law of the pursuer” (Talmud, Sanhedrin 72a) requires a person to save the life of any potential victim (3rd party), even by killing the aggressor, if necessary (if the aggressor can be stopped by less, only as much force as necessary is allowed). This is the basis of pre-emptive defence, individual and national.

There are two rationales for allowing self-defence. The first is practical; without the ability to use lethal force to stop the actions of aggressors, anarchy would reign (Chinuch 600). The second rationale challenges the moral assumptions of non-violence. It asserts that it is impossible to equate the lives of the aggressor and the victim; we have as a rule “that God’s quest is the interests of the hunted” (Ecclesiastes 3:15). The life of the aggressor and the victim are not of equal value; if only one will survive, it is our obligation to make certain that it is the innocent person, the victim, who will survive (Cf. Rashi to Exodus 22:1).

Conscientious objection

Deuteronomy provides an exemption for those likely to be a liability in combat:

“Then the officers shall add ‘Is any man afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his brothers will not become disheartened too.’” Deuteronomy 20:8 However, there is no basis for a conscientious objector to claim he has the right to not fight based on a personal principle of pacifism in face of his national responsibility.

© Sandy Hollis 2006

Peace and Repairing the World

‘Shalom – Peace’, was one of the first words I learnt as a child, because my late father always greeted family and friends with the words “Shalom Aleichem” – “Peace unto You” and the recipient of the greeting would reply “Aleichem Shalom” – “Unto you Peace”.

This traditional greeting, “Shalom Aleichem”, used when two Jews meet, is also the name of the song that begins the Shabbat meal every Friday night. By singing this song of ‘shalom’, derived from the Hebrew word ‘shalem’, which means ‘complete’, we are asking G-d to bless our home with peace; that there should be no conflict between friends or family, especially on Shabbat.

It is also the essential conclusion of the blessing from the Hebrew Bible which Jewish parents pronounce over their children every Shabbat evening (weekly) and congregations pronounce on significant occasions – the blessing of Aaron the High Priest and brother of our teacher Moses, which originates in about 1,400 BCE.

“May the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His face upon you and give you Shalom – Peace” (Numbers 6:24-26)

It is a theme which reflects the immortal words of the Hebrew prophet Isaiah (as above and here again below), inscribed above the entrance to the United Nations building in New York:

“And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not take up sword against nation. And they shall not know war any more.” (Isaiah 2; 3)

When Isaiah wrote these words at the beginning of the seventh century BCE, the ten tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel had been lost, deported by the Assyrian conqueror, and Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem was under threat. Isaiah spoke for a people longing for a universal peace, very similar to the United Nations ideal of peace under international law, in which nations would live in harmony under a divine system of justice.

“And the many peoples shall go and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the Mount of the Lord, to the House of the God of Jacob, That he may instruct us in his ways And that we may walk in his paths’ For the Law shall come from Zion And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Thus he will judge among the nations And arbitrate for the many peoples.” (Isaiah 2: 3-4)

Isaiah 11.4 is another image of peace which has captured the world’s imagination:

“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion …together.”

The Jewish concept also recognises that true peace is part of a totality which includes justice and compassion, reflected in the idea of ‘Tikkun Olam’ – the imperative to ‘repair the world’. This concept, originally formulated by Rabbi Isaac Luria in sixteenth century Safed, northern Israel, reflects the Jewish values of Justice (tzedakah), Compassion (chesed) and Peace (shalom), and it has now come to symbolize a quest for social justice, freedom, equality, peace and the restoration of the environment. It is a call to action – to repair the world through social action. It recognizes that each act of kindness, no matter how small, helps to build a new world.

“Justice, justice shall you pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9)

The speech delivered by Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin on the occasion of the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles at Washington, DC, on 13 September 1993 gives some indication of Jewish feelings:

“President Clinton, Your Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

We have come from Jerusalem, the ancient and eternal capital of the Jewish people. We have come from an anguished and grieving land. We have come from a people, a home, a family, that has not known a single year – not a single month – in which mothers have not wept for their sons. We have come to try and put an end to the hostilities, so that our children and our children’s children will no longer have to experience the painful cost of war, violence, and terror. We have come to secure their lives, and to ease the sorrow and the painful memories of the past – to hope and pray for peace…

We, like you, are people who want to build a home, to plant a tree, to love, live side by side with you – in dignity, in empathy, as human beings, as free men. We are today giving peace a chance and again saying to you: Let us pray that a day will come when we will say, enough, farewell to arms…

We say to you today in a loud and clear voice: Enough of blood and tears. Enough… It is customary to conclude our prayers with the word ‘Amen’. With your permission, men of peace, I shall conclude with words taken from the prayer recited by Jews daily, and I ask the entire audience to join me in saying ‘Amen’:

‘May He who makes peace in His high heavens grant peace to us and to all Israel. Amen.’”

© Josie Lacey OAM 2006.

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Reference List

  • Understanding Faith: Unit 24 – World Religions
  • Baskin, Judith R.; Seeskin, Kenneth (12 July 2010). The Cambridge Guide to Jewish History, Religion, and Culture.
  • Shaykh Muhammad Nazim Adil Al-Haqqani, Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani ISCA, 2002. Muhammad, the Messenger of Islam: His Life & Prophecy.
  • 'Why Muslims are the world's fastest-growing religious group'. Pew Research Centre. April 2017. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  • 'The Global Religious Landscape'. Pew Research Center. 18 December 2012.
  • https://edition.cnn.com/2013/11/12/world/judaism-fast-facts/index.html
  • https://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/aboutisrael/spotlight/pages/about%20the%20jewish%20religion.aspx
  • https://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/IsraelExperience/AboutIsrael/Spotlight/Pages/Jewish%20Ceremonial%20Objects.aspx
  • https://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/IsraelExperience/AboutIsrael/Spotlight/Pages/Jewish%20Festivals%20in%20Israel.aspx
  • https://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/IsraelExperience/AboutIsrael/Spotlight/Pages/Jewish%20Sacred%20Texts.aspx
  • Islam: The Second Largest World Religion…And Growing, Religious Tolerance. Islam Fast Facts, CNN.
  • Basic Facts About Islam, PBS. What is Sharia Law and How is it Applied? BBC.

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Judaism and Justice

The Jewish passion to repair the world.

By Rabbi Sidney Schwarz

From Political to Moral Consciousness

With the Exodus story, all the elements of political consciousness were now in place: a common history (Egyptian slavery), a founding myth (being redeemed from the Egyptians by a God more powerful than any other), and a leader (Moses). The Exodus dimension of Jewish existence would continue to be central to the Jewish people throughout their long history. For a time, it would play itself out in the form of political sovereignty, as it did with the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judea. In the twentieth century, the Exodus dimension would manifest again with the creation of the modern state of Israel.

But the Exodus consciousness described here transcended conventional political arrangements. The Jewish people manifested this consciousness during their wandering in the desert, in their early settlement in the land of Israel arranged by tribal affiliation, and during the two millennia that Jews existed in the Diaspora. Exodus consciousness caused Jews to identify with each other regardless of the fact that they might be living thousands of miles apart, under different political regimes, speaking different languages, and developing variations on Judaism that often synthesized elements of traditional Jewish practice with the specific gentile culture in which they lived.

This consciousness also meant that Jews took care of one another, not only when they lived in close proximity, but even when they became aware of Jews in distress in other locales. During the time that Jews lacked political sovereignty, they became a community of shared historical memory and shared destiny. They believed that the fate of the Jewish people, regardless of temporal domicile, was linked. This is what explains the success of the Zionist movement, the historically unprecedented resurrection of national identity and political sovereignty after 2,000 years of dispersion. The Exodus consciousness of the Jewish people was the glue that held the Jewish people together. It was the secret to Jewish survival.

For the children of Israel, however, there was a dimension of national identity that transcended political consciousness–an encounter with sacred purpose that would create a direct connection between the slaves who experienced the Exodus from Egypt and the vision that drove the patriarch, Abraham….

Abraham and “The Call”

…The Torah tells us that Abraham truly became the father of the Jewish people when he heeded God’s call to adopt a sacred purpose, spreading righteousness and justice in the world (Gen. 18:19). The Jewish people would not be merely a people apart, a separate ethnic and political unit. Instead, they would be a people bound to a higher calling. According to God’s covenant with Abraham, every Jew is called upon not simply to believe in the values of righteousness and justice, but to act on them: motivated by moral responsibility, to advocate–as Abraham did–on behalf of the vulnerable of all nations.

Abraham lived in Canaan as “a stranger and a sojourner” (Gen. 23:4), but his sense of separateness and apartness did not prevent him from heeding a universalistic moral call–behaving with altruistic compassion toward the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

This sense of a higher calling–an altruistic urge to bring righteousness and justice into the world–is the Jewish legacy from Abraham. It is what I call the “Sinai impulse.”…

Reconciling Exodus and Sinai

…[There is a] millennial tension in Judaism between Exodus and Sinai impulses. Every faith community is committed to the survival and perpetuation of its own. Judaism is not immune to these tendencies. Judaism has often fallen prey to the tendency, affecting all groups, to see itself in parochial terms, to believe that the interests of the group supersede all else. This is especially true in times of crisis. In modern times, this defensiveness extends to times when Israel is at risk, either from war, terrorism, or worldwide campaigns to discredit Zionism and the right of Jews to collective existence in its ancestral homeland.

Still, the Jewish tradition’s universal teachings about responsibility toward all human beings and to the entire world continue to bring us back to the needed equilibrium between self-interest–the Exodus impulse–and the interests of humanity–the Sinai impulse. Even when, or perhaps especially when, the Jewish world tends toward the parochial, there are voices in our midst that call us back to our prophetic legacy to be agents for the repair of the entire world.

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, a prominent Orthodox opinion leader, spoke to the tension between Exodus and Sinai in the consciousness of the Jewish people in another way:

“In order to explain the difference between the people of fate and the nation of destiny, it is worth taking note of the antithesis between camp ( mahaneh ) and congregation ( edah ). The camp is created as a result of the desire for self-defense and is nurtured by a sense of fear; the congregation is created as a result of the longing for the realization of an exalted ethical idea and is nurtured by the sentiment of love. ”  [Joseph Soloveitchik, Fate and Destiny: From the Holocaust to the State of Israel (Hoboken, NJ: Ktav, 1992), 57–60.]

The Jewish community cannot realize its fullest potential to become a people of the covenant, committed to the ethical principles of righteousness and justice, if it remains in its tribal camp, paralyzed by fear and consumed by its perceived need to defend itself from every threat, real and imagined. It is true that without the proper communal mechanisms and political advocacy to properly defend the Jewish people at risk, no Jew would have the luxury to pursue the more lofty, Sinai agenda. At the same time, unless the Jewish community begins to give higher priority to an agenda of righteousness and justice–the agenda that started with the first Jew, Abraham–it will have confused the means and the ends.

That prophetic legacy is why the Jewish people were put on this earth.

Excerpted with permission from Judaism and Justice: The Jewish Passion to Repair the World (Jewish Lights, 2006).

Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses.

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Goldstein on Gelt: The 6-Step Checklist Every Investor Needs to Use

  • Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Descartes’ Error

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In his 2011 bestseller, The Social Animal, New York Times columnist David Brooks writes:

We are living in the middle of the revolution in consciousness. Over the past few years, geneticists, neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists, anthropologists, and others have made great strides in understanding the building blocks of human flourishing. And a core finding of their work is that we are not primarily products of our conscious thinking. We are primarily the products of thinking that happens below the level of awareness.

Too much takes place in the mind for us to be fully aware of it. Timothy Wilson of the University of Virginia estimates that the human mind can absorb 11 million pieces of information at any given moment. We can be conscious of only a tiny fraction of this. Most of what is going on mentally lies below the threshold of awareness.

One result of the new neuroscience is that we are becoming aware of the hugely significant part played by emotion in decision-making. The French Enlightenment emphasized the role of reason and regarded emotion as a distraction and distortion. We now know scientifically how wrong this is.

Antonio Damasio, in his Descartes’ Error , tells the story of a man who, as the result of a tumor, suffered damage to the frontal lobes of his brain. He had been known to have a high IQ, was well-informed, and had an excellent memory. But after surgery to remove the tumor, his life went into free-fall. He was unable to organize his time. He made bad investments that cost him his savings. He divorced his wife, married a second time, and rapidly divorced again. He could still reason perfectly but had lost the ability to feel emotion. As a result, he was unable to make sensible choices.

Another man with a similar injury found it impossible to make decisions at all. At the end of one session, Damasio suggested two possible dates for their next meeting. The man then took out a notebook, began listing the pros and cons of each, talked about possible weather conditions, potential conflicts with other engagements and so on, for half an hour, until Damasio finally interrupted him, and made the decision for him. The man immediately said, “That’s fine,” and went away.

It is less reason than emotion that lies behind our choices, and it takes emotional intelligence to make good choices. The problem is that much of our emotional life lies beneath the surface of the conscious mind.

That, as we can now see, is the logic of the chukim , the “statutes” of Judaism, the laws that seem to make no sense in terms of rationality. These are laws like the prohibition of sowing mixed seeds together ( kelayim ); of wearing cloth of mixed wool and linen ( shaatnez ); and of eating milk and meat together. The law of the Red Heifer with which our parsha begins, is described as the chok par excellence. As it is written:

“This is the statute of the Torah” (Num. 19:2).

There have been many interpretations of the chukim throughout the ages. But in the light of recent neuroscience, we can suggest that they are laws designed to bypass the prefrontal cortex, the rational brain, and create instinctive patterns of behavior to counteract some of the darker emotional drives at work in the human mind.

We know for example – Jared Diamond has chronicled this in his book Collapse – that wherever humans have settled throughout history they have left behind them a trail of environmental disaster, wiping out whole species of animals and birds, destroying forests, damaging the soil by over-farming and so on.

The prohibitions against sowing mixed seeds, mixing meat and milk, combining wool and linen, and so on, create an instinctual respect for the integrity of nature. They establish boundaries. They set limits. They inculcate the feeling that we may not treat our animal and plant environment however we wish. Some things are forbidden – like the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden. The whole Eden story, set at the dawn of human history, is a parable whose message we can understand today better than any previous generation: Without a sense of limits, we will destroy our ecology and discover that we have lost paradise.

As for the ritual of the Red Heifer, this is directed at the most destructive pre-rational instinct of all: what Sigmund Freud called thanatos , the death instinct. He described it as something “more primitive, more elementary, more instinctual than the pleasure principle which it over-rides.” In his essay Civilization and Its Discontents , he wrote that “a portion of the [death] instinct is diverted towards the external world and comes to light as an instinct of aggressiveness,” which he saw as “the greatest impediment to civilization.”

The Red Heifer ritual is a powerful statement that the holy is to be found in life, not death. Anyone who had been in contact with a dead body needed purification before entering the sanctuary or Temple. Priests had to obey stricter rules, and the High Priest even more so.

This made biblical Judaism highly distinctive. It contains no cult of worship of dead ancestors, or seeking to make contact with their spirits. It was probably to avoid the tomb of Moses becoming a holy site that the Torah says, “to this day no one knows where his grave is” (Deut. 34:6). G-d and the holy are to be found in life. Death defiles.

The point is – and that is what recent neuroscience has made eminently clear – this cannot be achieved by reason alone. Freud was right to suggest that the death instinct is powerful, irrational, and largely unconscious, yet under certain conditions it can be utterly devastating in what it leads people to do.

The Hebrew term chok comes from the verb meaning, “to engrave.” Just as a statute is carved into stone, so a behavioral habit is carved in depth into our unconscious mind and alters our instinctual responses. The result is a personality trained to see death and holiness as two utterly opposed states – just as meat (death) and milk (life) are.

Chukim are Judaism’s way of training us in emotional intelligence, above all a conditioning in associating holiness with life, and defilement with death. It is fascinating to see how this has been vindicated by modern neuroscience.

Rationality, vitally important in its own right, is only half the story of why we are as we are. We will need to shape and control the other half if we are successfully to conquer the instinct to aggression, violence, and death that lurks not far beneath the surface of the conscious mind.

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The Concept of Peace in Christianity

From the book the concept of peace in judaism, christianity and islam.

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The Concept of Peace in Judaism, Christianity and Islam

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The Personal Statement Topics Ivy League Hopefuls Should Avoid

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Yale University

A compelling personal statement is a critical component of an Ivy League application, as it offers students the unique opportunity to showcase their personality, experiences, and aspirations. Kickstarting the writing process in the summer can give students a critical advantage in the admissions process, allowing them more time to brainstorm, edit, and polish standout essays. However, as students begin drafting their essays this summer, they should bear in mind that selecting the right topic is crucial to writing a successful essay. Particularly for students with Ivy League aspirations, submitting an essay that is cliche, unoriginal, or inauthentic can make the difference between standing out to admissions officers or blending into the sea of other applicants.

As ambitious students embark on the college application process, here are the personal statement topics they should avoid:

1. The Trauma Dump

Many students overcome significant hurdles by the time they begin the college application process, and some assume that the grisliest and most traumatic stories will attract attention and sympathy from admissions committees. While vulnerability can be powerful, sharing overly personal or sensitive information can make readers uncomfortable and shift focus away from a student’s unique strengths. Students should embrace authenticity and be honest about the struggles they have faced on their path to college, while still recognizing that the personal statement is a professional piece of writing, not a diary entry. Students should first consider why they want to share a particular tragic or traumatic experience and how that story might lend insight into the kind of student and community member they will be on campus. As a general rule, if the story will truly enrich the admissions committee’s understanding of their candidacy, students should thoughtfully include it; if it is a means of proving that they are more deserving or seeking to engender pity, students should consider selecting a different topic. Students should adopt a similar, critical approach as they write about difficult or sensitive topics in their supplemental essays, excluding unnecessary detail and focusing on how the experience shaped who they are today.

2. The Travelogue

Travel experiences can be enriching, but essays that merely recount a trip to a foreign country without deeper reflection often fall flat. Additionally, travel stories can often unintentionally convey white saviorism , particularly if students are recounting experiences from their charity work or mission trips in a foreign place. If a student does wish to write about an experience from their travels, they should prioritize depth not breadth—the personal statement is not the place to detail an entire itinerary or document every aspect of a trip. Instead, students should focus on one specific and meaningful experience from their travels with vivid detail and creative storytelling, expounding on how the event changed their worldview, instilled new values, or inspired their future goals.

3. The Superhero Narrative

Ivy League and other top colleges are looking for students who are introspective and teachable—no applicant is perfect (admissions officers know this!). Therefore, it’s crucial that students be aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and open about the areas in which they hope to grow. They should avoid grandiose narratives in which they cast themselves as flawless heroes. While students should seek to put their best foot forward, depicting themselves as protagonists who single-handedly resolve complex issues can make them appear exaggerated and lacking in humility. For instance, rather than telling the story about being the sole onlooker to stand up for a peer being bullied at the lunch table, perhaps a student could share about an experience that emboldened them to advocate for themselves and others. Doing so will add dimension and dynamism to their essay, rather than convey a static story of heroism.

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Best 5% interest savings accounts of 2024, 4. the plan for world peace.

Similarly, many students feel compelled to declare their intention to solve global issues like world hunger or climate change. While noble, these proclamations can come across as unrealistic and insincere, and they can distract from the tangible achievements and experiences that a student brings to the table. Instead, applicants should focus on demonstrable steps they’ve taken or plan to take within their local community to enact positive change, demonstrating their commitment and practical approach to making a difference. For instance, instead of stating a desire to eradicate poverty, students could describe their extended involvement in a local charity and how it has helped them to discover their values and actualize their passions.

5. The Sports Story

While sports can teach valuable lessons, essays that focus solely on athletic achievements or the importance of a particular game can be overdone and lack depth. Admissions officers have read countless essays about students scoring the winning goal, dealing with the hardship of an injury, or learning teamwork from sports. Students should keep in mind that the personal essay should relay a story that only they can tell—perhaps a student has a particularly unique story about bringing competitive pickleball to their high school and uniting unlikely friend groups or starting a community initiative to repair and donate golf gear for students who couldn’t otherwise afford to play. However, if their sports-related essay could have been written by any high school point guard or soccer team captain, it’s time to brainstorm new ideas.

6. The Pick-Me Monologue

Students may feel the need to list their accomplishments and standout qualities in an effort to appear impressive to Ivy League admissions officers. This removes any depth, introspection, and creativity from a student’s essay and flattens their experiences to line items on a resume. Admissions officers already have students’ Activities Lists and resumes; the personal statement should add texture and dimension to their applications, revealing aspects of their character, values and voice not otherwise obvious through the quantitative aspects of their applications. Instead of listing all of their extracurricular involvements, students should identify a particularly meaningful encounter or event they experienced through one of the activities that matters most to them, and reflect on the ways in which their participation impacted their development as a student and person.

7. The Pandemic Sob Story

The Covid-19 pandemic was a traumatic and formative experience for many students, and it is therefore understandable that applicants draw inspiration from these transformative years as they choose their essay topics. However, while the pandemic affected individuals differently, an essay about the difficulties faced during this time will likely come across as unoriginal and generic. Admissions officers have likely read hundreds of essays about remote learning challenges, social isolation, and the general disruptions caused by Covid-19. These narratives can start to blend together, making it difficult for any single essay to stand out. Instead of centering the essay on the pandemic's challenges, students should consider how they adapted, grew, or made a positive impact during this time. For example, rather than writing about the difficulties of remote learning, a student could describe how they created a virtual study group to support classmates struggling with online classes. Similarly, an applicant might write about developing a new skill such as coding or painting during lockdown and how this pursuit has influenced their academic or career goals. Focusing on resilience, innovation, and personal development can make for a more compelling narrative.

Crafting a standout personal statement requires dedicated time, careful thought, and honest reflection. The most impactful essays are those that toe the lines between vulnerability and professionalism, introspection and action, championing one’s strengths and acknowledging weaknesses. Starting early and striving to avoid overused and unoriginal topics will level up a student’s essay and increase their chances of standing out.

Christopher Rim

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Israeli General Denounces Jewish Settler Violence in West Bank

Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuks, the outgoing chief of Israel’s Central Command, rebuked the Israeli government’s policies in the West Bank and condemned “nationalist crime” by Jewish settlers.

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By Ephrat Livni

  • July 9, 2024

Amid rising tensions between Jewish settlers and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and new moves by the Israeli government to expand its hold on the territory, an Israeli general on Monday issued a harsh rebuke of the government’s policies there and condemned rising “nationalist crime” by Jewish settlers.

Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuks, the outgoing chief of Israel’s Central Command, which is responsible for the country’s military forces in the West Bank, said at a departure ceremony that a “strong and functioning” Palestinian Authority was in Israel’s security interest.

The general’s statement appeared to be a swipe at Israel’s far-right finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, who is himself a settler and who has been crippling the authority by withholding tax funds that Israel collects on its behalf in the roughly 40 percent of the West Bank that the authority administers.

General Fuks also expressed dismay over an increase in settler violence in the West Bank, which is home to about 2.7 million Palestinians and a Jewish settler population that has grown to well over 500,000. An extremist minority of violent settlers, he said, had been undermining Israel’s reputation internationally and sowing fear among Palestinians. “That, to me, is not Judaism,” he said. “At least not what I was raised on in my father’s and mother’s home. That is not the way of the Torah.”

Israel seized control of the West Bank from Jordan in 1967 during a war with three Arab states, and Israeli civilians have since settled there with both the tacit and explicit approval of the government, living under Israeli civil law while their Palestinian neighbors are subject to Israeli military law.

The international community largely views Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal, and many of them are illegal under Israeli law but are tolerated by the government. Many outposts that began as illegal under Israeli law have subsequently been legitimized by the government, and Palestinians have long argued that they are a creeping annexation that turns land needed for any independent Palestinian state into an unmanageable patchwork.

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How to raise the world’s IQ

judaism peace essay

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Letters to the editor

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The American election

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SCOTUS and presidential immunity

Justice Sotomayor was right for the wrong reasons

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Food for thought

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The French parliamentary election

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Poll post-mortem

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The comeback kidder

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