This past Shabbat in synagogue, we read our weekly Torah Parsha, which includes the most well-known portions of Scripture in the entire Bible, especially to Jewish people. It is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, known in short as the Shema and V’Ahavta. These verses begin with the statement:
“Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
These words are often spoken of as being the foundational statement of Israel and the Jewish people.
For thousands of years, these words have been prayed every morning and every evening by Jewish people as a proclamation of their commitment to the One and Only True and Living G-D. There are many stories told of Jewish martyrs at their executions speaking these words out with their last breath. These words are, in fact, very powerful and as one reads them in the Torah, or as they pray them daily, they are, in truth, professing their faith in the G-D of the Torah, the G-D of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Yet, while extremely powerful and important, the text doesn’t stop with the end of verse 4. It continues with a statement concerning verse 4. Reading verse 5-9 helps us understand a little more.
5 Love ADONAI your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These words, which I am commanding you today, are to be on your heart. 7 You are to teach them diligently to your children, and speak of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand, they are to be as frontlets between your eyes, 9 and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
We are not simply just to shema (hear and obey) that G-D is One; we are to love G-D with our entire self. But it doesn’t stop there. The text continues to state what I really believe is the foundational verse or statement of Israel and the Jewish people. I believe the foundation of our faith isn’t just that G-D is One. The foundation is that we teach that truth to our children. As followers of Biblical Judaism, we teach our children when we sit in our houses, when we walk by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise up. The foundation of our faith isn’t just that we know who G-D is. The foundation is that we know who He is and we teach who He is to the next generation.
This is the reason that G-D is known as the G-D of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He isn’t known only as the G-D of Abraham. Even when we go back to the days of Isaac, in Genesis 26:24 we find G-D speaking to Isaac and stating;
“I am the God of your father Abraham…”
Notice the immediate connection presented. G-D didn’t just say, “I am the G-D of Abraham.” He said “Your father Abraham.” We are a part of a faith that always has always been and will always be generational. And we have a G-D that we believe in because who He is has been taught diligently to our people’s children over the centuries.
This responsibility to teach our children who G-D is cannot possibly be overstated. It is the foundational commandment of our faith.