V’dirshu et shalom ha’ir – Seek the peace of the city

Music and audio © 1 May 2023 Alexander Massey

“Seek the peace—the shalom—of the city, and pray to God for it:
for in its peace, you shall all have peace.” (Jer. 29:7)

This is a song that I wrote on the occasion of the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla. I gave its first performance on Sunday, 7 May 2023, at the ‘Coronation Big Lunch’, an Oxford Interfaith Community Lunch with the High Sheriff and Deputy Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, the Chair of Oxfordshire County Council, and the Lord Mayor of Oxford present, as well as representatives from many faith communities.

After singing my Oneg Nigun, I then spoke to the guests:

“Hello everyone – that was ‘Oneg Nigun’, which means ‘Song of Joy’. I am honoured as a British Jew to be invited to play a role in this joyful celebration of our new king and queen.

Like perhaps many of us, I was in front of the television yesterday, watching the Coronation. There was a beautiful line in what was called ‘the King’s Prayer’, drawing from our book of Proverbs (3:17): “Grant that I may be a blessing to all thy children, of every faith and conviction, that together we may discover the ways of gentleness and be led into the paths of peace.”

In Hebrew, the word ‘peace’ is shalom­. The first letter of shalom is shin, which, for us, represents fire, and the final letter is mem, which represents water. Shalom, the Hebrew concept of peace, represents the reconciliation of opposites, the harmonious balancing of diverse and sometimes apparently incompatible elements.

King Charles has said that he feels a deep “duty to protect the diversity of the country, including by protecting the space for faith itself and its practice through the religions, cultures, traditions and beliefs to which our hearts and minds direct us as individuals.” I am grateful for the aspirations, expressed by our King, and enshrined in law, to protect all of us in this country with shalom – and to extend the hand of shalom across the world.

Weekly Jewish services include prayers for the community, for the nation, for the world, for our leaders, and for our King. We are guided to do this from a verse in the book of our prophet Jeremiah (29:7): “Seek the peace—the shalom—of the city, and pray to God for it: for in its peace, you shall all have peace.”

In honour of this occasion, I have composed a song to these words in the original Hebrew. You’ll hear the tune is in two halves, with different moods. The first half is about the search for shalom, and the second half expresses the feeling of when shalom is present.

(I then sang my setting of V’dirshu et shalom ha’ir).