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.
What is the meaning of G-d’s Oneness?
The simplest explanation is that Hashem is one, neither two nor three.
Hence Oneness is a numerical concept.
Where does it show in the
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.
Thus, IDOLATRY is not just another Commandment among many.
Since the same verse that announces the making of Adam
is the verse that allows IDOLATRY to exists, it comes out that
ADAM WAS MADE SPECIFICALLY TO WITHSTAND THE CHALLENGE OF IDOLATRY.
The verse also defines IDOLATRY as thinking that the CREATOR
comprises of more than one entity. He may have family members
such as a father, a son, a wife, etc. – a very common notion in ancient time.
Moreover, speaking in plural, ELHM left an impression
that He has PARTNERS in building CREATION.
Who are those PARTNERS?
Whoever ELHM consulted with at Adam creation.
There is a long list of those entities,
all mentioned in Chapter One, as we’ll soon lean.
But there is a deeper meaning of G-d’s ONENESS.
In the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses tells Israel:
1 Hear (Shema) Oh Israel,
2 YHVH (Hashem) our ELHM,
3 YHVH (Hashem) is ONE!
The Shema is, as you know, the ‘battle cry’ of Judaism, of Monotheism.
It presents the essence of our faith. We recite it twice a day.
People recite it on their deathbed. People went to the Nazi’s gas chambers
with the Shema on their lips.
So, let’s discuss it line by line.
In line 1, Moses says: Shema! Translated as “hear!”
This word carries halachic meaning, that we need to recite it
loudly enough that our ear would hear what our lips are saying.
But the Hebrew Shema is more than “listen,”
it means “Understand! Even if it difficult to grasp.”
Here Moses, as our Rabbi, our teacher, Moshe Rabenu,
encourages us to think about G-d’s Oneness,
even if it is very difficult concept to comprehend.
That is why we cover our eyes while reciting the Shema,
to avoid any distraction. We must concentrate on each word,
AND UNDERSTAND WHAT OUR LIPS ARE SAYING
What is so difficult in Oneness to comprehend?
For that, let’s review several explanations 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: but in the future, YHVH will be accepted by all nations,
becoming ONE, UNITRED HUMANITY.
Well, this is a nice interpretation, but not so difficult to comprehend.
Why then does Moses tell us to concentrate on it so much?
Another interpretation is to see the Shema as describing the
historical progress of the Heavenly Court.
Line 2: Currently we live under the court of YHVH, our ELHM,
Line 3: In the future, in the Eternal Sabbath, we will live under YHVH alone.
This notion fits well the text in Genesis Chapter One.
As the Attribute of MERCY, YHVH, penetrates our world on the Sixth Day, ‘’
‘She’ joins the Attribute of Justice ELHM to form the new Heavenly Court
comprised of the two Attributes – YHVH and ELHM, under whom we live.
This explains line 2.
In the future, when the eternal Sabbath will reign,
the world will enter the rule YHVH alone, the Kingdom of MERCY,
thus explaining line 3.
Again, this is a nice interpretation, yet it not so difficult to comprehend.
Why then does Moses tell us “Shema!” Understand! Concentrate!
But there is another, more accepted interpretation,
offered by Rabenu Bahye and Abarbanel, among others.
The Shema, they say, is comprised of two separate concepts of Oneness,
Line 2 declares: YHVH and ELHM are ONE,
Line 3 declares: YHVH is ONE!
Let’s see why is this notion so difficult to comprehend
Line 2: YHVH and ELHM are ONE!
To understand the difficulty, we have to go back 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
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 our world, the animals, 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 the making of Adam.
Why are the Attributes so different from each other? As we recall,
ELHM stands for cold, Absolute JUSTICE. His retributions are according
to the rule of measure for measure. A creature kills, only to be killed.
Inflicts pains, only to suffer pains. ELHM is very active,
He never rests or abstains from His work, or from judging.
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 Sabbath into our Sixth Day,
She did that hesitantly, modestly, like a shy Dove or a beautiful Cherub.
You see her name only as a hidden acronym, half of it – YH
Is in our world, the second half, VH, is still in the Sabbath.
She hesitates, since in ELHM’s world there is no Place for Her
to REST Her Wing. No creature here who could offer Her Place in its heart.
It is Adam’s task to offer Her such a Place, and draw her farther
into ELHM’s world, so that She would Dwell here in FULL NAME.
Adam would accomplish that by building for Her a Tabernacle,
Where She would Dwell under the Golden Cherubs,
From where Adam would draw her farther and deeper into his heart,
where She really aspires to Dwell, as YHVH says to Moses:
“they should build me a Temple so that I would Dwell in them,” in their hearts,
and Adam would also keep his Sabbath day as a Temple in Time for YHVH
where She would REST and spread holiness, joy, peace and love.
When YHVH enters in full name into ELHM’s world
She is called the Shechinah, the Dweller, since Her presence here
is only inside our heart and mind and our life.
But YHVH, as an Attribute of the Infinite CREATOR
is infinitely greater, infinitely more powerful
to be confined in any space or heart
That task is given to Adam, to all Mankind,
but since only Israel was ready for that in Moses’ time,
it was given to Israel as a Nation of Priest,
who serve Hashem for al Mankind.
In short, Adam has to draw YHVH
and host Her in his heart and mind,
while living in ELHM’s world.
He needs to unite them in his heart.
AND THAT IS DIFFICULT TASK, INDEED.
Why is it so difficult to do?
It is hard to live in ELHM’s world
while watching it through YHVH’s spectacles in your heart.
It is difficult to sit by the Sabbath table,
enjoying the Sabbath’s peace, holiness and joy,
while you know that at that very moment
people die at the hospitals, or suffer hunger and sorrow
from natural calamities or wars.
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, prayin to YHVH, yet seeking nature.
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 the difference between
YHVH the Healer and ELHM’s Wisdom which is science.
And that by seeking both, we implement Oneness.
So, here comes Moses our teacher and says to us:
Hear Oh Israel, I’m going to teach you something
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.
So don’t be drawn to the conclusion that they are
two different, independent gods, one good and one bad.
They are Attributes of MERCY and JUSTICE, of the One CREATOR.
But there is another, practical meaning of YHVH and ELHM’s Oneness.
Besides the difficult philosophical issue,
the Shema commands Israel
TO UNITE THE ATTRIBUTES in our Laws, the halachah.
The fact, each Attributes dictates a moral dictum
from its own perspective, And they are mutually exclusive.
Thus, for example,
The Finger of ELHM, the verse says, wrote “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”
This dictum presents the cold, just law of ELHM demanding Absoluter justice.
The only way the perpetrator would feel the agony of his victim,
Is to gauge his own eye, or remove his own tooth.
YHVH – in Absolute MERCY, would object treating cruelty with another cruelty.
How then would the human court reconcile those two extremely different,
directly opposing views of the verdict?
The answer is given by the Oral Torah, the Talmud, that opts
for monetary compensation only, thereby implementing Oneness.
Another example of implementing Oneness: The Bounding of Isaac.
It was ELHM – the harsh Judge – who told Abraham to offer him
his beloved son, Isaac.
How could G-d ask him something so awful? People ask,
only that they don’t pay attention to the speaker.
He was not the “good god,” but rather the Merciless Judge ELHM
who told that to Abraham.
And ELHM, as we know, creates for a trial, for judgment.
That is why He placed Abraham in a test.
In fact, ELHM places us all in one test after another,throughout our own lives.
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!
That was a direct confrontation between the Attributes,
Never seen before in such a stark way the text of the Torah.
To whom then should Abraham listen? Who prevails?
Could he unite their order? It was IMPOSSIBLE.
For here the two Attributes appear in full power,
Directly opposing each other!
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 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
to unite YHVH values with ELHM’s values,
by which we implement YHVH and ELHM’s Oneness.
Line 3: Y is One
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
EVERYTING IN THE WORLD AND BEYOND IS YHVH!
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,
That the truth is that JUSTICE itself is an expression of MERCY.
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,
This was not only a manifestation of ELHM’s JUSTICE,
but an expression of MERCY to the world.
A serial rapist who had violated at least eight women,
was finally 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!” 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 one of his victims was severely
and permanently damaged for life.
Had he received full justice, this would not only have sent a warning signal
to other potential rapists, but would have also 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. A mere step.
The real meaning of Oneness is line 3,
saying that YHVH is behind EVERYTHING.
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
many CREATORS – thereby BREACHING ONENESS.
Hence BREACHING ONENESS is more than a mere error in theology.
Adam was built specifically to withstand its challenge,
to split between the Attributes, to prefer one over the other,
to worship one and forget the other.
Moreover, while other kinds of IDOLATRY, like worshipping wood and stone statues,
are transient errors out of ignorance, BREACHING ONENESS are here to stay for long time,
and would always pop up to challenge Man’s faith.
It means that Mankind would always face the challenge
to be attracted towards one Attribute while neglecting the other.
That sort of IDOLATRY haunted Noah’s generation and was responsible for the Flood.
Moreover, it has surfaced again in our generation, threatening another Flood!