The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of righteous memory, fervently encouraged all Jewish children to study and commit to memory twelve verses culled from every area of Torah wisdom and literature. Each passage – Infinite wisdom condensed – was thoughtfully selected with children in mind, and presents a fundamental lesson for a Jew’s daily service of G-d in a clear and concise way, that can be contemplated and discussed anywhere. The Lubavitcher Rebbe was one Jewish leader who had full confidence in the power of youth to make incredible positive impact, and to inspire and teach their friends, too! Hashem believes in YOU to be an ambassador of light, and invites you to become a soldier in His army, with a mission to increase goodness and holiness wherever you go… and reciting the Twelve Torah Pessukim is a fantastic place to start! Come on a journey with me, as I too learn these timeless citations alongside their inner meaning, then how we can apply and take them to heart!
Note from the author: When it comes to making a general statement about people, although I often tend to make pronoun-references in the masculine form (e.g. him, his, he, etc.), please bear in mind the concepts discussed are equally relevant to girls and women.
“SHEMA YISROEL HASHEM ELOKEINU HASHEM ECHOD – HEAR O ISRAEL, G-D IS OUR LORD, G-D IS ONE.” (Deutoronomy/Devarim 6:4)
One way a child clearly demonstrates their Jewishness, is by their knowledge of “Shema Yisrael” by heart, and their recital of it with lebedikeit, chayus, enthusiasm! Also, with this very verse upon their lips, innumerable Jews went to their deaths – often al kiddush Hashem, to sanctify G-d’s name with great self-sacrifice – making the journey from this world that hides Truth to the world that is purely True to its Esssence. The significance of the words may be illustrated by the halacha regarding one who hasn’t fulfilled his obligation to recite Krias Shema due to lack of proper focus as he articulates the first verse (“Shema Yisroel, etc.”). It is critical that he contemplate the allusions of the word “Echad”: “Alef” stands for the One True G-d, Hashem; “Ches” has the numerical equivalent of eight, for the seven heavens and one earth which He fills; and “Daled” stands for the four corners of the earth which His presence also reaches. G-d is One, meaning all is null and subservient before Him, the One true Existence upon which everything relies, and which extends to – imbues – all aspects of His Creation. Yet, sometimes, we forget this, and a powerful parable is given by the Sage Rabbi Yitzchok: There was once a traveller who passed by an illuminated dwelling. He inquired if this house had an owner, to which the homeowner indignantly replied, “I am the owner!” Likewise, Hashem irrefutably declares, “I am the Master of the universe!” When we say Shema, we’re proclaiming G-d rightly runs the world; everything that transpires, He orchestrates, even when it is beyond our comprehension… and that is why the Jews, who sacrificed their lives for G-d, His Torah and their faith, proclaimed this verse. A great rabbi who fought for Judaism under Soviet oppression, was once jeopardized by Russian police in the midst of his prayers. He calmly replied nothing can stir him from his religious duties, and explained: “A gun can only create fear in one who has many gods and one world, but I have one G-d and two worlds, and this little toy will not scare me!” When we recognize we can trust and lean on Hashem, and that there is more than this physical world, we really have nothing to fear or prevent us from serving G-d and making Him known in this world. This may be achieved as through a moment of silence in public schools, or by our prayers of “Shema” and “Modeh Ani,” all which share a common theme: Acknowledging a Higher Power/Being than ourselves, which will influence our mindfulness and conduct the entire day.