Talk the Talk and Walk the Walk

Thursday, 18 July, 2013 - 3:22 pm

The passage of the Shema appears in this week’s Torah portion. Shema is the dramatic declaration of G-d’s unity. We proclaim the Shema twice daily as well as at the height of our devotion on Shabbat when the Torah is taken from the ark, and at the climax of Yom Kippur before sounding the Shofar.

The commentators question a word choice in the Shema. If our intent is to declare G-d’s absolute unity then the term Yachid (singular or lone) would be better than Echad (one). Echad implies the possibility of there being a “two” or second, whereas Yachid leaves no room for mistake - G-d is the only one. Why does the Torah use the term Echad and not Yachid?

One of the answers is that Echad empowers us to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. To explain, the word Echad is made up of three Hebrew letters, Alef, Chet, Daled. Alef has the numerical value of the number one. Chet equals eight and Daled equals four. One represents G-d. Eight represents the heavens and earth (Midrash and Kabbala talk about seven heavens). Four represents the directions on the compass. What Echad is teaching us is that the Chet and the Daled (all of spiritual and physical existence) is really a part of the Alef – the one G-d.

If we used the term Yachid, then when a person is faced with the dilemma, where the world around him seems to challenge G-d’s absolute unity he may not have the fortitude to maintain his faith. Whereas the term Echad tells him, “the world that you see, which appears to contradict G-d’s unity, is really just a part of His divine reality. The proof is in the letters of Echad. The Chet and the Daled (spiritual and physical existence) are all just a part of the Aleph.”

As long as a Jew is in Shul, at the Shabbat table, or involved in Torah, Yachid is compelling enough for there is nothing else but G-d to consider. However as soon as the Jew steps out into the “real world” where he is confronted with “alternatives” the Echad reminds him that everything is merely a part of the Aleph. In this way we can not only talk the talk of Shema but we can also walk the walk. We look at the diversity of creation, the plurality of existence, and we know with determination that it is all a part of the Aleph. There is nothing but Hashem.

A person armed with this idea is empowered to confront and overcome any challenge that appears to be in the way of true dedication and faith in Hashem.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


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