A Credo to Live By

Jul 21, 2015

This portion contains one of the most significant passages in all the Torah: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord in One.” (6:4) This declaration of faith, known as the Shema, has served as the deathbed statement of many a persecuted Jew throughout the centuries. The entire passage emphasizes the importance of our faith in the One True God.


Here, Moses instructs the people to love God with all their hearts, all their souls and all their possessions. They should keep these words close to their hearts, teach them to their children, bind them upon their arms and between their eyes, and post them on their doorposts. In fact, these words appear in the phylacteries that Jews tie upon their arms and heads for morning prayers and in the mezzuzahs hung on Jewish doors worldwide.


In declaring that God is One, there lies a special message. The Israel Bible explains that using the time-honored Jewish tradition of gematriya, where each Hebrew letter is transposed by a number, the value of the word echad, or one, is 13, equal to that of the word ahava, meaning love. Thus, we are reminded that the single greatest love in the world is the love of the One and Only God for mankind.


When they enter the land, Moses tells the Israelites, they will be inheriting homes they did not build, fields they did not plant and cisterns they did not dig. He warns them not to forget the source of all this bounty — God. He is the one that took them out of bondage in Egypt and is bringing them to the land of plenty. One day, Moses says, their children will ask them why they keep the Torah. He tells them to answer it is for the sake of God Who brought the Israelites out of Egypt to serve Him that they do these things.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think this declaration of faith must be kept on the arm, forehead and doorpost specifically? What is their significance?

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