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Shema: 5: Whose Voice

A famous Midrash tells us that Jacob, when he was on his deathbed, planned to reveal to his children how history would develop until the end of days. But just before he could give away the secrets, his mind went blank and he realized that his gift of prophecy had abandoned him.

He assumed that the reason why that happened was because one of his children was undeserving to hear it. After all, Abraham had Ishmael, and Isaac had Esau; it was even more likely, with Jacob having twelve sons, that one of them was not deserving. So his sons said to him, Shema Yisrael, meaning, “Listen Israel, all of us accept the Lord as our God, the Lord is One. “When Jacob heard that he realized there wasn’t any child who was undeserving. His response was, “Baruch shem kavod malchuto l’olam va’ed”, meaning. “Now I know that the name of His kingship will last forever.” Because if the Jewish people are whole—with all the children together expressing Shema Yisrael HaShem Elokeinu, HaShem echad—then it will last forever.


When we say Shema Yisrael, we are not just saying it as individuals. All of us throughout history are telling Jacob, Shema Yisrael, “Listen Israel…” And God’s response is, “Baruch shem kavod malchuto l’olam va’ed, “Then My name will continue to expand forever.” That is what the word baruch means—God’s name will continue to grow and develop. And the presence of God, which is His honor (kavod) will also continue to expand in the world.

This voice continues to cry out through the generations.

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