Deuteronomy 6:4-6: “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.”

A way of internalizing God’s beauty is to learn the law of God by heart – and it will take time to learn 613 commandments as recorded in the first five books of the Bible – however, I believe there’s a method to the madness: by delving into God’s laws we get to know the heart of God. If the sanctuary with all its imagery depicting Jesus is God’s love letter to His Son, then the law could be God’s love letter to His people. It’s the priest’s law spelling out how to minister to people; it’s the people’s law encouraging social justice, exposing moral depravity and designing a way to rid ourselves from it; and most of all, it’s God’s law of devotion encouraging us to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, which is why the love command is the centerpiece of it all: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.”

“Love command” sounds a bit odd in our ears, and I believe it is! Everybody knows that issuing a command to love someone will not result in love at all. So from the start it becomes obvious that the body of laws penned down in the Torah is not meant to be obeyed but lived and breathed. It’s a gross misunderstanding of the whole Bible to think this is essentially a rule book, and by obeying such rules we pave our way to heaven. The Bible is a testimony of God’s love relationship to humans. It’s meant to encourage and invite all sons and daughters of Adam and Eve back to the Garden of Eden.

Ever since the incident in the Garden of Eden a lot of time has passed.  One might say an estrangement occurred between the two parties – God and mankind – and rightly so.  I believe that the Torah was written in stone for a reason: to counteract this estrangement by carving some of God’s personality traits into stone. All His character traits flow into one pool and come under one common denominator: He is holy. And anything coming near Him either wants to become part of Him and become holy or stay apart from Him facing destruction, a phenomenon we also observe in our solar system; what goes on in the stellar core of the Sun is nuclear fusion, where hydrogen nucleus are merged under incredible pressure and temperature to form helium nucleus. Comparatively speaking, we either merge into God’s holiness and become part of His kingdom or we keep separate and get busted – not unlike hydrogen nucleus merges into helium nucleus and some elements are destroyed in the process while some are reformed to become part of the Sun’s energy. With all this imagery in mind I believe it is no accident that Moses encountered God in a burning bush – a bush that was burning, yet not consumed by fire. That’s what holiness is all about.  It’s the paradox of a life-altering (not destroying) fire.

Dealing with the phenomenon of God’s holiness Leviticus 21:12 says: “He [the priest] must not defile the sanctuary of his God by leaving it to attend to a dead person, for he has been made holy by the anointing oil of his God. I am the Lord.” Death and life are mutually exclusive. Death belongs in the destruction camp; life belongs in the holiness camp. Unfortunately, all of creation as we know it today is under the death grip, and death has profoundly damaged and altered our DNA.  Innocent nature has become corrupted. We see corruption raise its ugly head in sickness, disease, the deteriorating effects of aging, addictions, mental illness, selfish attitudes. And all of creation suffers as a result.

Leviticus 22:31-32 has the antidote: “You must faithfully keep all my commands by putting them into practice, for I am the Lord. Do not bring shame on my holy name, for I will display my holiness among the people of Israel. I am the Lord who makes you holy.”

We did not trust the Lord back in the Garden of Eden when we could taste and see His goodness in the unspoiled creation around us, when we walked with God in His garden.  Now  outside the garden, in the midst of the mess we’ve created, we are called to trust and wait on the Lord.  This is a circle that cannot be broken: because of lack of trust we lost Eden. And by way of trust we’ll be reintroduced back to Eden.

Psalm 37:5-6: “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.”

Posted in Law

5 thoughts on “Deuteronomy 6:4-6: “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.”

      1. Israel as I understand it is not an absract term, but primarily the name of the people whom God (El, as you rightly translated) had chosen forever to bring His Light to the world, through abiding those 613 commandments, as we are told in many places in the Torah. In a wider sense it IS also an IDEA which can include other nations, but only through actual Am Israel and their fulfillment of the Torah. For they are Israel. Indeed Rash”i, our great commentator says that the meaning of The Shema, is: Hear o Israel, O Jew(s) hear this : HaShem who is OUR lord now, shall be the lord of everyone and everything at the end of Time, when all comes to Unity – Echad.

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  1. I am definitely looking forward to the blessed unity at the end of Time, not a man-made unity, which never works, but a unity God puts in place, which is more like a reunion because in the beginning we were One with our Creator. What a reunion that will be! Can you imagine the beautiful multi-faceted worship, abounding creativity, the most interesting thought exchange among the people of God and their Creator? That’s the hope of my heart. Thanks for sharing. Love your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

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