Oneness: The Essence of Our Existence
King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes “There is a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot….a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time of waiting and a time of dancing….a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:2-8). There are times when we experience opposite extremes.
How do we manage these tensions? In this week’s Parasha, Vaetchanan, Moshe repeats the Shema. Despite the world being divided and fractured, sometimes even polarized, the true essence of our existence is oneness.
שְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יְהֹוָ֥ה | אֶחָֽד
Hear, O Israel: The L-rd is our G-d; the L-ord is one (Devarim 6:4).
This message is so radical that we are commanded to recite these words, teach them to our children twice each and every day. We are first introduced to the Shema in Bamidbar and Moshe repeats it here in Vaetchanan. The Kabbalah states that the meaning of the phrase “the L-rd (Hashem), as well as his power to conceal and hide his presence (Elokim), are, in truth, one and the same. The difference between revelation and concealment, between good and evil, between day and night, is only from our perspective. Both are expressions of G-dliness. Both were created for us to reach the purpose of our creation.
We are in the midst of a struggle; the struggle between good and evil, but G-d gave all of us all of the tools necessary to win this struggle. Sometimes it seems that things are moving in the right direction when most of the people are moving a certain way, or doing a certain thing, however, this is not always the case. Our armor that G-d gave us is the Torah and featured within the Torah are the 10 Commandments (Devarim 5:6-18) which are repeated in this Parasha. Can you imagine how different our world would be if more people followed these commandments or the Noahide Laws? Many of the Noahide Laws are the same as the 10 Commandments:
Do not profane G‑d’s Oneness in any way. Acknowledge that there is a single G-d who cares about what we are doing and desires that we take care of His world.
Do not curse your Creator. No matter how angry you may be, do not take it out verbally against your Creator.
Do not murder. The value of human life cannot be measured. To destroy a single human life is to destroy the entire world—because, for that person, the world has ceased to exist. It follows that by sustaining a single human life, you are sustaining an entire universe.
Do not eat a limb of a living animal. Respect the life of all G‑d’s creatures. As intelligent beings, we have a duty not to cause undue pain to other creatures.
Do not steal. Whatever benefits you receive in this world, make sure that none of them are at the unfair expense of someone else.
Harness and channel the human libido. Incest, adultery, rape and homosexual relations are forbidden. The family unit is the foundation of human society. Sexuality is the fountain of life and so nothing is more holy than the sexual act. So, too, when abused, nothing can be more debasing and destructive to the human being.
Establish courts of law and ensure justice in our world. With every small act of justice, we are restoring harmony to our world, synchronizing it with a supernal order. That is why we must keep the laws established by our government for the country’s stability and harmony.
The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, taught others these laws so that we would be prepared for the times of peace and wisdom that are approaching. How can be prepare ourselves when we are so divided and things sem like they are getting worse? We can reach a point of unity and peace by remembering our mission in this world. We are to serve G-d and put people in their proper place as servants of G-d. It will not take a big group of people to make a difference in this world. As Margaret Mead once said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” We can change the world, but only by remembering the words that Moshe spoke to us.