Moses said to the people: "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!
Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.
Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today. Drill them into your children.
Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest.
This passage from the Book of Deuteronomy is known by its first Hebrew word, "Shema!" meaning, hear!
It is a word of delight for Jews and Christians. The Lord commands our attention and we are glad to hear both his voice and his command.
Several months ago I read a book by a Jewish author about reading the Bible since the Holocaust. The author contends the great tragedy of the twentieth century must have a deep impact upon our knowledge of, experience of, and relationship with God. Is He the God we thought we knew?
He points to apparent "character defects" in the God of the Hebrew scriptures. They appear in God's odd, seemingly arbitrary demands on Abraham; God's imposing incomprehension on the people so that they "would hear but not hear, see but not see;" and the punishing rape of Jerusalem in the sixth century BCE.
Can we love such a god? Do we want to believe in such a god?
The questions are not unfamiliar to the hospital chaplain and most pastors. Patients, grieving parents, Veterans who suffer moral injury, and many others often ask, "How can a supremely good God permit this to happen?" When a nation founded upon principles of democracy begins to destroy itself, when many citizens abort their own children, voluntarily consume poisonous chemicals, and commit suicide, someone is bound to ask, "Where is God?"
I don't know, and cannot pretend to know, how the Jew might answer the question. As a Christian I must reply, "The Son of God is with us. The Spirit of God is with us. God the Father sent them to us."
I remember that the Son of God has asked the same question from our end of the Universe. An answer came only after he had died in agony, on the third day.
Keeping faith requires courage in the face of unanswerable questions. Keeping faith is discovering the Spirit of God who answers from the silent places in our hearts. The psalmist somewhere says, "Had I thought like that I would have abandoned the faith of my people."
I am not required to ask someone else's question. I cannot ask, "God, why have you abandoned my friend? Why have you let bad things happen to others?" I certainly cannot make my choice based on another's disappointment.
Rather, I keep faith with God and my friend by remaining with both, and waiting for Mercy to appear. My presence may be the answer God has sent to him.
Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart....Were I to choose the love of my friend over the love of God I would abandon both. Some people say that was the original sin, when Adam ate the forbidden fruit which Eve presented to him. If Eve had despaired of God's mercy, that was no excuse for Adam. He was not being faithful to her by doing so, and that is proven by his nasty answer to God, "The woman whom you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.”
Rather, in communion with one another and confidence in God, we love, trust and await a rebirth of wonder. It will come; it will not delay.