Hear O Israel, the Eternal is our God, the Eternal is One (Deut. 6:4)
This is about an immense human dream about deep consistency in the world; about meaning; about a global rule that allows us to escape the uncertainties of chance.
The Torah – An operations manual for the world, a unique treasure, instructions that we need simply to follow in order to achieve happiness.
The Ten Commandments – the essence of the revelation. One single message that inspired the nation.
We would love that there would be one single, simple truth, a language common to all. But this is not so.
The ten commandments, which we envision as unanimous, have two different versions in our tradition. Compare that to our parasha, Vaetchanan (Deuteronomy 5: 5) with that of the parasha Yitro in Exodus (Chapter 20).
The Torah, which is our guide, is also split between two versions, one written and one oral, to the point that our tradition forbids reading the written Torah without the help of a guide, fearing the text would otherwise be misunderstood.
The unity of God we affirm as a reality in the Shema (the first paragraph is taken from our parashah) is referred to as a hope and aspiration in the prayer that concludes our offices, Aleinu “In that day the Lord will be One as His Name is One” (Zechariah 14: 9).
The search for cohesion and a common meeting ground is a project that requires courage and perseverance.
The unity is an aspiration we need to live, finding harmony within our families, our friends and our communities.
By giving us the Shabbat, our tradition allows us to live this aspiration.
By requiring of us freedom and responsibility during the week, it encourages us to move forward in this quest.