By Joy Scott, Am Haskalah Congregant This week’s Torah Parsha (BO) continues with the story of Exodus. God had already inflicted seven devastating plagues on Egypt, subsequent to the Pharaoh’s...
The heart of our worship service is our declaration of love and loyalty to the one and unique G-D – – -the prayer that we know as ‘SHEMA’. The first six words are deeply embedded in every Jew’s soul – ‘Here O’ Israel, the Eternal is our G-d; the eternal is one. (1).
There are multiple translations for the Hebrew word ‘Shema’: listen, hear, obey, and understand. This is of the highest possible significance. G-D want us to understand the laws he has commanded; He wants us to reflect on the rationale for the laws, to seek understanding, to internalize and to respond. If we want G-D to listen to us, we have to be prepared to listen to Him.
In the second paragraph of the three parts of the ‘Shema’, Moses describes the land that they are about to enter as “flowing with milk and honey”, blessed with barley, grapevine, figs, pomegranates, olive oil, and dates.
The worst thing that could happen, warned Moses would be that the Israelis forget how they came to this land; how it was promised to their ancestors; and, had taken them from slavery to freedom. This was a revolutionary idea, that the nation’s history be engraved on people’s souls; that it was to be re-enacted in the nation…a nation, which should NEVER attribute its achievements to itself- – – but, should always ascribe its victories…indeed its very existence….to something higher than itself: to G-D (2).
The Israelis begin to question as to how they can sustain G-D’s gift from season to season. Moses responded that the material comfort and abundance will not end; rather it will always be there to enable the Israeli’s to continue applying themselves to G-d. Once this stops, and the people feel they are due these gifts, G-D will put a sudden halt to it. From G-d’s perspective, he wants the Israelis to continue studying the Torah, observing Shabbot and all other holidays, and adhering to his commandments.
Of course we speculate that there is ‘Olam Ha’bach (after-life), that awaits us with its eternal reward; and, that every mitzvah that we perform in this life accrues for us dividends in the next world (3).
G-d’s gifts, miracles and his focus on justice, kindness and compassion are the blessings which bind us as a Jewish people.
(1) Jewish Reconstructionist Communities
(2) Rabbi Yhoshua, alumnus of the Yeshiva of Greater Washington; Yeshiva Torash Moshe, and Yeshiva Mir-Jerusalem (aish.com)
(3) Lord Rabbi Sacks, emeritis, chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation of the British Commonwealth.
Analysis and Composition: Joy Scott (Am Haskalah)