Hear O Israel…

7 years ago Leighest 0

By Rachel Wilkes

Hollywood, Florida

שמע ישראל ה׳ אלוהינו ה׳ אחד.. What do these words truly mean? Everyone knows that the literal translation is, “Hear O Israel, The Lord is our G-d, The Lord is one.” But, as I learned over the course of the past three weeks on CTeen Heritage Quest, I learned that you can’t take everything for how it is; you must search for deeper meaning.

Let me begin in Poland, the subject of the first half of our trip, a country where millions perished in the Holocaust.  Walking through Poland, I recognized so much tragedy, so much loss, and yet, so much strength. Now how could I possibly reconcile the three, I wondered.   The answer is simple.

While visiting the concentration camps, we learned a powerful lesson: The fear that many Jews felt upon arriving in those places was not the fear of life or death. The truth fear was the loss of control, the separation from their families and close friends. And what did they do in those times of no control? They turned to the One who created us all, Hashem.  When we say the שמע, we are reminding ourselves that even in this state of fear, we stand strong; Hashem is protecting us, and we won’t back down without a fight.

As we continued on to Israel, I saw a huge similarity in my thought process. Israel faced so many battles until the land finally became ours—and the country still faces problems today. We created so many peace treaties and gave up so much land just to be stomped on all over again. Not only along the borders are we being attacked, but within the heart of the state itself. Yet, we do not let it effect us. Visiting Israel felt entirely different than I expected. We walked the streets glowing with Jewish Pride. We sang all of the songs of gratitude, thanking Hashem for this opportunity. We did not live in fear.

During our entire trip, I constantly used Shema to connect Hashem and feel safe. The one place I felt this most strongly was in Hevron. I was so surprised when we arrived there. I had heard people speak for years about how dangerous Hevron could be, but upon arriving, I felt safe and happy to be there. As we walked the streets, I became more and more confident that this is my land. One of our final stops in Hevron was an old shul in the center of Hevron. Inside, we were shown was a Torah scroll from the time of Avraham. This scroll gave me all the strength that I needed, and proved to me once again that the land of Israel is ours. As we walked to lunch we all kept repeating the pasuk of שמע. My face lit up every time; the strength was truly there.

So before saying שמע every morning and every evening, remember that there is a much deeper meaning than the literal translation. There is much more beauty as you dig deeper and deeper.