Vaeschanan – The Pledge of Allegiance

The pledge of allegiance to the United States of America is to its flag, and the national anthem talks about war and victory. The national anthem of Israel talks about hope and hints to uncertainty. However the pledge of allegiance in the Torah, the pasuk of Shema, which is referred to, as the Maharz”u says, as Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shamayim [accepting the yoke of Heaven], is a pledge of allegiance to Hashem, the Almighty, All Powerful, Eternal King Of All Kings, Master Of The Universe. The “national anthem” of the Torah, the paragraph that follows, Vi’ahavta, is a declaration of love and dedication. The Shema and Vi’ahavta, which there is a mitzva to say twice a day, besides other two paragraphs of Krias Shema (which are in parshas Eikev and Shelach), are found in this week’s torah portion of Vaeschanan (Devarim 6:4):.

Hear, O Israel: Hashem is our G-D; the Hashem is one. שְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יְהֹוָ֥ה | אֶחָֽד

The Medrish Rabba (Devarim 2:31) asks:, “From where did the Jews merit reciting Krias Shema? Rebbe Pinchas bar Chama said the Jews merited reciting Krias Shema when they accepted the Torah. How? You find that Hashem in fact began talking to them about this matter. He said to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, I am Hashem your G-D.’ They all answered (the Maharz”u says they answered in unity and with joy) ‘Hashem is our G-D; the Hashem is one.’ And Moshe said ‘Baruch Shem Kivod Malchuso Li’olam Vaed,’ Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity. The Rabbis have taught that Hashem said to the Jews, ‘All that I have created, I created in pairs. Heaven and earth are a pair. The sun and moon are a pair. Adam and Chava were a pair. This world and the World to Come are a pair. But My Honor is one and unique in the world.’ How do we know this? From what we read in the matter of Hear, O Israel: Hashem is our G-D; Hashem is one.”

The Maharz”u, explaining the last part of the medrish, points out that Hashem is sending a message to the Jews that we are a pair with Him. What pairs mean is that in each pair one is an influencer of the other. Heaven shines sunlight and rains upon the earth, the sun shines light onto the moon so it can shine, Adam and Chava, in fact any married couple, compliments and helps each other. As this world is a corridor to prepare and earn reward for The Next World, so too, Hashem is our guide and sustainer who interacts with us with hashgacha pratis [individualized Divine intervention] every day of our lives.

The Etz Yosef has a difficulty, and asks an obvious question,: isn’t Krias Shema a positive commandment? If so, what merit is specifically given here more than for any other positive mitzvah? The answer he gives is that the merit the medrish is talking about is the language of Shema Yisrael, that the Jews are given special honor by having their name mentioned when accepting the Yoke of the kingdom of Heaven. Indeed, it says, The Lord is our G-D, which is to say that through the Jews, Hashem’s Name is more distinguished, as mentioned in the Sifri. The medrish is saying that because this language was used when the Torah was given, it stays that way always. (Click here for Hebrew text.)
Contemplating what all this means is quite awesome! Hashem is one and unique, there is nothing like Him in existence, He in fact created existence. However, when giving allegiance to His Oneness and Sovereignty, Hashem ensures we are mentioned, and it’s only through us, “Our G-D,” that this pledge of allegiance is declared. Why does Hashem treat us with such respect in a situation or statement dedicated to His oneness and uniqueness? Doesn’t mentioning us detract on some level from accepting the Yoke of the kingdom of Heaven, His individuality?

We must say that in fact it does not detractrealizing the special, unique state and influence the Jews have in the world, and the relationship the Jew has with his and her Creator actually enhances the acceptance of The Yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven. The very acknowledgement that Hashem wants and does take His Honor, and is sharing it with us, the Jews, should be an impetus to embrace His yoke and encourage us to serve Hashem with even more consistent enthusiasm.