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 6
"The Lord Is One" : All and Only

All: The Comprehensiveness View

T he Sifre, as we have seen, reserves for Israel alone the full commitment to yiḥud Hashem and considers the universal acceptance of divine unity a matter of eschatological realization: only in the Messianic era will all humankind acknowledge the oneness of God. The Talmud, however, takes our central verse, "Hear O Israel," more literally, interpreting it as affirming the comprehensive divine unity without making a distinction between the days of the Messiah and our own time:

R. Jeremiah was once sitting before R. Ḥiyya b. Abba, and the latter saw that [ R. Jeremiah, who was reading the Shema,] was prolonging (the word eḥad, "one") very much. He said to him: Once you have declared Him king over [all that is] above and below and over the four corners of the heaven, no more is required ( Berakhot 13b).1

The content of R. Ḥiyya's recommended kavvanah is clear: the sovereignty of God at all times, present as well as future.

Thus, whereas the Sifre sees a fragmented unity now and holds out hope for full unity only at the End of Days, the Talmud makes no mention of the distant future but maintains that divine unity is complete even in the present.

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