Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: G-d Is One/Yisrael Is One -- He Is Our G-d/We are His Nation

In the Holy Tongue there is a critical difference between a king and a ruler.  Both have absolute control  over their populace; up to and including the right and power to decide life and death.  The difference is that a king rules by mandate of his nation.  On ראש השנה we make השם King.  That is accomplished by our declaration in the mussaf service of His Sovereignty -- using verses from Torah, Prophets, and Writings explicitly describing His Sovereignty, recalling the Beneficence of His Sovereignty, and our announcing His Sovereignty via shofar blast -- topped off with actual shofar blasts.  Very powerful and moving.

So powerful and moving, that it is easy to miss that in the middle of the whole ceremony -- the last verse that is supposed to be describing His Sovereignty, in fact -- is:
שמע ישראל, השם אלוקינו, השם אחד/Harken, Yisrael; HaShem is Our G-d, HaShem is One!
A lovely sentiment, of course, but what does it have to do with making Him King?  First of all, it doesn't mention anything about a king.  In fact, this name of G-d -- which emphasizes His trait of strict justice -- is more related to being a ruler than a king.  Second, what are we (i.e,. Yisrael) doing in there; isn't this supposed to be about G-d?  Third, who cares if He is our G-d, isn't He everyone's G-d?  Fourth: what's with this "One" thing?  (Ok, ok... that's only tangentially related; its really a question on this statement in general.)

Obviously there is no way to answer all those questions in a few lines.  However, one thing is clear: The fact that HaShem is אחד/One, is King, and is the G-d of Yisrael are really different aspects of one underlying principle.  As we express throughout our prayers, declarations, and recitals during these Days of Awe: the recognition of HaShem's Sovereignty is part and parcel of recognizing that He cares about and interacts with His creation.  Klal Yisrael, as the nation that accepted His Torah, are His ambassadors and the Beis HaMikdash is His consulate.

The Maharal brings an amazing gematria from the word אחד to show just how intermingled recognition of HaShem and His Sovereignty is with recognition of Klal Yisrael and their unique mission.  אחד consists of three letters that correspond to three groups of Jews: א (gematria 1) symbolizes sheivet Leivi, the tribe that is particularly responsible for spirituality.  ח (gematria 8) is the number of sh'vatim that come from the two imahos Rachel and Leah, and form the core of Klal Yisrael (part of why we are called "Jews", after Yehuda).  Finally, ד (gematria 4) is for the sh'vatim that are descended form the sh'fachos, Bilha and Zilpah.who form the outer guard of the nation.

Hmm... there's that four again, at the fringes...

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: Sometimes a Food Loses Its Identity When It Loses Its Bracha; Sometimes It Doesn't

Let's start with a question: Why are We Allowed to Drink Coffee and Whiskey Made by Non-Jews?  Before you ask,"Why would I think that I shouldn't be able to drink whiskey and coffee made by non-Jews?", I'll tell you. Simple, we all know that Chazal made a decree -- known as בישול עכו''ם/bishul akim -- that particular foods cooked by non-Jews are forbidden.  There are basically two criteria that determines if a dish falls into this category:
Is not consumed raw.Fit for a royal banquet. Cooked carrots, therefore, are not a problem since they can be eaten raw (I actually prefer them that way).  Baked beans are find because the are not prestigious enough.  (For great synopsis of the laws, see the article on the Star-K site, FOOD FIT FOR A KING, by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita.)  There are lots of cool questions and details (baked potatoes are prestigious, does that make even potato chips and issue?) which are for another time.  Clearly, though, both coffee an…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…