Halacha L’Moshe MiSinai
Volume 2: Number 4
The Second Mitzvah: The Unity Of G-d.
It is a positive commandment to know the unity of G-d, to believe the He is the one without any partner or associate.
Hafetz Hayim: Scripture states HEAR O ISRAEL, THE LORD OUR G-D, THE LORD IS ONE (Devarim 6:4) This is a main principle of our faith; after the first knowledge that there is a G-d in existence, it is necessary to believe with complete faith that He is simply, utterly one in the utmost degree of unity; He is not a physical being; no concepts about a physical being can apply to Him; nothing that can affect a physical being can affect Him; there is none second (like) to Him; and without Him there is no G-d. We are duty-bound to bear this in mind at every occasion and moment – both man and woman.
Judaism holds that there is only one G-d. No more, no less. In our day and age this is almost taken as a fact of life. Unless we are Hindu or practicing some ancient religion, we live in a world where the great faiths are all monotheistic, that is, they believe in only one G-d. This was not the case just a few hundred years ago. Paganism in all its many forms was widely believed. Even today, there are those who are quick to identify the ultimate power in their life as something that is not ultimate. They will worship their job, money, sex, or the acquisition of things as the source of true meaning in life. Some people worship nature, humanity or history. These are all false gods. These “religions’ are as false as declaring that there are many different powers in the universe. Any time we take that which is not ultimate and make it the ultimate in our life we are guilty of violating the commandment of the Unity of G-d.
It is also violated whenever we maintain that there is less than one G-d. That is, when we declare that there is no G-d in the universe. Either way we will damage Judaism in a critical fashion. When there is only one G-d in the universe, there can be only one law, only one Torah, only one path for us to follow and no excuses for us when we fail to live up to our obligations. In Judaism we can not claim, “The Devil made me do it.” For Judaism insists that we are personally responsible for our actions, and we are personally responsible for Knowing G-d and knowing what G-d expects from us.
This is why the declaration of faith, the citizenship oath in Judaism is the “Shema” the declaration from Deuteronomy that G-d is one. This is the beginning of what it means to be a Jew, there is a G-d and that G-d is our G-d and that G-d is One, Unique, Alone. The declaration of apostasy, that declares our separation from our faith is “There is no Justice and there is no Judge” a declaration that there is no G-d and what we do does not matter.
As we will see in the future Mitzvot, once we declare the existence and unity of G-d, we will have to see how that belief matters in human life. When there is a conflict in Judaism, we are quick to understand that conflict in the law as a conflict in human understanding. That there must be a correct way to practice Judaism and to live by Jewish law because there can be no competing deity in the universe. Whatever the Torah may say, it is the word of the Living G-d, and no other being.
There are times and places where Judaism talks about angels and a prosecuting angel that acts very much like a devil. But these divine creatures all serve G-d, the do not and cannot stand alone. We do not worship them, but only acknowledge that they are messengers of the divine. In the end there is only G-d, and in our dualistic world, G-d is the ultimate unity.
Next Week: Mitzvah #3: Loving G-d