Basic Tenet of Jewish Life
The basic tenet of all of Jewish life, history, culture and civilization
appears in this week's Torah reading: "Hear O Israel the Lord is our God,
the Lord is uniquely one." Jews have lived by this credo, died with these
words on their lips and in their souls and sustained themselves through all
times of adversity by the knowledge and faith of God's existence and
relationship to Israel represented by the simple words of the sh'ma.
Throughout Jewish history, as Moses himself attests to in this Book Dvarim,
there have been differing shades of Torah piety and observance amongst
Jews. Again, as Moses points out in his words of challenge to the Jews,
there have been occasions when Jews, many Jews, who willfully ignored or
betrayed God's commandments and assignments. But, even when Jews in the
Biblical and later Greco-Roman eras succumbed to the local practices of
social idolatry then prevalent, they remembered and in their heart of
hearts believed that "the Lord is our God, the Lord is uniquely one.' The
Jews were the ones who pioneered in human society the belief in the
existence of an unseen, omniscent, omnipotent, personally interralated God
of justice, compassion and eternity. In short, the Jews were not only the
"people of the Book," they were more importantly the people of a
monotheistic and universal God.
The ravages of nineteenth and twentieth century secularism gutted this core
belief of Judaism for many Jews. Blinded by the false light of the promise
of a better world, vast numbers of Jews forsook "the Lord is our God" for
new slogans, Marxist, secularist, Bundist, nationalist and assimilationist
in their outlook. But, now at the end of the bloodiest century in
humanhistory, when all of the ideologies and empires that began this
century as all-powerful and progressive now lie in the ash bin of history,
all of these slogans and certainties are mockingly hollow. There have
therefore arisen new "Judaisms" that somehow attempt to preserve the Jewish
people. Jewish history and purpose, without a belief in the divinity of the
Torah and God of Israel. Thus the "new" types of Judaism have abandoned
"the Lord is our God, the Lord is uniquely one." Whether a Jewish society can
long survive without the sh'ma as its basic credo is certainly the basic
question of our modern world. All of Jewish history indicates that such a
secular, non-observant, assimilationist form of Jewish life will lead only
to the extiction of Jewish civilization that the proponents of "secular
Judaism" are attempting to preserve. And that is the source of much of the
divisive wrangling that the Jewish world is currently witnessing.
Every jew, every human being, should consider what the purpose of life is.
This basic question is the one that modern man, now so technologically and
educationally advanced, must answer satisfactorially in order for life and
society to progress. The words of the Torah, "the Lord is our God, the Lord
is uniquely one" is certainly the basis for the future of Israel.
Rabbi Berel Wein
Text Copyright © 2002 Rabbi Berel Wein and
Project Genesis, Inc.