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    Hear O Israel – Va’et’channan

    The first and last words of a Jew are those of Shema Yisra’el. Their source is in this week’s Torah reading.

    The conventional translation is “Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is One” (Deut. 6:4).

    Once upon a time there was a child (it happened to be me!) who didn’t understand “Hear, O Israel” and thought the English words were really “Hero Israel”. He got the wrong idea, though despite himself he did have a point in that throughout history the people of Israel were actually the hero of God, proclaiming the Almighty and His oneness and uniqueness despite the hostility of the world.

    When we ask why the text tells us to hear it means that we should perceive, grasp and understand the existence and specialness of God.

    The speaker is Moses who in this verse is telling his people that everything they see and experience is testimony to God.

    The beauty of the world testifies to the Creator. The grandeur of ethics shows the greatness of the Divine Teacher. The miracle of birth, the love of one human for another, the purposiveness of history – all proclaim the Almighty.

    The fact that everything fits into one overall plan and pattern is evidence that God is One and “One” is His Name.

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