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Thank you for your many wishes for a Refuah Shelayma (speedy recovery) for my wife Kathy (Chaya Gitel Tzirel bat Devorah). We will be returning to Canada this week for further treatment. Let us hope and pray to Hashem that Kathy receives a complete recovery together with all the infirm of Israel.
Many of you have asked how to get in touch with Kathy, let me suggest that you continue to send your e-mail messages to me and I will make sure that she gets each e-mail. Kathy read each e-mail and gathers strength from each one. Please forgive us not responding to each of you for we have received too many to reply to each and every one. Keep Kathy in mind during your prayers and please give charity on her behalf.
Two of the most profound pronouncements in the Torah can be found in our Parsha this week. They are: the declaration of our faith - The Shema (6:4-10); and the Ten Utterances or also known as the Ten Commandments (5:6-19). These two declarations have held the Children of Israel together for more than three millennia.
The Shema in its simplicity teaches us of the love relationship between Hashem and His people Israel. The Ten Utterances, catagorize all of the Torah's 613 Mitzvot (commandments) into ten principles of our faith.
"Shema Yisrael, Hashem Elokaynu, Hashem Echad. Hear O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is the One and Only."
The first time that the Shema was uttered was recorded in the Midrash on Parshat Vayichi. In the "Vortify" of that week (Dec. 28, 1997) this Midrash was rephrased:
"...Prior to Ya'acov's death, he wished to inform his sons of the time of the final redemption. He gathered his children around his bed and suddenly his memory failed and Ya'acov was despondent. He thought that it was his sons' unworthiness that caused Hashem to take away the memory of the redemption. The 12 sons of Ya'acov knew what their father was thinking and tried to reassure him that they fully believed in Hashem.
Moshe Rabbaynu (Moses our teacher) incorporated their first declaration of faith into the declaration made twice daily by the Am Yisrael (the Nation of Israel).
By the way, when the Torah records the words of the Shema, the last letter of the first word, the letter "Ayin" in ShemA, is enlarged. Also, the last letter of the last word, the letter "Daled" in EchaD, is also enlarged. Bring these two letters (Ayin and Daled) together and they form the word "Ayd" (witness).
This declaration as well as the Ten Utterances that precede it are a testimony to the Torah by the Nation of Israel. We do not accept the document only because Moshe was a trustworthy leader of Israel. We accept the Torah because we, a small nation of slaves, witnessed and testify daily, that Hashem is the One and only G-d.
Our role in the world as a "light onto the nations" (Isaiah 42:6) is dependant upon a high level of spiritual, social and ethical behavior that will act as a beacon of enlightenment to all nations. That level of behavior can only come about as a result of an eye witness account of the interaction between the Nation of Israel and Hashem. No other nation or religion can make this claim, no other nation or religion has experienced the events or the encounter that Israel has. This is the uniqueness of the Shema and the Ten Utterances. They represent Eydut (witnessing) of the personal encounter with Hashem.
But there is another very important element to this encounter, the element of forgiveness. After the first 2 tablets with the Ten Utterances were given, Moshe dropped and shattered the tablets when he observed that the Israelites were worshiping the Golden Calf. On the first day of the sixth month (Elul), Moshe again ascended Mt. Sinai for forty days and nights and engraved the second tablets (mentioned on this week's Parsha) returning them to the Nation of Israel on the tenth of the seventh month (Tishre), or Yom Kippur.
During the time that Moshe spent on Mt. Sinai, Hashem revealed to him His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy (Shemot [Exodus] 34:5-6). These Thirteen Attributes of Mercy are recalled as a formula to be used whenever a time of crises arises and Hashem's Mercy is required. Truthfully, the Sin of the Golden Calf was so deplorable that we should not have survived as Hashem's Treasured Nation (Shemot 19:5) but His mercy is abundant and He is slow to anger.
During the post Tisha B'Av period, from now until the High Holidays we look at our spiritual side and begin a process of self examination. This self analysis goes through a number of stages. The second stage is during the month of Elul, refining our selves as individuals and as a nation. The third state is during the Aseret Yimay Teshuva (the Ten Days of Repentance) between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur when we attempt to offer our changed personalities as a personal testimony to Hashem's forgiveness. And finally, the Joy that we experience having received forgiveness from Hashem manifests itself in the festival of Sukkot (tabernacles), referred to as Z'man Simchataynu (the time of our rejoicing).
Today only Am Yisrael can say, "Shema Yisrael, Hashem Elokaynu, Hashem Echad (Hear O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is the One and Only)." But we all pray for the day when as the prophet Zachariah foretold (Zach. 14:9):
"Hashem will be King over the entire world - on that day Hashem will be One and His Name will be One."
Let us live up to our destiny and rectify the world with our personal deeds of righteousness. Let these deeds testify to the uniqueness of Hashem's desire for mankind to live in peace and harmony with all nations and all peoples. And let us show by example that this is all possible the same way that we were shown the kindness of the One and living G-d.
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