Skip to main content

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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…