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Thought for the Day: Grand Philosophic Ideals and Tiny Essential Practices

If there is one verse in the Torah that every Jew knows, it is "Sh'ma Yisrael, HaShem Elokeinu, HaShem Echad"/Harken Israel! the HaShem is our G-d, the HaShem is One.  It is the first statement at the beginning of life, and the the last statement on leaving this life.  What may not be quite so well known, however, is that whenever making this formal declaration it must be followed by "baruch sheim kavod malchuso l'olam va'ed"/Blessed be the glorious name of His sovereignty  for ever and ever.  Why is that?

To answer that, we first need to address a more basic question: what does "HaShem is One" mean?  It cannot possibly mean that there is only one HaShem, as is commonly mistranslated in christian, reform jewish, and other off shoots (and rebellions against) Torah Judaism. It can't possibly mean that for a very simple reason; namely, HaShem is a proper name (well, the nickname we use outside the Beis haMikdash, may it be rebuilt soon and in our days).  There is only one King Henry VIII and only one Michael Allen (yes, yes, I know... you are thinking Baruch HaShem, Hodu la'Shem ki tov, ki l'olam chasdo for that).

The declaration that HaShem is one means that "ein od milvado" -- there is nothing besides Him.  Not just everything in the universe, but the universe itself.  He does not exist forever, forever exists by His Will.  He is not good, not perfect; goodness and perfection are themselves creations of (you guessed it) Him.  That is a very, very grand philosophical idea (philosophy, logic, and ideas also being His creations, of course).  One cannot possibly get one's mind around that.  So what can we do?  We can choose to make every action -- no matter how seemingly tiny -- a reflection of that grand idea; "baruch sheim kavod malchuso l'olam va'ed".  That elevates each action to either an affirmation of "Sh'ma Yisrael" or a rebellion against HaShem.  You light Chanuka candles; baruch sheim kavod malchuso l'olam va'ed.  You fast on a "minor fast" like aseres b'teives, baruch sheim kavod malchuso l'olam va'ed.  And if you don't?  Then you are declaring that there is something outside of your version of god.  Not just "well... it's only d'rabanan", but straight out, head on, pedal to the metal avoda zara.

Oh yes.... you do need to sweat the little stuff.


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