Thursday, December 20, 2007

Listen up...

Our sages teach us that the original recitation of the phrase "Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokaynu Hashem Echad" dates back to our Father Jacob. We are taught that at the close of Yaakov's life he called all of his children to his bed side to say farewell and reveal the destiny of the Jewish people. When he was unsuccessful sharing his visions and divine insights regarding the future of the Jewish people he grew despondent and concerned that perhaps his children (the original children of Israel) were not true to the G-d of Israel. At that anxiety filled moment Jacob's children recited in unison "Shema Yisrael... Echad". This provided comfort and fulfillment to him at the closing moments of life on this earth.

Does your congregation recite the words of the Shema loudly and then follow in a whisper or silently with the words Baruch Shem K'vod Malchuto L'olam vaed? Do you know why this custom arose? Aparently while on his deathbed, Jacob was bestowing his last bits of knowlege upon his sons. Upon hearing his words, his sons cry out "Shema Yisrael (Jacob’s other name)—O listen Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One," and Jacob, so weak he can barely speak, says "Baruch shem kavod…" Because Jacob said it in a whisper, so do we.

Michelle and David Plachte-Zuieback designed this installation for Temple Valley Beth Shalom of Encino, California. This couple's interest & exploration of religious themes has been encouraged by their work as stained glass specialists for UAHC Camp Swig Institute for Living Judaism, where they have offered an intensive stained glass workshops for junior high & high school students annualy, since 1983.

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