Copy Right 2022

Rabbi Dr Zvi Aviner


  The Meaning  of Oneness


Know your CREATOR, know yourself, and know the Difference




One of the most basic dicta of our faith is that

not only G-d exists, but that He is One.

After all, our faith is MONOTHEISTIC.

But what exactly is the meaning of G-d’s Oneness?


In general, MONOTHEISM means – 

  1. ONE G-d
  2. G-d is ONE


The first cry is NUMERICAL – one G-d and no others.

The second cry is MENTAL – understanding that G-d is Complete, one entity,

 Let’s discuss those cries of faith









  1. The Numerical Concept of Oneness

We have One G-d



The simplest explanation of Oneness is NUMERICAL,

that Hashem is one, neither two nor three or more.



As we recall, the option of IDOLATRY was born

when ELHM said in plural voice:

“Let Us Make an Adam in Our Form and Our Image.”

Speaking in plural, ELHM opened the door for idolaters to think,

that there are more than One CREATOR.


Since the same verse that announces the making of Adam

is the verse that allows IDOLATRY to exists, it comes out that

IDOLATRY is not just another Commandment among many.




Who might be the idols?

They might be G-d’s putative family members

such as a father, a son, a wife, etc. – a very common believes in ancient time.


Thus, by speaking in plural, ELHM left an impression that He has

PARTNERS in Making Adam. Those PARTNERS might be

whoever ELHM consulted with at Adam creation.


As we’ll soon learn, there is a long list of those entities,

With whom He consulted with, all are mentioned in Chapter One




                           2 The philosophical meaning of Oneness

                                            G-d is One Entity



The Shema

Besides the numerical aspect, there are deeper meanings of G-d’s Oneness.

They are summed up by Moses, in Deuteronomy, in the Shema section:


  1. Hear (Shema) Oh Israel,
  2. YHVH (Hashem) our ELHM,
  3. YHVH (Hashem) is ONE!

(Deuteronomy 6:4)


The Shema, as you know, is the ‘battle cry’ of Judaism, and Monotheism.

It presents the essence of our faith. We recite it twice daily, as commanded by Moses.

People recite it on their deathbed, as Jacob did at the end of Genesis.

People went to the Nazi’s gas chambers with the Shema on their lips.


Let’s discuss the Shema Line by line.

In line 1, Moses says: Shema! Translated as “hear!”

Indeed, we recite it loudly enough so that we’d HEAR what our mouth is saying.


But ‘Shema’ can mean “Understand! Think about it!”

Whose words are the Shema!  Not G-d, since it says in line 2: our ELHM.

Hence those worlds are Moses’ words, advising us as our ‘Rabbi,’ Moshe Rabeinu,

or as our ‘king’, which indeed was Moses’ status in Israel’s eyes.




And there is a difference here-

Speaking as a King, the Shema is a ‘command,’ to be followed immediately,

without much pondering. Whereas speaks as our Rabbi, the Shema

is an advise – learn it, spend time to comprehend it, because  it is essential,

and because it is difficult to grasp!


The Halacha follows both interpretations.

We need to hear it ward by ward, dressed us cleanly and in dignity

as you’d honor your king’s LETTER.

We are also required to concentrate on every word,

place our hand over our eyes to block any detraction,

try to comprehend Moses’ message, no matter how long

this would take,


The question is  –

what is so difficult in Oneness to comprehend?

Why are we required to concentrate and block any detraction?


To answer that, let’s review several explanations of the Shema.




The Historical Meaning of the Shema


According to Rashi, the Shema presents an historical perspective.

Line 2 means:  YHVH is currently our G-d, the God of Israel,

Line 3 means: In the future, YHVH will be accepted by all nations,



The subject here is YHVH.  Now ‘She’ is the G-d of Israel (line 2)

but soon – we hope -YHVH will be recognized by all Mankind

as ‘One Humanity.’


Well, what is it here so difficult to comprehend?

Why does Moses tell us to concentrate on it so much?




The Heavenly Court Perspective of the Shema


Another interpretation is to see the Shema as describing

the historical progress of the Heavenly Court.


Line 2 presents the Heavenly Court of YHVH our ELHM under which we currently live,

 Line 3 presents the future, the Sabbath, when ELHM abstains and only YHVH reigns.


This notion fits well the text in Genesis Chapter One.

At the end of the chapter, YHVH is seen as an acronym,

Penetrating the Sixth Day of CREATION, our world, from the Sabbath.

Her half name – YH – lies in the Sixth Day, the other part – VH part – lies

still in the Sabbath.


Hence YHVH, the Attribute of MERCY, is joining ELHM, the Attribute of JUSTICE,

to form a new Heavenly Court of YHVH ELHM, under whom we live.

This explains line 2.


Line 3 then announces that in the future, when the Eternal Sabbath

will enter our world, ELHM will abstain from all His work

and only YHVH will reign, alone.


Again, what is so difficult here to comprehend,

that we need to cover our eyes and concentrate?




   Line 2 of the Shema : YHVH and ELHM are One



But there is a deeper meaning of the Shema.

Rabeinu Bahye – among others – see in the Shema

two concepts of Oneness


Line 2 declares that YHVH and ELHM are ONE,

Line 3 declares that YHVH is ONE!

Is it contradictory?

Let’s see why is this notion so difficult to comprehend.


YHVH and ELHM are ONE!

To understand the difficulty here, we have to go to Genesis Chapter One.

As we’ve learned, the two Attributes – YHVH and ELHM – are so different

from each other, that in all previous Universes, the Attributes YHVH and ELHM

had never consulted or intermingled with each other.


YHVH ruled alone in Her Domain, ELHM in His Domain,

never ruling the same Universe together.


Even in our Universe, during the Six Days,

ELHM created the Six Days awesomely alone according to His features,

while the Attribute of MERCY, YHVH, was ‘absent.’

Indeed, there is no MERCY found in any creature before Adam.


It was only before making Adam. that ELHM invited YHVH, so to speak

to ‘come over’ and share with Him the Heavenly court and in making Adam


Why are the Attributes so different from each other

So that they can’t be seen as One?   


As we recall, ELHM stands for cold, Absolute JUSTICE.

His retributions are according to the rule of ‘measure for measure.’

Under Him, creatures eat and are eten, cause pains and suffer pains,

In everlasting cycle of ‘sin’ and retributions.

ELHM is constantly active, never resting from work or from judging,

forever building and destroying, all week long.


YHVH stands for the exact opposite. In Her Domain, the Eternal Sabbath,

She RESTS, never creates nor judges. Her mere presence radiates holiness, joy, love.


So, when She entered our world from the Eternal Sabbath into our Sixth Day,

the first time ever, She did that hesitantly, modestly, half of her name – YH- is

here, the other half – VH – is still in the Sabbath. Unlike ELHM who is seen everywhere,

She is seen as a hidden acronym, detected only be learned eyes, so modest



She hesitates, since in ELHM’s world there is no Place for Her to REST Her Wing.

No creature here that could offer its heart for Her as a Place to REST.


And all She seeks is not to build or judge, not to rule over anyone,

but to REST like in Her Domain, to spread Her light and Joy and Holiness,


But once She has joined the Heavenly Court, which rules over our world,

She has accommodated Herself to ELHM,


While in Her Sabbath She does neither judge nor assess, ,

here in the Heavenly Court, She ‘agreed’ to assesses us

by  Her criteria, rather then by ELHM’s criteria.


In the Heavenly Court, the two Attributes accommodate each other.

ELHM accommodates Himself to Her, by descending from His Pedestal

as a sole Dictator Tyrant, speaking in plural as a KING Who Consults

And YHVH too accommodates Herself to Him, assessing Adam from Her aspects.


This mutual accommodation of the Attribute to each other,

is one meaning of Oneness. Had they not done so, our world would not exist

Teaching us the value of a dialogue.


YHVH, then, would enter our world IN FULL NAME, pending on Adam.

Adam should DRAW Her into our world by offering Her a Place to REST,

either in Moses’ Tabernacle under the Golden Cherubs,

or better- a Place in his heart, where She wishes to DWELL,

or a Place to REST in our Sabbath, which is a TEMPLE IN TIME.


Is Her advent beneficial to Adam?

Of course! For Her advent in the Heavenly Court would protect Adam

from a harsh verdict of ELHM.  She tends to act as our defense, against our prosecutors

She would do that, as long WE FIND FACE IN HER EYES,

Like Noah on whom it is said that he “found face in YHVH’s eyes.”



Yet, on the other hands, Her presence may INCREAE OUUR LIABILITY,

In case we enrage Her by our evilness.



Her presence in our heart, in our world, is also important for us

since She radiates holiness, joy and love that we would otherwise

never have a chance to feel.



The Shechinah

When YHVH is drawn into our world in full name,

when She is no longer YH and VH, but YHVH,

Her name changes to the Shechinah, the Dweller.


Why changing Her name?

For the name YHVH designates a full Attribute of the CREATOR,

so awesome and great, that it can’t be confined to a Tabernacle

or into our human heart or to our Sabbath.

It can only be perceived here as a Dweller.


Hence that aspect of YHVH which DWELLS or RESTS in our world,

be that in the Temple, in our heart r our Sabbath day,

is named “The Shechinah.”


The task of drawing YHVH into ELHM’s world,

and keeping Her here, to our advantage,

is incumbent on all Children of Adam.


Since in Moses’ time, only Israel was ready for such a task,

it was given to Israel as a ‘Nation of Priest,’

who serves Hashem for the benefit of all Mankind.


Hence, in Line 2 of the Shema, Moses tells Israel

something they need to accept by his command as our king,

and learn hard to understand, by our Rabbi’s advice,

that YHVH which fills our heart and RESTS there,

and ELHM who rules the outside world as an active JUDGE,

are two Attributes of One, nameless CREATOR.



Why is It so Difficult?

For It is hard to live in ELHM’s world

while you wear the spectacles of YHVH on your eyes

and in your heart.


For instance – It is difficult to sit by the Sabbath’ table

enjoying fine wine and good food, chanting Sabbath songs,

while knowing that at that very moment people die in the nearby hospitals,

or suffer hunger and sorrow from natural calamities or wars.


It means, that enjoying the Sabbath peace in ELHM’s world

give the impression that you’re indifferent to suffering,

that you ignore the troubles of ELHM’s world.

Combining YHVH’s holiness and peace with ELHM’s reality

Is really almost inhuman task!


It is difficult, even paradoxical, to pray to YHVH for healing,

while, at the same time, seeking the help of a human physician.

It seems as if you’re lying, pretending to believe in YHVH power,

Yet you seek the help of nature and medicine, created by ELHM!



It is so paradoxical,

that many pious people refuse to seek medicine’s help

for it seems as acting against G-d who is the Healer.

They fail to know that it is our task to combine the belief in YHVH

with the wisdom of science that ELHM has given us.


So, here comes Moses our teacher and says to us:

Hear Oh Israel, I’m going to teach you an idea so paradoxical

that it is extremely difficult to grasp and practice –

that despite their enormous difference,

the Attributes YHVH and ELHM are features of the same CREATOR

and they rule over us AT THE SAME TIME.



Oneness as a Command

To unite the Attributes in forming the Halacha!



The practical aspect of line 2, that YHVH and ELHM are one,

is uniting them together in forming the halacha.


It is difficult to accomplish,

since each Attribute has its own aspect, its own contribution

to the halacha.


For example,

It was the Finger of ELHM, as the verse   says (Ex. 32:15)

who wrote “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” (Ex. 21: 22-27)


This dictum presents the cold, just law of ELHM demanding Absoluter justice.

The only way the perpetrator would feel the agony he has caused his victim,

Is to gauge out his own eye, or remove his own tooth.


In contrast,

YHVH – in Absolute MERCY – would object treating cruelty with another cruelty.

YHVH would opt for re-training, for compassion, for tolerance.


How then would the human court reconcile those two

extremely different, directly opposing verdict?


The answer is given by the Oral Torah, the Talmud:

The court should opt for monetary compensation only,

Thereby implementing Oneness.


Another example of implementing Oneness is

the Bounding of Isaac.

It was ELHM – the harsh Judge – who told Abraham to offer his son.

So don’t ask, as people do, how could the ‘Good G-d ask’

ask him something so awful?


Yet it was not the “good god,” but rather the Merciless Judge ELHM

who told that to Abraham.

And ELHM, as we know, creates things for a trial, for judgment.


Some commentaries try to ‘defend’ G-d, saying that

He did not really wish Abraham to slaughter his son,

only to ‘put him on the altar.’ But those commentaries miss the point.


As Rabbi Kook, z”l, the late chief Rabbi of Israel, insisted that

ELHM’s demand from Abraham was sincere, in full harshness.

Because only this way we understand the awesome clash that ensues,


For as Abraham lifted his knife ready to fulfill ELHM’s order,

the angel of YHVH appeared to him saying: Do not touch the boy!

Hence, Abraham withstood a direct confrontation between the Attributes,

never seen before or after in the text, in such a stark fashion.


To whom, then, should Abraham listen?

Who among the opposing Attributes prevails?

Could he unite their order? It was IMPOSSIBLE.

How could he implement ONENESS?


To emphasize their equal power,

The text show ELHM’s words in a Wing containing ELHM’s name 4 times

Followed by YHVH’s wing carrying Her Name 4 times,

where Abraham name appears in each Wing 9 times,

In a perfect symmetry.


Abraham then saw a ram entangled in the bush,

and he offered it instead of Isaac,

thereby complying with both Attributes.


That ram represents the Torah’s way

of uniting YHVH’s orders with ELHM’s orders,

implementing the Halachic perspective of  YHVH ELHM’s Oneness.








                                       The Deepest meaning of the Shema

                                                 Line 3: YHVH is One



Ascending Difficulty

If it is so difficult to abide by line 2 of the Shema,

saying that YHVH and ELHM are One,

it is much more mentally demanding to comprehend

line 3 of the Shema, saying that YHVH is One.


What does this announcement mean?

The answer is that here Moses declares that



It is one step deeper in meaning of Oneness, compared to line 2.

It says that everything we see or feel or even imagine,

is rooted in YHVH.


In Genesis Chapter One, YHVH appears modestly,

only at the end of the story, as a shy acronym,

seen only by an educated eye.

She enters our world hesitantly, shyly, modestly.


Yet in fact, YHVH is greater than the world,

even greater than ELHM,

and Her sphere surrounds all other spheres.


In simple words, it means that behind JUSTICE, stands MERCY.

That JUSTICE itself is an expression of MERCY.



For example:

When Hitler committed suicide,

or when Mussolini’s body was hung upside down

In the same plaza where he had cursed G-d in public,

these events were not only a manifestation of ELHM’s JUSTICE,

but an expression of MERCY to the world.




Another example:

A serial rapist who had violated at least eight women,

was sentenced to eight years in prison, one year per a woman.

The victims were appalled by the light punishment.

“The man has destroyed the life of each one of us!”

so they cried out to the press,

“Why did he not receive the justice he deserves?”


Indeed, the women were right.

The Torah compares a rapist to a murderer.

While he went on doing business as usual,

each of his victims was severely damaged for life.


Had he received a full justice,

this would not only have sent a warning signal to others,

but would have helped to REPAIR and HEAL

the wounded souls of his victims.

Hence JUSTICE, is an expression of MERCY

in the harsh world of ELHM.



Hence line 2, saying that YHVH and ELHM are One,

Is only an approximation of the truth.

We continue to climb up in the Shema

from Oneness as Uniting YHVH with ELHM

to line 3 where we declare the ultimate truth

that YHVH is One and Only,





Breaching Oneness



Adam was created, we’ve said, specifically to withstand the IDOLATRY challenge.

When ELHM said in plural “Let Us make an Adam…” He not only announced the

Plan to make Adam, but also opened the door for idolaters to think there are




Hence BREACHING ONENESS is more than a mere error in theology.

Adam was built specifically to withstand its challenge,

to split the Attributes, to prefer one over the other,

to worship one and forget the other.


Moreover, unlike other types of IDOLATRY,

BREACHING ONENESS are here to stay,

as Mankind exists.


On that we’ll learn next time

When we examine Noah’s generation and the Great Flood.