This week we begin a new Book – the book of Shemot. Seems very fitting for our first Shabbat service of 2024. A new year however it is marked, brings us yet another opportunity to reminisce and also to look forward. I am often living within the lintel, as it were, between babies and funerals, Bar and Bat Mitzvah preparation and adults planning a re-reading of the Bar Mitzvah portion 60 years ago!
With Shemot we leave the Abrahamic story and begin reading about the lives of the Israelites in Egypt, in Mitzrayim. We meet Moses and Miriam, Tzipporah and Yitro, and we meet God speaking to Moses from the flames of the small burning bush. I have been writing to Cohen, Caroline Hergt’s grandson, thanking him for giving his tzedakah money to the children of Israel, who need food and shoes and beds and homes. One of his questions to his Bubbe, as he has been learning the Sh’ma, is why is there only one God? Here is part of my answer to Cohen.
As for why God is One: here are some ways to think about why God is One and not many gods.
You, Cohen, are Cohen in your oneness of self. Your arms are part of you, your love is part of you, your words are part of your Cohen’ness. Imagine if you were just bits of yourself!!
I remember learning many years ago about how all the colours of light in a spectrum – think if a rainbow 🌈- are absorbed into what we call white. I find some things hard to think about! White is not absence of colour, it is all colour; white absorbs all colour – not dark, not black. So too are we all in God. All of us, in all of our colours and shapes and thoughts become part of God’s Oneness and Light.
If God was many gods then each god- part would be a little part of God’s light – maybe red or maybe blue. We know God to be a magnificent Oneness because we know there is an energy force bringing us to this awareness of oneness. We are connected to the roots of the trees and the buds of flowers opening up. We are part of the happiness of our dogs and we are in awe of the salmon swimming as they return to where they were born.
We can’t figure all of this out because (I think) we are all just a tiny part of that Whole Godness that binds us all together.
This is a very wonderful question, Cohen, and is a question that many of us think about. When we say our Sh’ma, we end with the word Echad- One! And that helps each of us feel less alone, because each of us in our own little person is part of Echad, the One.
Much love, I hope to see you soon. We are praying for Stella, for her healing and for the oneness of your whole family.