Ve’etchanan - 18 August 2016 / 14 Av 5776

This week’s parasha contains the Sh’ma, the best-known Hebrew text in the Jewish world, our eloquent and yet so simple statement of faith. (Deut 6: 4)  But what exactly do we mean when we say “Adonai Echad,”  “God is One?”  This is widely open to interpretation.  I find it fascinating that even Baruch Spinoza, the 17th century philosopher and pantheist (one who believes that God and the Universe are one), who was excommunicated from his Jewish community in Amsterdam for his heresies, tried to explain its meaning.  He wrote:  “No one will dispute that this doctrine is absolutely necessary for complete devotion, admiration and love toward God.”  (Theologic-Political Treatise, 14)  Did Spinoza then love the Universe with such devotion?  Maybe some of us can relate to this way of thinking. Today Spinoza’s ideas are accepted in the anthology of Jewish God ideas in the liberal Jewish world and perhaps beyond.

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