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Rabbi Shaya's Thoughts

Diverging Paths

 

There are times in life when we are not sure which path to take. Do we take the beaten path, the well-worn, well-tested path? Or do we go on our own, trying something new, something bold?

As I’m sure you are aware, there is a “kite war” being waged against Israel now from Gaza. This is a very low-tech war, yet causing devastating results. Over 6,000 acres of land and its trees and wildlife have been destroyed. The method of Hamas is new; they are not using the same old methods of launching missiles and rockets. What is the motivating force that makes them come up with new ideas?

In this week’s Torah portion, we learn about Amalek, the sworn enemy of the Jews, who comes to attack the Jews yet again. The verse says that he heard that the Jews were traveling Derech Haetarim, the “way of the spies.” And so the Amalekites attacked.

This begs the question, Why is the fact that the Jews were traveling the “way of the spies” a reason to go to war? Their direction cannot just be a trivial fact, since the language in the verse makes it clear that their direction was the impetus for the attack.

“The way of the spies” was a route that had already been traveled, an easy path. Amalek saw a weakness within the Jews – an unwillingness to work hard, to push the limits – and hence, did not fear the Jews any longer and was not afraid to attack. 

Another translation of the Hebrew words Derech Haetarim is the “way of the Ark,” meaning that the Ark traveled with the Jews and paved the way for them. While Amalek and his warriors knew that G-d was with the Jews, and did not see any weakness in the Jews, nevertheless their hatred toward the Jews was so great that they were willing to put their lives on the line, and attacked with full force.

Here we see that when there is so much hatred, one finds new methods of attack—they were willing to put their lives on the line. They became irrational just to hurt their enemy.

The lesson for us must be to turn this on its head.

When we want to do good, how should we go about it? Do we take the easy route or that radical path?

We can take the path that was traveled before, do things that make sense, and take actions that were tested before, the safe and sound method. Or we can try to go beyond our comfort zones and do something that might make us a little uncomfortable; perhaps it might even demand of us to put our ego aside and be humbled a bit. Do a mitzvah that we might even consider a bit radical, simply because we haven’t done it before. That is what we would call “walking in the path of the Ark.”

Shabbat Shalom,      

 

Do You Like Confrontation?

 

No one likes confrontation. We don’t like to be confronted and, if I dare say, even those who confront. Such behavior might not be their “normal” modus operandi, but they may feel that they have been pushed into this type of act.

Not to justify such behavior, but let’s keep this in mind as a backdrop to Korach’s claim to Moses in this week’s Torah portion. Korach approached Moses and demanded to know, “Why is Aaron the High Priest? Are we not all a nation of priests?” What motivated Korach to suddenly confront Moses on this issue? This was not the first day that Aaron was the High Priest, so why then? What changed?

The lesson that the Jewish people learned after the episode of the spies was that “action is what counts.” The doing of the actual Mitzvah supersedes all else. It is not enough to sit and study, to meditate on the meaning of a mitzvah, if we are not going to fulfill the mitzvah itself. We must do it.

This is why Korach confronts Moses. If Judaism is all about “thought,” I can agree that Aaron is a holy man, a prophet, a peacemaker and a leader. However, if Judaism is all about “action,” why is one person’s act different than another’s? Shouldn’t we all be equal?

What Korach was missing was that of course it is the action that counts, but action cannot be void of intention. It must be intentional, and we need leaders to teach us how that should be done.

This idea, the importance of the thought process, is emphasized in a unique way, one that is specific to the Levi (Korach’s) tribe in their gift to the Kohen (Aaron’s family), mentioned later in the Torah portion. The Torah tells us that even if the Levi “thinks” of the gift, it becomes designated as the Kohen’s, without even saying so explicitly. This is very unique. Generally, we need an “action” at a minimum, to verbalize one’s intentions. Yet here we see that just thinking is enough to transform one’s grain from the Levi’s possession to the Kohen’s. 

The lesson for all of us is that we have the power to use our thoughts for good. Yes, it is our action that counts, but we are not limited to only our actions. Our thoughts too not only can, but do, have an impact on the world around us, to the extent that it can transform simple food into a gift to G-d.

This Shabbat is the twenty-fourth Yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The Rebbe had dedicated his life to teaching others how to change the world, how each one of us can make this world a better place. We all possess within ourselves the ability to make a difference in this world. When we “act Jewish” and “think Jewish,” we start to make a difference not only in our own life, but in the lives of those around us as well.

Shabbat Shalom,

 

 

Intentions That Matter

 

In this week’s Torah portion, we have the famous story of Moses sending twelve scouts to check out the Land of Israel and report back on the lay of the land of Israel. In his instructions to them, he asks them to bring back some samples of the “fruit of the land,” so that the Jews can see that it is a “blessed land.”

As the story goes on to tell us; ten of the spies turn out to be bad and try to convince the Jews to stay in the desert. While two of them, Joshua and Calev, try to persuade them to go on to the promised land. Reading in to the details, however we see that the “bad ten” actually “listen” to Moses and bring back the fruit of the land, while the “good guys” Joshua and Calev disobey the order and come back empty handed, without the fruit. Why didn’t they listen to Moses?

In Talmudic parlance we can argue that the command was not on each one of them to do themselves, as much as the job should get done, and since others were carrying the fruits they were exempt. However, after deeper analysis we most conclude that there is a reason why they did not want to participate in carrying the fruit.

In Judaism we often say that it is the action that counts. Yet the thought and speech that go into the action also matters. Actually, it matters a lot. To the point, that if we have the action with no intention, no thought, we are missing the point (though we still get credit for the action.) On the other hand, if we have the deepest concentration, meditate for hours, talk about our intentions but we don’t get to the action then we did nothing. Zero.

The mistake of the ten spies was that they thought that you can serve G-d with good intentions only. You can meditate on G-d’s greatness, you can serve him in a “desert” in a world void of action. Once we can make that mistake, Joshua and Calev were afraid that people can go to the opposite extreme and conclude that action itself is enough and we don’t need to think, “just carry the fruits as Moses commanded” that is why they specifically did not do so to demonstrate that intention is very important, knowing that the other ten spies had bad intentions.

If they carried the fruit, along with the others, than they would be showing that it didn’t matter what you thought as long as you acted according to the law. By not carrying with the others, they demonstrated that it is of outmost importance to have the right intention, yet at the same time it is the action that really counts.

 

When It Appears to be Monotonous

What drives a person to make a difference in life? Autonomous actions or monotonous actions? Seemingly, when we feel that we are not really making a difference in what we are doing, where there is no real feeling being invested, we have no drive to accomplish much.

That is why going back some years, about 3,330 years, to the dedication of the Tabernacle in the desert, Aaron, the High Priest, was feeling down when the all the Tribe leaders brought their offerings and there was nothing monumental left for him to do. After all, Aaron was going to be the High Priest and what was his contribution to dedicate the Tabernacle?

G-d called out to him and said, “Don’t feel down; you will kindle the Menorah!” On the surface, this statement is of little comfort. The Tribe leaders brought the animals, but they didn’t actually slaughter them. That was Aaron’s job. So why didn’t G-d just say, “Yes, they brought the animals, but you will ‘slaughter’ them!” Why is kindling the Menorah of more significance than slaughtering the animals? In addition, the slaughtering of the animals is an objective action on Aaron’s part. He can do it right or do it wrong. When it comes to the kindling the Menorah, he can do nothing wrong, it was considered a “miraculous” act!

The Menorah itself was built by a miracle: Moses took a piece of gold, placed it in a fire, and out came a molded Menorah out of the one piece of gold. The flames themselves always miraculously faced in the same direction, regardless from where the priest lit the flames. Aaron knew this, and looked at this act as a monotonous, meaningless action.

Yet, this is specifically where G-d tells him he will find solace.

The moment Aaron was willing to do his part solely because G-d asked him to do so is the moment when he truly connected to G-d. This is when his “flame” ascended on high and connected to the One Above.

So to answer the question that we started off with: when do we make a difference in the world? When we do what is asked of us, not only when it feels good, but when it brings light into the world. When we do that properly, the flame becomes a miraculous light and it illuminates the world around us.

Riding on a White Horse

Many people have a fantasy to want to save the day by riding in on a white horse. This is not so unusual, especially for leaders to want to behave this way, and that is why it is not surprising when the leaders of the Jewish people behaved like this back in the days when the Jews were in the desert.

A little background is necessary: When Moses started the campaign to build the Holy Tabernacle in the desert, the leaders of the twelve tribes said to the members of their tribes, “You bring what you can and we will make up the difference in the end.” However, what happened in the end was a whole different story. The Jews were very enthusiastic about making their donations and perhaps for the first and last time in the history of a Temple’s building campaign, the fundraiser, Moses, had to say, “Enough!” As a result, the leaders had no need to donate. Not to be left out, an idea came to them—that they could still donate the animals and wagons that were needed for transport. After all, the Tabernacle was a temporary dwelling that would need to be transported during their travels in the desert.

Good idea, right?

Well, then why was it that they were so cheap on what they actually donated, every two leaders giving one wagon! That’s generous? Is that making up for their lost opportunity? They could have been a little more generous and donated with an open hand and donated a few extra wagons!  

Something is not clicking here.

Therefore, we must say that they are actually teaching us the lesson that they themselves learned from experience: Yes, it is important to donate, but it is also important to donate only what is needed (didn’t Moses say “enough?”).

You see, there are two ways of looking at a wagon that will carry your goods. One way is that it is here to make life easier; after all, goods are too heavy to carry. Or, we can say I am happy to carry the goods, but by having the wagon, it allows me to carry the goods more efficiently. Let the weight be on the wagon while the animals pull it so that I can make sure that the goods don’t fall.  This perspective is not so much on being easier, but rather on being more productive.

The leaders wanted to help the Levites be more productive, not to be lazy by having an easier time. That is why they only donated what was needed to get the job done.   

 

 

Make Your Counting Meaningful

This past Tuesday was Election Day. One might ask why we bother to go and vote. What does one vote matter? If we start comparing ourselves to the “big decision makers,” we may ask ourselves, “Who am I to even have an opinion?” True, our democracy gives us this right to vote, but beyond this right, does it really count for anything?

This week we finish counting the Omer and we are about to celebrate the holiday of Shavuot. For the last 49 days, every single day we have been counting one day of the Omer, two days, etc. We didn’t just do this as a community, but also as individuals. Why? What is the significance? What is the importance of our counting?

Counting the Omer has three aspects to it. 1. The idea of counting in its own right, 2. The fact that we are counting something of importance, and 3. By counting, we are elevating a mundane day into a holy day. All the days of the Omer become “holy” because of our counting. They fall into a category all their own.

Having our Jewish voices heard by voting makes the policies that result from our vote ours. We can take ownership.

The same is true with the Torah, and this is why G-d wants us to count each and every day as we approach the holiday of Shavuot, the day of receiving the Torah every year. In order to make the Torah “ours,” we have to “vote” for it. We have to make it count. By not only looking forward to the holiday, but by counting the days as we approach the holiday, we anticipate it in a very personal way. We are taking ownership of it. And by doing so, we are also elevating the world around us to make the world a holy place for G-d.    

Fake It Until You Make It

As it so happens, I am in the midst of teaching a fascinating course on many fundamental concepts of life in general, and Judaism in particular. This past week we were discussing how G-d is all-knowing and all good. And at the same time, He is infinite. Therefore, all that happens in the world is an outgrowth from Him. He willed it and therefore it is.

Not to get into the nuances of this premise (as the intention of this column is to keep it short and simple, not a long essay), we are left with the question: If G-d is infinite, how can He relate to us?

Let me explain the question. For me to have empathy for another human being, I must be able to relate to that person first. If I cannot find some common ground between us, then how can I care for that individual? For example, if I consider another person as a “slave” and therefore a “lower class” person, then it might be “natural” to mistreat that person (as the Germans did to the Jews by calling us dogs first. Once they categorized us as inhuman it become easier for them to mistreat us).

So if G-d is so great, how can He have “emotions” such as love and sadness to care how we are feeling?

The answer is that G-d “behaves” in a caring way regardless of whether or not He has caring emotions. For us, it makes less difference about “how I feel” and more difference about “how I behave.” It is our actions that count. When G-d behaves a certain way, His actions also know no bounds (as He is infinite).

This same role applies to us. We to have to fake it until we make it. We might not always love someone to the fullest, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t treat them with love and respect. When we behave the right way, the rest will follow.

This is why in this week’s Torah portion G-d tells us that we must treat even our indentured servants – Jewish or non-Jewish – with the utmost respect! You might say that you don’t love them, but start treating them well and then you will come to love them—because each one is a person who deserves to be loved, just like you.

So here we see that this idea of “behavior therapy” started a very long time ago.

Shabbat shalom.

 

 

Turning A Sin Into a Mitzvah

This past Tuesday night I taught a class titled, Is Time Real. We concluded the class with a famous reading from the Talmud that states, “If we repent with all earnestness, we cannot only get rid of our past sins, we can transform them into past virtues.“

I would like to expand on this idea a little more, as it relates to this week’s Torah portion as well. The question is, on a practical level, how does that happen? How can we travel to the past and make that change?  

There are multiple levels for doing Teshuvah, repentance.

1 – Our regret for committing a sin comes more out of fear of what effect the sin will have on us, not for any other reason, and we don’t want it to be part of us anymore. So we repent and ask for forgiveness in order to remove this stain from our past. This is analogous to being so ill that we have to remove what ails us from our being (perhaps even through surgery), so that we no longer have whatever is making us ill. However, as hard as we try, even the curative process affects part of us in a negative way. For example, through surgery, hopefully we are left with just a scar, but as we know, once we are hit with a disease, we are always more susceptible to being affected again. The same is true with this level of Teshuvah: As hard as we try, we have to remain alert for the possibility of the sin creeping back into our lives.

2 – We repent out of love. We want to become closer to G-d to the extent that our sin is not pulling us down anymore. Just the opposite, though, as our past action is what propelled us to become a better person. Hence, the sin is not a “disease” anymore, but a wake-up call to become a “healthier” person—this “surgery” that we undergo is not a pain in the neck, but an opportunity to really live a long and productive life. So the scar that we are left with becomes a badge of honor, as this is the impetus for the change that we have made in our lives.

Yet, here is the catch. Was the sin part of the cure or just the catalyst to get rid of that sin and become a better person? It would seem that it is not part of a person anymore. This leads us to the third level.

3 – The sin that was committed is not only the catalyst to finding the path of return, but it is part of the process of the rehabilitation itself! This means that the sin has a unique quality that can be transformed from something negative to something positive. Just like the disease that has to be removed from us, the cure can only come from the disease itself. We see this kind of process today with gene therapy, where the healing ability comes from the person himself or herself.

This kind of connection with ourselves is something that every person can achieve—with some effort.

Shabbat Shalom

Do We Make Mistakes?

One of the best ways of teaching life lessons is through stories. That is why the Torah is filled with stories.

The Torah must also teach us laws, and it does so by stating the facts clearly. Yet, sometimes those laws can seem not only dry but also irrelevant, especially when it comes to the laws regarding purity and impurity. These were more relevant in the times when one was prohibited from entering the Temple in a state of impurity, or e.g., a Kohen, priest, who was unable to partake in special foods if they were impure.

In order for us to appreciate these laws, it helps if we look into their nuances. One example is the difference between the consequences of becoming impure by mistake or on purpose. Now, if we become impure purposely, we can understand why we would have to take a purposeful action to purify ourselves, but if something happened unintentionally, then why not let it pass? After all, there was no ill intent.

From here we learn that G-d has expectations of us. G-d sees in us something that we, ourselves, may tend to ignore—what we may consider subconscious is actually not on a deeper level, but rather consciousness that is just being ignored. What the Torah is teaching us is that we have the power to tap into that part of us and to harness our subconscious.

When it comes to our essences, there are no “mistakes”—everything we do has a reason, the good and the bad. If we made a mistake, we have to take responsibility for it, and own up and apologize. If we did something good, even if it was inadvertent, we still deserve credit for it. Because, deep down, everything that we do is ours, whether we are willing to acknowledge it or not.

Shabbat Shalom

Why Kosher?

Let's examine this week's portion, Shemini, where the laws of keeping kosher – Kashrut – are introduced. Here are the basic rules that would make an animal kosher: Animals must chew their cud and have split hooves; fish must have fins and scales. There is a comprehensive list of forbidden fowl as well.

I often get asked why is it that today, in an age of refrigeration, government inspection, and modern hygienic standards, do we still need the laws of Kashrut (which may even be termed archaic, anachronistic, or quite dispensable), let alone “kosher supervision” which can drive up the cost of kosher food?

It’s difficult to answer this question since the laws of Kashrut were never designed for health reasons to begin with. If keeping kosher happens to be a healthy lifestyle, or if it provides good hygiene, that is purely a fringe benefit. It may well be one of the perks, but it has never been the underlying reason.

Keeping kosher was not designed for our physical health, but rather for our spiritual health. It is not for our bodies but for our souls. It is a Jewish diet to help Jews remain spiritually sensitive to their innate Jewishness.

Keeping kosher guarantees that our Jewish souls remain sensitive to things that are Jewish. This is clearly a mystical concept and imperceptible to our physical senses, but according to our sages it is a fact. Just as too much red meat or fatty foods are bad for your cholesterol level, non-kosher foods are bad for your neshamah. They clog your spiritual arteries and prevent those warm, healthy Jewish feelings from circulating through your kishkes and your consciousness.

It's very important to have a mezuzah on your door. It identifies your home as Jewish. But what really defines your home as a "Jewish Home" is the kitchen. A kosher kitchen makes a Jewish home truly Jewish.

Your favorite diet may build healthy bodies, but a kosher diet builds healthy souls.

The Big Shabbat

 

This Shabbat, the Shabbat before Passover, is called Shabbat HaGadol, the Big Shabbat. Why is this such an important Shabbat? Clearly it relates to Passover.

Here is the story.

Four days before the Jews were to leave Egypt, G-d commanded them to take a lamb and hold it in their homes. The day before they left they slaughtered it, ate it with their families, and took its blood and marked their doorposts so the Angel of Death would know to "pass over" the Jewish peoples’ homes and not kill their first-born sons.

To commemorate this day, we call the Shabbat before Passover, Shabbat HaGadol. In essence, this is the beginning of the exodus from Egypt. However, we can ask the question, why is this turning point so important that it deserves a special mention (and observance) even if in name only?

Holding lambs in their homes had a double effect on the Jews and on the Egyptians. For the Egyptians, they were witnessing their "god" being held to be slaughtered. To them, this was perhaps worse than all other plagues. For the Jews, they were risking their lives to fulfill G-d's will. "What will the Egyptians say when they hear our reason?" The Jews were putting their lives on the line. This was the first time that they were really facing this kind of challenge, yet they were willing to do what was asked of them.

For this reason, this is a Big Shabbat. That is also why there is a custom to read the first part of the Haggadah on Shabbat afternoon.

Wishing you Shabbat Shalom and Happy Passover .

 

A Pleasing Aroma

One of greatest pleasures in life is when you ask someone to do something for you and they do it. This stands true if this person is your spouse, child, friend, or employee.

The question is, what degree of pleasure do you derive from performing this act? 

Seemingly, the more the person being asked to do a requested act appreciates the outcome of what they are doing, the less it is being done for the requester, and the more it is being done for themselves. True the result is the same, and the benefit should be appreciated. But let’s be honest—what degree of pleasure do you draw from an act that is being done for you, if the person is actually enjoying doing it?

Or to phrase the question a little differently, do you get more satisfaction if a favor is being done 100% for you, or if only 10% is for you but 90% is really for the person who is doing it?

Is it only the narcissist who wants 100% pleasure? Or, perhaps, is it also a way to test someone's commitment to another?

This is another way of understanding the difficult question as to why G-d commanded the Jewish people to bring animal sacrifices to the Temple, as discussed in this week’s Torah portion.  If the people would have consumed the animal meat, we might have an easier time understanding the laws. However, most of the offerings had the majority of the animal burned on the altar! For what? The Torah tells us why: “For a pleasing aroma to G-d.” Really? G-d likes the smell? There must be something deeper going on here.

This “pleasing aroma” is a term for when we do something that we take zero pleasure in doing for ourselves, but nevertheless do it for one reason and one reason only: because G-d asked us to do it. We are showing G-d that we are listening to Him and we are acting because He asked us to. We are letting Him know that our relationship with Him is not 10% / 90% or some other equation, but that we are 100% committed to Him and we will do anything that is asked from us, whether it makes sense to us or not. This is what is a “pleasing aroma” to G-d.

“Sacrifices” in Hebrew is Karban, which literally means, “to come close.” The idea is to come close to G-d, to put our egos aside and do what G-d wants, even if we don't understand why.

As we near Passover, a time when families get together, it is important to keep in mind that we have to put other people's needs before our own. It is a time when G-d asks a lot from us (no bread for the duration of the holiday of Pesach, e.g.). It is a time to put G-d’s requests before our own needs. Give it a try. Do something for another before yourself. Give it 100% and you will see that you, too, will benefit.

 

The Power of Fire

 

Melacha: Action verb--the fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim. The Dictionary

This week’s Torah portion is a follow-up to the last few weeks’ instructions on how to build the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. This portion tells us that the Jews actually did build it. However, by way of introduction, it reminds us of the sanctity of Shabbat. This is to teach us that as much as it is important and holy to build a “house for G-d,” it is even more important to keep Shabbat holy. 

In addition, we learn from this language that whatever is considered actionable work in building the Tabernacle is considered actionable work when it comes to Shabbat--and is forbidden to do on Shabbat. In total this numbers thirty-nine. Amongst them is creating fire.

However, based on the definition of the word “action” (the fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim), what is being gained by burning something? That is destruction, so shouldn’t that be permitted? Maimonides and other codifiers pointed out that kindling a fire is only prohibited if you intend to accomplish something with the fire, even if it is just for the ashes.

In our personal lives this means that every action we do has an effect. We might not realize that even the smallest action has an effect. It might be as small as just creating ashes, but an effect it has, nevertheless. Even a minute action still counts significantly toward the building of the “Temple” of G-d in our own life.

Now imagine when we have in mind to make a real impact … how we can change the world for good!

Shabbat Shalom

Like This, They Shall Give

There is a fascinating Midrash that allows us to listen in on a conversation between Moses and G-d.

G-d tells Moses that he should take a headcount of the Jews. He cannot do this directly, since we don’t count people, but by having each person donate a half-shekel, he can count the half-shekels; additionally, the half-shekels will be atonement for their souls. When Moses hears this he turns to G-d and asks, “How will a half-shekel act as an atonement?” G-d responds by showing Moses a fiery coin and says, “Like this, they should give.”

Why was Moses so perturbed? We all know that giving charity is good for the soul, so why doesn’t this make sense to Moses? In addition, since when do all of Judaism’s Mitzvot have to be logical? Can’t G-d just make things happen?

Let’s take a moment and try to think like Moses. A coin is made from the lowest and most physical element of this world. Coins are made out of material that is found deep down beneath the earth. Moses wondered, ”How is it that such a lowly coin can have such a great spiritual impact on our souls?”

G-d shows him a coin of fire. When there is a fire in the heart of the donor, even a lowly coin can be transformed into a holy coin. The coin itself can transform the giver into a holy, fiery human being.  All we need to do is to give it with good intention.

This was difficult for Moses to understand—before G-d explained it to him. Yes, he knew that when we do something holy with an ordinary item we can elevate it to a higher place, but for it to be an atonement for our souls—that is a little bit of a stretch. And that is why G-d showed him a fiery coin. Within every single thing in this world, even something as small and insignificant as a coin, one can find the “fire” inside. And when we find that “fire,” we are transformed.

The trick for us is to not be afraid to light that spark. We can access it all the time by doing acts of loving kindness. One Mitzvah at a time.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Shaya Deitsch

 

PS … These Shekalim eventually went toward the upkeep of the Temple and were collected once a year in the month of Adar. Since the Temple was destroyed – more than 2,000 years ago – a custom was instituted to donate a half-shekel on the eve of Purim.

Unity In Stones

This week’s Torah portion discusses the garments of the High Priest. His outfit was very elaborate, with layers of colorful clothes, bells etc.  One of the main garments was the breastplate which included twelve inlaid precious stones, with the names of the twelve tribes engraved within the stones, with a total of twenty-five letters.

It is interesting to note how the commentators point out the nuances in relation to the listing of the names of the tribes.   Are they listed in the order of the birth of their father or their mother? Were they listed downward or across?  Regardless how they’re listed, the number equals twenty-five.   On the surface, one can ask, who cares? Why does it matter?

Upon closer examination we realize that the key to understanding the significance lies with the number twenty-five. There are twenty-five letters in the Shema. The Shema talks about our commitment and unity with G-d.  

What matters to us is to understand the lesson that the breastplate teaches us. Each and every name and each and every letter has a message that unites all the Jews together as one.  We might come from different tribes, but we all have one father. We all say the Shema with the same number of letters; it is the Shema that unites us all as one.  The High Priest with his breastplate unites all the Jewish people together as one.  

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