Yeshua said the Shema was the greatest commandment (Mark 12.28-34), and to “Shema” means we must “hear” God’s voice. In Deut 6.5 it says, “And you shall love Yehovah your God.” Why doesn’t it say “we?” Maybe it is because of “crowdedness.” When are we really ever alone? We are surrounded by radios, phones and televisions. Are we afraid of being alone? How can we “hear” God’s voice with all the trappings of modern life and communication. Being alone (you) and not with others (we) is necessary for spiritual growth.
Hearing means obeying that voice. How many times have we told our children to do something and when they don’t do it, we say, “Did you hear me?” Hearing is linked to obedience. Yeshua even had a parable in Matt 21.28-32 about two sons who heard their father’s instruction to work in the field. One said no, but later did it and the other said “yes” but never went. Yeshua asks, “Which of the two did the father’s will?”
Individually we need to be able to distinguish God’s voice from all others. That is why we need basic instruction from the voice on the mountain (Torah). If one is not willing to hear, one won’t know the Lord and it also says that Yehovah is “our God” and not someone else’s. This passage is important on two fronts.
The first is “Elohim” which is translated as God. The second is Yehovah, which is translated as “the Lord.” Elohim is a title, Yehovah is the very name of God. Elohim is used when judgment is in the understanding of the Hebraic mindset. Yehovah is used when mercy is in the mind of the Hebraic mindset. Elohim stands for the way things are (gravity, law, punishment, etc). Yehovah stands for what might be. Elohim reflects reality and Yehovah is a hope for a better world (compassion). Here is an application.
There are millions without health care. Elohim might say, “If people work they deserve health care, if not, it’s their fault.” Yehovah might say, “We need to take care of the poor and needy, even though it is a draw on society.” On illegal immigration, Elohim might say, “If people are here illegally, they have no right to our services.” Yehovah might remind us to “take care of the poor, widow, stranger and orphan.” On drug abuse, Elohim might say, “If you use you might have addictions and health problems.” Yehovah might say, “It is our duty to protect people from being led astray.”
Both views of Elohim and Yehovah are correct. We need to be reminded of the Law of Consequences, but we also need to be reminded of the Law of Compassion, which brings us to this concept, “Yehovah is our Elohim, Yehovah is one.” The word “one” here is “echad” and it is a plural unity. It carries the same idea as in Gen 2.24, “and they shall become one flesh.” The Hebrew word for individual “one” is “yachid.”
The word “shema” in Hebrew has three letters in it, the shin, mem and ayin. The ayin in a Torah scroll is enlarged. The word “echad” has an enlarged dalet in a Torah scroll. The enlarged ayin and dalet make up the word “ed” in Hebrew and it means “witness.” This word is related to the word “adat” meaning a “congregation.” A congregation is a witness in a city. It is also related to the word “edut” meaning “testimony.”
In the Shema, God is telling us how to love him. The word “heart” is “levav” and it carries the meaning of the inner man, the intellect, the mind, character and will. The word “soul” is “nephesh” and it is the “self”, the person, the senses. The word “might” is “ma’od” and it means “exceeding force.” In Deut 6.6 it says that “These are the words which I am commanding you today shall be upon your heart (mind).” The Torah is fresh, not some old edict. It is God’s word for every day, our “bread continually.” Don’t be concerned about the past or the future.
After all the details of the Torah, the bottom line can be seen in Duet 6.17-18 where it says, “You shall diligently keep the commandments of Yehovah your God, and his testimonies (edut) and his statutes (chukim) which he has commanded you. And you shall do what is right (yashar= fit, proper) and good (tov) in the sight of Yehovah that it may be well with you and that you may go in and possess the good land which Yehovah swore to give to your fathers.” Now, there is a concept called “Lifnim M’shurat Ha Din” and it means “to go beyond the letter” or to go to the essence of the Torah (spirit). The “letter” applies to everyone. Anything beyond that is not considered “din” (judgment/law) to everyone, but only to those for whom it is applicable.
Deut 6.24-25 says that we are to keep his commandments and statutes and to fear the Lord for our own good, it is “for our survival.” Our survival depends on knowing the voice of God. Obeying the Lord, when done in faith, is ethically right and just (righteous).
In Deut 7.1-11 we have the task of Israel. They were to destroy the seven nations in the land. The names of these nations are the same enemies (or spirits) we face today, so let’s go over them briefly. The Hittite means “terror” and it refers to those who put an extreme manifestation of fear on you (phobias, despair, bad dreams, depression etc). The Girgashite means “stranger” meaning those who are not with you and dwell on the things they can see. They are analytical and base their lives on the pros and cons of what they can understand. The Amorite means a “sayer or talker” and they are the ones who talk all the time but there is no action. They tend to exalt themselves and are fame seekers, and so the word is also associated with mountains. The Canaanite means “merchant” and they are those who are traffickers and want to make money off of you for religious reasons. They are concerned with money and prosperity, selling their latest CD’s and videos and want to be paid to teach you. The Perizzites are “rustic squatters” or “belonging to a village” and refer to people who “squat” in our congregations and bible studies but shouldn’t be there, and they have limited vision. The Hivites are the “livers” who think they have spiritual life but do not. Hivites like to “live it up.” The word is related to the word “Chava” meaning “mother of the living.” The Jebusite means “trodden down” or to “thresh” and are those who trample on the Torah, the commandments, the Sabbath and other people. They try to make these things appear small or of no value. The task of defeating these nations was vever fully completed by Israel and they were eventually led astray by them.
Some say that God does not do Deut 7.10-11 anymore. It says, “but repays those who hate him to their faces, to destroy them; he will not delay with him who hates him, he will repay him to his face. Therefore, you shall keep the commandments (mitzvot) and the statutes (chukim) and the judgments (mishpatim) which I am commanding you today.”
We will pick up here in Part 8 with the next Torah portion called “Ekev.”