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How Great Jazz Artists Express a Peculiar Kind of Hebrew Happiness


Hashlamah is a Hebrew word for which there’s no direct English translation. It comes from the same root as the words for peace (shalom) and complete (shalem). It has connotations of acceptance, reconciliation, wholeness, “coming to terms.”

Clearly, hashlamah is a good and desirable state to be in. But it’s more complex than happiness and harder to come by; it implies a culmination of processes. I’ve been fortunate to be feeling hashlamah for a few years, but it took decades to get there; it’s something earned. If there aren’t rocks in the road to it, it’s not hashlamah.

Since hashlamah is a subtle quality, not surprisingly it can be well expressed—maybe best expressed—in music. I would say that Beethoven in his late period was a hashlamah master. The quality is also very powerfully present in some Bruckner adagios. Some great jazz artists, too, have captured hashlamah in short, affecting works.