Learning the Sh'ma #2

I want to begin this by first saying: I am not an expert on this. Also, you can find an index of all the 31 Days of Encountering Judaism here

Yesterday, I wrote about why I wanted to learn the Sh'ma, which is possibly as close to a statement of belief as Judaism gets.

I realized I agreed entirely with the first line: "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one." Yes, God is my God and God is one God, not many (and not three either -- don't get heretical about the Trinity on me!)

I thought I was good to go on this (and as I've written some of these posts in advance, this is a two week later update). As part of my job, I helped out at the launch of the "Introduction to Judaism" class, getting people registered and handing out books and such, and lingered for the first half of the class, where I learned that "Yisrael" is for the people of Israel, those of the Jewish faith.

There are a couple of ways I can reconcile with this and move forward.

First, Christianity has already co-opted being inheritors of the kingdom, being the new people of Israel, which unfortunately dismisses a few thousand years of Jewish belief. So that isn't going to work.

The second way is this: that Christians were once a Jewish sect, and in that sense have inherited being a part of the people of Israel. Now we disagree about messiahs and a few other things, but Christians have also inherited the diversity of ideas and theologies that are within Judaism. [There are three main streams of Judaism: Orthodox, Reform and Reconstructionist, and there are variations within these too. These days the main streams of Christianity are: Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical/Non-Denominational.]

And there is a third way. I feel at home at Beth Israel. As I feel a part of this community, then I am a part of being the people of Israel.

Phew. Now I can chant about Israel.

The second part goes as follows: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might."

Jesus says these words in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, and Luke 10:27).  As Christians we follow them, or try to. It isn't exactly an easy instruction for us humans to obey but that doesn't mean one shouldn't try, or that I shouldn't pray it.

By the way, in case you didn't know, Jesus is quoting Moses (Deuteronomy 6:5). Given that I only recently found out that he's quoting from the Torah and not being divinely gifted with a brand new way of living by God, I feel that's worth emphasizing.

Jesus quotes Moses (who is the one who has been talking face to face(ish) with God). Because he is a Jew talking to another Jew (a Pharisee) about what is the most important commandment from God. Jesus wasn't the only one to point this out. Only a generation before, the sage Hillel had declared the same thing.

As for the rest of the Sh'ma? More tomorrow.


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