- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On August 16, 2019
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, our weekly reflection as we make our way toward Shabbat.
When you were younger did you learn that the Sh’ma is the “watchword of our faith?” Taken from this week’s Torah portion in Deuteronomy (6:4) and utilized in the liturgical context, it is a declaration and an instruction combined. But what do these six words even mean?
We have said and sung them so many times that we might have become inured to the significance of their meaning. So, let’s take it apart. The 15th/16th century Italian Biblical commentator Ovadiah ben Jacob Sforno lifted its significance and offered deeper meaning as presented here:
Sh’ma Yisrael, Listen Israel, with your open mind.
Adonai, God is the one who is responsible for the existence of a physical universe and our globe, the only part of it on which physical life exists.
Eloheinu, our God is the choicest of all the abstract forces assigned to supervise the conduct of all human beings, and even inert creatures. From God we yearn for assistance in helping us to achieve our purpose on earth. We do not turn to any intermediary. To God, we offer prayer.
Adonai Echad, God is one. Seeing that God created all phenomena in this universe, celestial or terrestrial out of a total void, it is logically impossible for there to be another phenomenon representing an existence independent of God. It also makes God basically different, unique, for all things created by God are by definition potentially terminal, transient existences. God is absolutely unique in the world…
Sforno and other commentators recognize the centrality of the Divine in the expression of faith. For many of us, it is difficult to acknowledge God let alone describe or pray to God. And yet, in every service, we recite these words. Their meaning washes over us and sometimes moves through us. Gaining awareness that there may be more to the universe than us as mere mortals places our existence in a grander context. We are but one piece of a much larger universe. And yet, within the world of the sacred, we, too, have the potential for great impact.
Let us continue to offer this Biblical verse as part of our liturgy as we watch each word emerge from our lips quietly and in a whisper to remind ourselves that faith is as accessible as these six important words we offer in prayer.
Sh’ma Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad
We are OUTSIDE tonight at 6:00 p.m. for Qabbalat Shabbat. If you are unable to join us, please live stream HERE. Tomorrow, Torah Study begins at 9:00 a.m. with a short service.
What does the Sh’ma evoke for you? Connect with me HERE.