Hear the Oneness

Friday, 4 August, 2017 - 1:39 pm

s.jpgHear the Oneness

To experience life on this earth is to experience opposite extremes. There are moments of creativity, love, joy and meaning, while there are other moments of frustration, pain, sadness and confusion. Likewise, when we look into our hearts we also find opposing drives: the selfish and the selfless, the animalistic and the G-dly, the inclination for good and the inclination for evil. These extremes are a source of tension that, to one degree or another, each of us experiences.

What advice does Judaism offer on how to manage these tensions? What insight does the Torah provide to help us make it through the times of darkness and confusion? In this week’s portion Moses speaks the phrase which, perhaps more than any other, captures Judaism's heart and soul, as well as relaying its message on how to navigate the stormy sea we call life.

Moses tells us that despite the tension we feel every day, despite the world being divided and fractured - as expressed so poetically by King Solomon in Ecclesiastes: “there is a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot… A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time of wailing and a time of dancing… A time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace”[1] - despite all of this, the true essence of our existence is oneness. As Moses states:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God; the Lord is one.[2]

This message is so radical, so counter intuitive, so life changing that we are commanded to recite these words, as well as teach them to our children, not once but twice each and every day - once in the morning and once at night. 

When we recite the words of the “Shema” prayer, we are telling ourselves and telling our children, that both the “morning”, the moments of life in which we feel the blessings of G-d shining upon us, as well as the “night”, the moments of darkness and challenge, are expressions of the one G-d.[3] The Kabbalistic meaning of the phrase “the Lord (Hashem) is our G-d (Elokeynu)” is that the Divine power of expression and revelation (Hashem), as well as his power to conceal and hide his presence (Elokim), are, in truth, one and the same. The difference between revelation and concealment, between good and evil, between night and day, is only from our prospective. The truth however is that both are expressions of Godliness. There are times when G-d’s love, providence and protection is concealed, yet the central pillar of our faith is that G-d’s presence, although it may be hidden, exists and pervades all of reality.

The same is true for the opposing drives within our own heart. Immediately after declaring that at the core all of reality is oneness, Moses continues in the Shema: “And you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart”, Rashi, quoting the Midrash and the Mishnah, explains that “with all your heart” means “love Him with your two inclinations [the good and the evil].” What is true for the macro universe is also true for the micro universe, the one within the heart of man. Although we feel the evil inclination and the good inclination pulling us in completely different directions, although it seems that the animal soul and the G-dly soul do not share a common goal, the truth, however, is that at the core they are one. They were both created for the same purpose, and both are necessary in order for us to reach the purpose of our creation. The passion of the animal soul must be transformed to the love of G-d, not by suppressing the passion but by channeling it. At its core, the animal soul wants what is good for itself, once we teach it to develop a taste and an appreciation for spirituality, the passion and might of the animal soul will be reoriented, and the love to all that is positive, constructive and holy will be far greater than the love that the G-dly soul can produce on its own.

This then is Judaism's unique perspective: G-d is the one truth that pervades all existence and we, in turn, must create that oneness within our heart, channeling the animal soul’s immense passion toward the love of G-d.[4]  

[1] Ecclesiastes 3:2-8.

[2] Deuteronomy 6:4. 

[3] See Lekutey Sichos vol. 14, Vaeschanan Sicha 2. 

[4] See Lekutey Torah Vaeschanan, 7:4.

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