Witnesses to the One: The Spiritual History of the Sh'ma

Overview

“Hear O Israel, the Eternal is Our God, the Eternal is One!”

There is arguably no more important statement in Judaism than the Sh’ma. Its words—calling us to hear, to listen, to pay attention—defy direct translation and have meant different things throughout history.

In a deeply personal exploration of this sacred proclamation, command and prayer, Rabbi Joseph Meszler delves into the spiritual history of the Sh’ma, inspiring you to claim your ...

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Overview

“Hear O Israel, the Eternal is Our God, the Eternal is One!”

There is arguably no more important statement in Judaism than the Sh’ma. Its words—calling us to hear, to listen, to pay attention—defy direct translation and have meant different things throughout history.

In a deeply personal exploration of this sacred proclamation, command and prayer, Rabbi Joseph Meszler delves into the spiritual history of the Sh’ma, inspiring you to claim your own personal meaning in these enduring words.

By examining how the Sh’ma has been commented upon by ancient sages and contemporary thinkers, he opens the doors between each generation that has found a different dimension of truth in the Sh’ma.

Each chapter focuses on a major historical figure and includes a sacred story, an exploration into the story’s many meanings and a suggestion for a new way of “hearing” the voice in the story.

Experience the Sh’ma through the lives of:
* Moses—Fighting Idolatry
* Akiba ben Joseph—The Sages Offer Their Lives
* Saaida Gaon—Proving the One
* Moses Maimonides—Nothing Like God
* Haim Vital—Communing with the One
* Moses Haim Luzzatto— “Master of the Universe”
* Abraham Isaac Kook—A Nation Reborn
* Leo Baeck—One Moral Standard
* Abraham Joshua Heschel—A Prophecy: “One World or No World”

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
"Hear O Israel, the Eternal is our God, the Eternal is One." These words from the Book of Deuteronomy form the Sh'ma (also transliterated as "Shema"). Here Meszler, the rabbi of a Reform congregation in suburban Massachusetts and a noted educator in adult Jewish education, investigates the spiritual history of the Sh'ma by looking at how some key Jewish scholars and believers have interpreted the phrase. He begins with Moses, who brought the words to the Jewish people as a reminder that there is only one God and that they were not to worship idols. He then moves on to second-century sage Akiba ben Joseph, medieval writer Moses Maimonides, Kabbalist Haim Vital, religious Zionist Abraham Isaac Kook, social activist Abraham Joshua Heschel, and more. Norman Lamm also investigated the Sh'ma in The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism as Exemplified in the Shema, the Most Important Passage in the Torah, but Meszler uses story, history, and speculation to appeal to a wider audience. An excellent addition to public, synagogue, and academic libraries.-Marcia Welsh, Dartmouth Coll. Libs., Hanover, NH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580233095
  • Publisher: Jewish Lights Publishing
  • Publication date: 6/1/2006
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 140
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Rabbi Joseph B. Meszler is a noted spiritual leader and educator, recognized for his ability to connect the importance of Jewish tradition with everyday life. He is coauthor of The JGuy's Guide: The GPS for Jewish Teen Guys and author of A Man's Responsibility: A Jewish Guide to Being a Son, a Partner in Marriage, a Father and a Community Leader; Witnesses to the One: The Spiritual History of the Sh'ma and Facing Illness, Finding God: How Judaism Can Help You and Caregivers Cope When Body or Spirit Fails (all Jewish Lights). He is the rabbi at Temple Sinai in Sharon, Massachusetts, and an instructor at the Kehillah Schechter Academy.

Rabbi Joseph B. Meszler is available to speak on the following topics:

  • The Spiritual History of the Sh'ma: What "God Is One" Might Mean
  • Not Your Father's Brotherhood: What Being a Jewish Man Meant Then and Now
  • How Judaism Can Help You Cope with Illness

Click here to contact the author.

Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, one of the leading rabbis of a new generation, is director of Kolel: The Adult Center for Liberal Jewish Learning, a full-time progressive adult Jewish learning center. Goldstein lectures frequently throughout North America. She is also editor of The Women's Torah Commentary: New Insights from Women Rabbis on the 54 Weekly Torah Portions; and The Women's Haftarah Commentary: New Insights from Women Rabbis on the 54 Weekly Haftarah Portions, the 5 Megillot and Special Shabbatot; and author of the award-winning New Jewish Feminism: Probing the Past, Forging the Future and ReVisions: Seeing Torah through a Feminist Lens (all Jewish Lights).

Rabbi Elyse Goldstein is available to speak on the following topics:

  • Women and Judaism
  • Reform Judaism
  • Jewish Parenting
  • General Judaica
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Table of Contents

Foreword vii

Preface xi

1 Fighting Idolatry: Moses 1

2 The Sages Offer Their Lives: Akiba ben Joseph 15

3 Proving the One: Saadia Gaon 29

4 Nothing Like God: Moses Maimonides 41

5 Communing with the One: Haim Vital 53

6 "Master of the Universe": Moses Haim Luzzatto 65

7 A Nation Reborn: Abraham Isaac Kook 79

8 One Moral Standard: Leo Baeck 91

9 A Prophecy-"One World or No World": Abraham Joshua Heschel 103

10 "Hearing" Today: Becoming the Next Sacred Story 117

Notes 125

Discussion Guide 135

Suggestions for Further Reading 139

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  • Posted April 12, 2009

    A new dimension

    Seeking to make my personal understanding of Judaism more relevant, this book more than met my need. It was simple to understand. I really liked the journey through the ages and how different people interpreted the Shema and emphasized words that I had not considered. It also provided a historical journey that was informative without being overwhelming. I hope this author considers doing more books on prayer in the same format!

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