Shema: Searching for the “One”
The Experience of the Holy
This post is not about matchmaking, or even the journey to find your ‘soul mate’.
Here, searching for the “One” refers to our deep desire to achieve integration, to be at ‘one’ with who we are on the inside with how we behave on the outside. To feel whole.
The challenge is that often, although we know who we want to be in the ideal, we often behave in ways that don’t hit that target. Syncing doesn’t always occur, mainly because life gets in the way and we don’t pay close enough attention. It takes an awful lot of work and there’s only so much bandwidth.
So we need a tool, and reciting even the first line of the Shema prayer (Deuternonomy 6:4) might get us to focus on who and what “the One” refers to. The Shema affirms the Unity of God.… but this goes beyond mere numbers. We don’t say that God is “one” as opposed to “two”….we say that God is all encompassing. Oneness as in totality. Everything.
The verse also demands that we pay attention.
Shema Ysrael Adonai Eloheynu, Adonai Echad.
Listen up Israel, the Lord is Our God. The Lord Alone is One.
The word Shema is often translated as “Hear” but one can hear without listening. We do that most of the time when we don’t work hard enough to be fully present in our conversations. The command (and it is a command), is for us to listen, as a person and as a people, to what it means that God alone is “One”.
Actually, the Shema is a very compassionate statement. God’s singularity is unique: God alone is One. We’ll never approach the integration we’re seeking because, well, we’re human. The very name Israel means struggling with God, yet being on a straight path toward God. Layers of understanding are provided for us in these words.
Since we are created in God’s Image (B’tzelem Elohim), we are tasked with emulating God. It is a goal that we strive for but will never be able to reach in our lifetimes. Our fallibility as human beings is our constant search for our innermost essence, our spiritual side, the truest part of ourselves, yet we always have to deal with the physical reality of our bodies.
It is our challenge to navigate between the physical and the spiritual. We are physical creatures who yearn for glimpses of a spiritual existence. We want what we can’t have, but still, we can experience tiny morsels of an elevated existence.
We can teeter above our baseness by trying some of the tools we have available: meditation, study, prayer, fasting, blessings, chanting and more. Venturing too far off by exclusively immersing ourselves in these practices is not the Jewish way. We don’t remove ourselves from our reality. We don’t take on extreme behavior. We want to experience and enjoy all the gifts of this world.
Our task is to connect with God and others, and build loving relationships.
So we live within the struggle. Body and Soul. Head and Heart.
May you experience, even for brief moments, the glory that is within you.
May you be in alignment with your truest essence and live with the joy of knowing that you were created in the Image of God.