Listen, my dear Israel (Shema Yisrael)
Sixty-four years ago this week, Rabbi Joseph Schultz recalls being with his father at an unforgettable rally at the Coliseum in Chicago, celebrating Israel’s re-creation in our ancestral homeland. Rabbi Zeev Gold, President of the World Mizrachi Movement, signee of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, and a cousin to Harry Kraft z”l, took to the podium to share a moving message.
“Three times in the Book of Deuteronomy we hear the phrase Shema Yisrael” he exclaimed. “In this week’s Parashah (Ki Tavo) we read, ‘hasket u-shema yisrael, hayom hazeh n’hi-yeitah le’am’ ‘Be silent, and listen, Israel: this day you have become a people’ (Deut. 27:9). He continued referring to May 14 a few months earlier that spring of 1948, “For the first time in nineteen centuries, the Jewish People has become a nation among the peoples of the world.” With a packed audience in tears, cheering for joy, Rabbi Gold continued. “A second time, we read ‘Shema Yisrael atem krovim lamilchamah’ ‘Listen Israel, you’re approaching war against your enemies’ (Deut. 20:3) Neighboring nations have responded to our national rebirth with aggression, so for the foreseeable future we are going to have to meet them on the field of battle. But someday, with our strength and resolve, we will devote all of our efforts to helping to realize the third verse, ‘Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheynu Adonai Echad’ ‘Listen, Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is One’” (Deut 6:4). “This,” concluded Rabbi Gold, “is because this Shema Yisrael has made the other two Shema Yisraels possible.” Rabbi Schultz vividly remembers how people got out of their wheelchairs and began to dance, still others got out of their crutches to rise to dance with all their heart, spirit, and might.
Recalling the power of this event feels somehow fitting amidst our politically charged season, with pundits cherry-picking for signs of ‘Israel loyalty’ in speeches and platforms from the assemblies in Tampa and Charlotte. If we listen carefully enough, we might hear the ‘music of Zion’, extending from Rabbi Gold’s words to reach back to our roots in the land found in our Sedra as we strove to do with last year’s Seder Supplement 5772.
A sweet Shabbat to you.
Rabbi William Hamilton