you shall love

the love that burns deep in your heart
the love that consumes everything
all that you think you are and
might ever be
bequeath it to your children
breathe it exhale it
shout it in the streets
dream it in your sleep
sing it when you wake
bind it tightly to your limbs feel
it entering your bloodstream
nail it pound it into warped
splintered door jams
carve its name in hearts on trees
then leap back and watch
as branches shoot up
yearning toward
the heavens.

(Deuteronomy 6:5-9)


The Shema: A Parsing

Listen Israel, “YHVH is our God, YHVH is One!” (Deuternomy, 6:4)

Listen Israel:  The most central prayer in Jewish tradition is not a prayer at all. Prayers by definition are directed to God. These words are directed collectively inward. They indicate that we are about to read a statement of faith, of purpose, a sacred mission statement, if you will.

YHVH is our God: “YHVH” is God’s ineffable name, the unpronounceable, unknowable proper name of the God that in ancient times, the Israelite nation claimed as its own.

Indeed, in the theological marketplace of the ancient Near East, every nation had its own national god.  In its original context, then: “Listen, Israel, there may be many gods from which to choose, out there, but YHVH is our god.”

ADONAI is One!: Some choose to translate the word“echad” (“one”) as “alone.” This suggests an imperative: the Israelites must worship YHVH as God and no other.

Others understand this phrase as a statement of theological chutzpah. According to this reading, “YHVH is One”  means that there actually is none else: “You know those other deities the nations call “gods?” Well they’re not actually gods at all. At the end of the day, Israel’s god is the only God there is.”

Religious exceptionalism? Some might choose read these words that way. But on a much deeper level, the words “YHVH is One” express a profoundly universal world view. Our sacred mission statement is a reminder that while we live in a universe of diversity and multiplicity, this variety is ultimately part of a much larger sublime Unity that moves through us all.

Parsed thus:

Listen! Amidst the raucous, cacophony that resounds throughout our world, we may yet discern one Voice ever calling to us.  This voice goes by many names; we call it YHVH. Let us attune ourselves to it with all our heart, all our soul, and all our might.,.