Day 44--The Shema--"Reaching the Impossible" Deuteronomy 5 - 8
February 13, 2021, 6:31 AM

Day 44—The Shema—“Reaching the Impossible’ Deuteronomy 5:1 – 8:20

The Shema, which includes the verses from Deuteronomy 6: 4-9, is the most important prayer said by Jewish people. It is the central statement of belief. It even outlines how to teach children these same essential truths—that there is only one God, that you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your might. Perhaps these sound familiar since another famous Jew quoted these very words in the gospels?

Give up? Jesus said them in the gospel of Mark, chapter 12 when he is teaching his disciples. Bu why is it important? Because it distinguishes the ONE God who loves us, rules over us and asks only for our love and our obedience in return. Jesus re-taught us that these important verses, which span the distance from the Old Testament to the New Testament, from the Hebrew Scriptures through the Christian scriptures, unite us around a central command from God. This becomes an important part of our tradition because, for Christians, God IS one, and yet God is three in one: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Nope. Not going to go into that here. We’ll save it for later on.) And for that, we receive everything, everything we can see or think of. One Jewish writer said this:

The idea that "G‑d is One" means not only that there is one G‑d, but that G‑d and the whole of creation are actually one. There is nothing apart from G‑d. Nothing exists outside of Him; everything that we perceive, every particle of existence, is nothing but a veiled manifestation of G‑d. For this reason, everything in the universe is totally dependent on G‑d at every moment. G‑d created the universe a long time ago, but He also perpetually recreates its existence. The Sages speak of a stream of energy emanating from the infinite essence of G‑d, recreating the universe at every moment. Were He to remove this life-giving force, the universe and all therein would cease to exist

Did you read that? If we removed God from the universe, immediately everything would immediately cease to exist. God is the center, the creator, the life force. God is the energy, the breath of all life, the force within, behind and above the universe. And read this statement again: God perpetually recreates its [the universe’s] existence. God allows it to continue. You and I do not flip the switches that create, well, creation. We so rarely understand the balance of life as resting on God’s shoulders, and the gift of life as his constant grace to us.

When do Jews say the Shema? Every morning, every evening and just as they are about to sleep. It is uttered as the climax of the Yom Kippur service (the Day of Atonement), and it is hoped that these are the very last words a Jew says as he or she is dying. The Shema is written out on a tiny scroll, placed in a tiny tube called a mezuzah and tacked to the doorposts of the house. Jews traditionally kiss their hands and touch the mezuzah as they come in and as they go out of the house. The Shema is considered the great reminder of the great gift of God. (If you watch any of the Jewish miniseries on Netflix such as “Orthodox” or “Shtisel” you would see this tradition continually.)

You will also see Jewish men praying with phylacteries, tiny boxes strapped onto their foreheads and arms, swaying as they say daily prayers. When I traveled to Israel, all the Orthodox men wrapped these around their arms and forehead mid-flight, just as commanded in Deuteronomy 6:8, and said their prayers. Inside the phylacteries, the tiny boxes? The Shema.

The verses we hear today are part of the entire shema, but the most important verse “Hear, O Israel, the LORD is our God. The LORD,” is being spoken just before they enter the land that God has given them after 40 years of wandering. Moses, in this fifth and final book of the Torah, is giving them the ultimate refresher course before the test of living as a new nation, chosen and formed by God, becomes real. Will God remain the center of their lives? Will the people continue to be faithful to worship and to honoring God? Free will, my friends, free will. Some will and some won’t.  

But hear another verse from today in chapter 8, and see if this is familiar to you as well: “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” Moses wanted to remind the people that without God, they would have suffered and died. Incredibly it also says that their clothes did not wear out, their feet did not swell in the desert. And they were never hungry.

Jesus spoke these words to the devil in the midst of his own 40 day desert wilderness in Matthew 4:4. The devil tempted Jesus, saying “If you are the Son of Go, turn these stones into bread.” Jesus recites verses to Satan—how great is memorization when you find yourself in a tough spot?—that he would have known since he was a child, taught by his parents, his teachers, his neighbors. The wilderness only helped to reinforce the truths that Jesus already knew, that Jesus embodied, that he came to re-teach to God’s people. And in the process, we were ALL chosen.

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Hopefully this is making important connections for you between the Old and New Testaments. Too often we think of the Old Testament, as, well, old and possibly irrelevant. It is impossible to understand the New Testament without the Old Testament. It is impossible to know who Jesus is without knowing the bible that he read, which is the Old Testament. So pleased we are on this journey together.

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,

ML

 

 

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