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A Shema Secret

Excerpted from Ramchal's Derech HaShem

By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman ben Ya'akov © January 23, 2015
(last updated 07.15.2018)

One must understand:

       HaShem is King over all of His creation
       HaShem is ONE and there is none other.

HaShem's existence is not dependant upon anything else that exists. He inherently exists and is Perfect in His own right He has no relationship with anything else, neither above Him nor below Him. Nothing "above" Him causes Him to be, and neither is there anything below Him or on par with Him which even contributes to His being. It is for this reason that one of His Names is "Elohim," which means "powers" [for God is the source of all powers], to reflect... that God is the One Being [or Power] that is intrinsically necessary and imperative for all else.

On the other hand, God willed that other things be, and He created everything in such a way that everything depends upon Him for its existence. For this reason God is called by an additional Name, which means "Master" over all. Everything comes from Him, all is His, and He has full authority over all things to do as He desires.

In a manner of speaking, however, we can also say that as a result of His goodness and love, God also desired to display His humility. He thus descended, as it were, from His lofty status, and associated Himself with His handiwork. Even though created things are actually not associated with Him at all, He desired to relate to them to the degree that a king relates to his subjects. In this respect, He would be considered as their Leader and Ruler and, figuratively speaking, He is then honored by them, just as a king is honored by his subjects. It is thus written (Mishlei 14:28), "In a multitude of people is a King's honor."

It is in this respect that we call God the King of the universe. We consider Him as our Leader, and He is thus honored by us. We are also required to do His bidding and obey Him, no matter what He commands us, just like the subjects of a Monarch...

This is the significance of the Essence of the Shema, consisting of the verse (Devarim 6:4), "Hear, O Y'israel, HaShem is our God, HaShem is One.

Sh'ma Y'israel Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad.

Hear, O Israel, HaShem is our God, HaShem is One.
           (Devarim/Deuteronomy 6:4)
  • Sh'ma: Listen, Hear
  • Y'israel: People of Israel: i.e. the Jews
  • Adonai: The Sacred Name of Four Letters (i.e. HaShem: The Name
  • Eloheinu: "Our God" -- the plural 1st person possessive of אֱלֹהִים
  • Echad: The unified and cardinal number one אֶחָד
          He is ONE and there is no second or third.
Text: Derech HaShem ("The Way of God") IV.4.2, by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lazzatto, translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. Torah Classics Library.

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