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August 07, 1987 - Image 37

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-08-07

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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The Shema Is Source
of Jewish World View

RABBI RICHARD C. HERTZ

Special to The Jewish News

N

o single sentence of
six words has exerted
greater influence on
the thinking of the Jewish pe-
ple than the Shema. Record-
ed in this week's sidrah, the
Shema became the rallying
cry for a hundred generations
of Israel, welding them
together as one people. It was
the watchword of thousands
of medieval martyrs who died
as kiddush Hashem, as a
sanctification of God's name,
rather than submit to bestial
inhumanities and demands to
convert, all done in the name
of Calvary.
Century after century, the
Shema epitomized the
essence of Israel's faith. On
the doorposts of Jewish
households, in the
phylacteries of the pious
observant Jew, these precious

Shabbat Nachamu
Vaetchanan:
Deuteronomy
3:23-7:11,
Isaiah 40:1-26

six words were inscribed for
blessing. The Shema became
the first prayer that a Jewish
child repeated at bedtime. It
was the last utterance breath-
ed by the dying Jew.
Why has the Shema oc-
cupied such a central place in
Judaism? Three central ideas
emerge from this simple
sentence.
Hear 0 Israel: This declara-
tion of faith is directed not
merely to the individual
alone but to the Jewish peo-
ple. Quite properly so, for the
center of gravity in Judaism
is the Jewish people. Not that
Judaism ignores the in-
dividual or his personal
spiritual requirements. But
Judaism stresses the well-
being of society as the chief
goal of all moral striving and
aims at the perfectability of
the entire human family.
Integrated with the life of
the people, Judaism know s no
flight from life, as does Bud-
dhism. Therefore it is not suf-
ficient in the theology of
Judaism to merely have the
individual assume a declara-
tion of faith. The body of the
Jewish people must also enter

_

Dr. Hertz is rabbi emeritus of
Temple Beth El.

into the commitment of faith
centered in the Shema, for
the unique quality of
Judaism is that it is a religion
plus — and the plus quality is
the Jewish people united
together the world over in
reciting the Shema.

The Lord Is Our God:
Historically considered, this
is basic to the development of
Jewish belief. Ages ago, our
forefathers, perplexed by the
mysteries of the universe, re-
jected the nature gods
venerated by pagans.
That was a great step for-
ward over the pagan animism
and totemism of those times.
But nowadays, our world is
also troubled by those who
seek to make false gods. The
demands of world conditions
now cause many to deify the
state, glorify its power and
magnify its virtues.
Others set up power and
evaluate all things in terms of
the economic or political
power that can be wielded
over men and events.
The Lord Is One. By saying
echad, one, and emphasizing
monotheism, the Shema re-
jects dualism, the philosophy
stemming from Persian
Zoroastrianism which main-
tains that two rival powers of
light and darkness are in
perpetual conflict, good and
evil are in unremitting ten-
sion for mastery over the
universe and over man.
Judaism maintains that the
universe, with all its conflic-
ting forces, is marvelously
harmonized, with man striv-
ing to perfect himself in the
constant quest for
satisfactions.
Likewise, the Shema ex-
cludes the trinity of the
Christian creed as a violation
of the unity of God. Judaism
recognizes no .intermediary
between God and man and
maintains that prayer is to be
directed to God alone and to
no other being. What
perplexes thinking Chris-
tians is that Jesus himself
subscribed to this belief, for
the Gospel of Mark records
the anwer that Jesus made to
a scribe when asked: "What
is the first of all the com-
mandments?" Jesus replied,
good Jew that he was: "Hear,
0 Israel, the Lord our God the
Lord is One . ."
The belief in the unity of
the human race is the natural
corollary to the unity of God,
for if God is one, He is God of
all humanity, Father of all
men — and all men are
brothers.

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

37

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