July 24, 2024

How the Mitzvah of Shalom Bayit Makes Jewish Communities a Better Place

Woman with Two Children Volunteering at Pantry Packers

The sayings ‘happy wife, happy life’ and ‘happy spouse, happy house’ aren’t just popular because they rhyme. Both recognize a fact of life under Jewish principles – which we refer to in Hebrew as the mitzvah of shalom bayit. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, this article will serve as an introduction. Keep reading to learn what shalom bayit means, why the domestic harmony it promotes is so important, and how it enables the fulfillment of commandments.

Defining Shalom Bayit

Shalom bayit is a Hebrew phrase that literally translates to “peace in the home”. One of many examples of communal responsibility in Jewish values, it underscores the importance of maintaining harmony, respect, and tranquility within the family and household. Mitzvah means ‘commandment’ in Hebrew and often precedes shalom bayit because the home is where our fulfillment of such sacred duties starts.

Chabad rebbes tend to focus on the relationship between husband and wife when teaching this principle. That union is indeed incredibly powerful – capable of defining the environment in which children are raised. However, Chabad leaders have also said that shalom bayit can encompass entire family units as well. Brothers and sisters, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and even extended relatives have a stake in Jewish family support networks.

The Full Meaning of Shalom Bayit

The structure of the term itself says everything we need to know about shalom bayit’s core meaning. Shalom comes from the word ‘shalem,’ which means whole. Bayit means home. When you put them together, the implication is that peace or wholeness in the home is the ultimate achievement. This ritual, or way of life, can extend to members of community synagogues in the form of hospitality (hachnasat orchim). We are ultimately all encouraged to notice the good and embrace the meaning of charity within others and ourselves. 

Where Does Shalom Bayit Come From?

The value of domestic harmony has been recognized since the beginning of Jewish history. It’s hard to pinpoint an exact time or place in which the term was coined – although we know the concept of shalom bayit has deep roots in Jewish scripture and tradition. The Torah, the foundational text of Judaism, contains numerous passages that highlight the importance of maintaining peace and harmony within the family unit.

In the book of Genesis, we see the story of Abraham and Sarah, who are praised for their hospitality and their efforts to create a peaceful household. Similarly, the biblical figure of Rebecca is commended for her wisdom and her ability to maintain harmony among her family members.

Throughout Jewish history, prominent rabbis and scholars have expounded on the significance of shalom bayit. The term is often used when discussing the entire Jewish diaspora, as a small sanctuary (mikdash me’at) is sometimes all Jewish families have in their part of the world. 

Why Shalom Bayit Matters

A society based on empathy and compassion (kiddush hashem), trust (bitachon), humility (anavah), justice (tzedek), and human dignity (kavod habriyot) thrives through the tangible and psychological benefits of doing good. By cultivating shalom bayit, we create a model for living harmoniously with others and building the world with kindness. That’s the underlying maxim of our faith – repairing the world (tikkun olam) knowing that when all Israelis support one another (Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh), everyone lives a happy life. 

How Other Jewish Values Work Alongside Shalom Bayit

Peace and harmony within the household are just the beginning of what the teachings of the Chabad movement promote. Community is incredibly important in Judaism – evident not just through charitable holidays on the Jewish calendar like Passover, which has many altruistic traditions, but also in everyday work and service.

These traditions have evolved with modern giving. For example, pe’ah (corners) is a charity tradition that originates from farmers’ practice of saving a portion of their harvest for the hungry. We now feed and protect the poor by donating to organizations that fight food insecurity. There are plenty of Jewish charities to support and other causes as well, such as:

Embracing Jewish Tradition In More Ways Than One

The Eight Degrees of Giving show us that one-time donations on Chanukah aren’t the only way we can make a difference. Consistent, meaningful contributions are crucial for creating lasting change. This could mean setting up recurring donations of any amount, signing up to volunteer our time and skills, or using our influence to raise awareness about important issues. Shalom bayit can similarly be practiced in our daily lives through small acts of loving-kindness and respect, from offering prayers and blessings for others to expressing gratitude, offering words of encouragement, or simply lending a listening ear.

Promote Israel’s Domestic Harmony Through Colel Chabad

Founded over 230 years ago, Colel Chabad is as old as the history of Israeli charity itself. We’re made up of everyday male and female philanthropists who use donations to provide essential services to the country’s most vulnerable populations. Our programs bring shalom bayit to every corner of Israel and include:

Big Brother/Big Sister

Peace at home can only be created when the right people are present. That’s why the Big Brother/Big Sister program pairs vulnerable youth with responsible mentors in their community.

Retreats for Widows

Colel Chabad’s retreats for widows are an invaluable source of support for women who have seen their domestic harmony disrupted by death. This program helps offer support for the mourning (Chesed Shel Emes) for women and children to heal. Over 300 young widows have been able to rebuild their lives and maintain a sense of stability for themselves and their children in the last few years.

Daycare Centers

Our daycare centers provide a safe, nurturing environment for children while their parents work to support the family. By offering quality childcare, we enable parents to pursue employment opportunities and improve their financial situation, ultimately contributing to greater harmony at home.

Make an Impact, Help Those in Need

The impact you can have by donating to Jewish non-profits is great. The impact you can have by getting involved with an organization as large as Colel Chabad is even greater. Our work for those in crisis is now more important than ever before. Help us support those in need, make an online donation today.


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