The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism as Exemplified in the Shema, the Most Important Passage in the Torah

By Norman Lamm | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
"The Lord Is One" : The Eschatological Interpretation

T hese two words -- Hashem eḥad, "the Lord is One" -- constitute probably the most significant and revolutionary phrase in the entire lexicon of Jewish thought. Simple yet enormously complex, they have challenged and stimulated generations of scholars and ordinary folk since they were first uttered by Moses toward the end of his days. In exploring the various interpretations of these two critical words, we gain valuable insights into the content of Judaism's major proclamation of faith.

Rashi (to Deut. 6:4), apparently troubled by the repetition of the Name Hashem, "the Lord," in the Shema, comments:

The Lord who is our God now, but not (yet) the God of the (other) nations, is destined to be the One Lord, as it is said, "For then will I give to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent" ( Zeph. 3:9). And (likewise) it is said, "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; on that day shall the Lord be One and His name One" ( Zech. 14:9).

Thus, the mention of the first two divine Names -- Hashem and Elohim/Elohenu -- evokes the current condition of monotheism, when only Israel fully accepts the utter unity of God; the repetition of Hashem in the final phrase, "the Lord is One,"

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