Shema Yisrael – ‘The Lord is One’

Hamishi, 17 Nisan 5774 Jerusalem 2nd day of Omer

Since we are in the holiday of Passover, which marks the connection of God and Israel at the Exodus, I want to ask the question: What do we mean when we say twice every day: Shema Yisrael – Hear Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord is One?

For me it means two basic things. That God is running the world, and that I commit myself to doing what He or She wants by committing myself to keep all the commandments I can, down to the details of the halacha.

Some people think that the point of this verse, and the advance of Abraham, was what is called monotheism; that there is one God and not many. But it seems that that view is wrong. Many people knew that before Abraham. The advance of  Abraham was not a logical insight, but that he came to know who this One God is.

The advance of Abraham was to know that the God who made Nature is the same God who is still Nurturing it. That the world is being guided by One who cares for its development, and who leaves things undone to let us help complete them.

This is not something so clear. If it was obvious, like saying “milk is white”, we would not have to remind ourselves of it morning and evening.

It is possible to be an observant Jew without being a religious Jew. But it is not possible to be a truly religious Jew without being an observant Jew. A religious Jew means one is aware of God. An observant Jew means one keeps the laws.

Abraham and our other patriarchs and matriarchs set up a people with certain character traits blended together. By fulfilling the laws of the Torah, we exhibit those traits.

The Exodus was an demonstration, to Israel and the World, that the One who Nurtures is the One who Natures. Our task is to keep that faith, even when it is less obvious to us.

What do you think when you say Shema Yisrael?

Happy Passover! and may we pass over to higher inspiration living.




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