The Jewish people have no monopoly on G-d and spirituality. In fact, Judaism’s core desire is that the world perceive G-d’s presence in their lives, and grow spiritually. What’s curious then is the wording of what is arguably Judaism’s most famous expression: “Shema Yisrael… Listen Israel, G-d is our Master, G-d is One (Deut 6:4).” If this eternal message relates to all mankind, why is it addressed only to Israel? Would not the One who created and sustains all mankind, by definition, be the Master of all?

Rashi’s classic commentary solves the puzzle: G-d might appear to be the Master of only the Jewish people, those who received and accepted the Torah at Mt. Sinai. The nation of Israel got direct instructions on how to live from the Master Himself — “Israel, G-d is our Master.” However, “G-d is One” — we wish and hope for the day when every soul universally recognizes the Al-mighty’s intimate involvement with all, when the spirituality hidden beneath every surface becomes abundantly clear.

Perhaps this is a perspective that has been overlooked, but it’s crucial that our practice and interaction with people reflect this hope. It increases our concern and our love for others, and helps us appreciate everyone’s efforts to grow and live meaningful lives. Is this not a recipe for unity?

Good Shabbos!
Rabbi Mordechai Dixler
Program Director, Project Genesis – Torah.org

22 Comments

  1. Greetings, Rabbi Dixler.

    Thank you for your insightful message, but I must admit to not quite seeing how Rashi’s commentary, as presented in your letter, solves the puzzle. G-d did indeed give direct instructions to the nation of Israel on how to live, but I don’t see where the rest of humanity receives the information that G-d is One.

    I’m aware of the Noahide Laws as recorded in Genesis 9, but they don’t resonate from Noah to the rest of the nations in the same sense as the unbroken chain of Torah does from Moses and Sinai to the Jews of today. There’s a unified link between G-d, Moses, and the Israelites who stood at Sinai that can be traced from 3500 years in the past all the way to the present-day Jewish people. When you say that “we wish and hope for the day when every soul universally recognizes the Al-mighty’s intimate involvement with all”, how do you believe this will happen? Will we only become aware of the “spirituality hidden beneath every surface” when the Messiah comes?

    Forgive me for asking you this question. I’m a Gentile married to a Jewish wife and we frequently have discussions like this. Since you asked for comments, I thought I’d take this opportunity to ask for your viewpoint.

    Thanks and Good Shabbos.

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    • James, You make a great point. He did give instructions to the rest of the world, but not to the level He gave to the Jewish people. It would seem that the discrepancy would give the appearance of Him acting as Master over the Jews, while exhibiting less mastery over the non-Jews. The point of the message was to say that He has as much a desire to have that relationship with the non-Jews, if they reach the required level of recognition of Him. While Jews may not always act at that level of recognition, they are the descendants of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs which gives them an advantage.

      The recognition of the non-Jews has been happening throughout history and it will certainly reach it’s zenith at the time of the Messiah. The spread of the belief in monotheism to most of the civilized world was likely the greatest manifestation of this that we’ve seen so far.

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  2. Your right on target. It is only when we, G-ds children, think of ourselves as different from others, G-ds children, it is only then that the tears and pain we inflict on each other surface and result in family separation.

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  3. It is a recipe for unity, but correct me if I’m wrong, the prophets and maybe our current state of affairs, say there are some countries that simply will not cooperate because their ‘unity’ means another god.

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  4. I am going to refer to your last paragraph – which I place here:

    Perhaps this is a perspective that has been overlooked, but it’s crucial that our practice and interaction with people reflect this hope. It increases our concern and our love for others, and helps us appreciate everyone’s efforts to grow and live meaningful lives. Is this not a recipe for unity?

    All I can think of is that ‘hope springs eternal’.
    Given the number of pogroms the Jewish people have suffered through…
    The number of times we have suffered listening to jealousy driven comments about “being the chosen people”,

    Do you really believe that it increases our love for others?

    If others didn’t carry such hatred that poisons ‘our recipe for unity’, there might be a chance to appreciate ‘meaningful’ lives. Your message might be better received, if it dealt with how to quell hatred. G-D didn’t answer Moses’ prayer, to allow him to go on to the land of Israel. I hope he listens to our prayers today to find an answer to living in harmony with those who hate us.

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  5. This is for me another side of the SHEMA.That its intent extends to everything in creation. Thanks for the lesson.

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  6. G_D CONTINUOUSLY BLESS AND KEEP ISRAEL & JERUSALEM! Amen.

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  7. I’m a Chab Jew and I have experienced the desdain of other Orthodox jews, some Chassidim. If we cannot be one how can we expect to have the goyim in the boat?

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  8. Thank you for the beautiful message that it is the whole of mankind that is loved by G-d. My daughter used to live in a Jewish area near New York and was told by a non-Jew that she hates all Jews because we consider ourselves to be the Chosen People. It is very difficult to educate people out of anti-Semitism. This message goes some way to diminish one of the many myths that non-Jews cling to in order to justify their hatred of Jews.

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  9. It is through us that God blessed other nations. He had to start somewhere. Don’t forget that at the time he gave us the Torah, others peoples were idol worshipers. Just as it takes years to raise a child to adulthood, it takes millennia to raise the consciousness of humankind. We are the vehicle. That is why it is important for us to recognize that we are one Jewish nation (as opposed to Ashkenazim, Sephardim, etc…) The day we start acting like a unified nation and feeling like one in our hearts, a lot of things may change for the best of all of humankind.

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  10. Thank you Rabbi,

    For your remarks. Perhaps no issue is so easily misunderstood as that of particularity or election. As a stranger come into the faith, I still, occasionally, wonder if I have crashed the party. during my morning prayers, for the longest time I changed one to “Thank you for making me a goi.” Even now, every time I recite the prayer, I think that God has remade me. This, however, does not stop the occasional flinch that perhaps I was dissatisfied with the state of my original creation and that I did God a disservice by converting to Judaism.

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  11. The words “Shema Yisrael” were chosen by Moses precisely because he was declaring to Israel, not mankind in general. And “G-d is our Master, G-d is One” declare precisely the truth that Israel must heed. We have not many gods as do those in Egypt from whence we come or those in Canaan to where we go. He is ONE and there is no other. And He is our Master, none other. Is He G-d alone to us and not others? Of course not, but pay attention that He Alone is G-d to us.

    Good grief, we Jews still suffer the affliction of inability to grasp simple truths in our need to leave no possible meaning hidden, our fear that embracing The Word for what it says might expose us to accusation of not having tried harder to discover the “real” meaning. We spend all our energy exploring every conceivable way to deposit our faith and diminish the deposit itself. The words say what they mean and mean what they say. Amen!

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  12. bs’d

    It is surely true that HaShem has compassion on all His creatures and that He has given the 7 Mitzvot B’nai Noach to the Goyim to preserve the order of His world, but we alone are His children.
    The Torah does not want us to establish Achdut with the Nations> We must create Achdut amongst ourselves and be a Light to them by reflecting the Light of Hashem and His Torah.
    The Mitzvah of “Love” relates only to our fellow Jews.

    Shavua Tov

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  13. There is no way to get around the particularism of Judaism. We are “Am Segulah” the special precious possession of Hashem. We are meant to be a light unto the nations, but the nations themselves have no part in the Torah. Non-Jews who feel that they are spiritually close to the Jewish people must go the way of Yitro and Ruth and become part of Am Yisrael.

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  14. moreover it demonstrates the unique responsibility of Israel to be present in this world as a sign of G-d existence.

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  15. With much studies,HaShem has already spread his message of love,the ten tribes were not lost,but in fact sent to all of the world and thus HaShem is within all”

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  16. An issue that has been raised by a few is that this message somehow dilutes the idea of the Chosen Nation and that the commandment to love is only towards others Jews. To be clear, the Jews were chosen by G-d to be the recipients of His Torah since they are the children of the the Patriarchs and Matriarchs – those who discovered G-d’s presence for themselves, devoted every ounce of their being to Him, and introduced the pagan world to what it means to have one G-d. At the same time, the mission of Jews that they’ve been chosen for is to spread the knowledge of G-d’s presence to all of humanity, by acting as a light to the nations. Built into this mission is the concern that all of humanity appreciate G-d and the spiritual relationship we have with Him.

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  17. The message of the Torah was accepted by the Jewish people and as such they become that special people favored by G-d and have the responsibility of being a light to the nations, which is not easy and failures in living the Torah life probably become part of the “light” we show as well by way of illustration of the effects of noncompliance to Torah living. Yet after all the failures, G-d still looks after His chosen children. Shouldn’t this inspire and encourage the world?

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  18. Shalom,
    Who had wrote the five (5) books of Moshe since in Deuteronomy it says “these are the words of moshe to the sons of Israel”?

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    • G-d wrote them and dictated them to Moshe, as was the case with the rest of the Five Books of Moshe (Moses), with the exception of the very last part where it speaks of the death of Moshe where the Talmud cites those who say Joshua (Yehoshua) wrote it, and others who maintain that Moshe wrote it (while crying) before his death.

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  19. Thank you Rabbi,

    Why Shema Yisrael?
    What do you feel is the deep meaning of Shema Yisrael…

    Friend an brother from Africa.

    Reply

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