Congregation Etz Hayim at Hollis Hills Bayside

The consolidated communities of Hollis Hills Bayside Jewish Center and Marathon Jewish Community Center

Shabbat Vayehi 5776

“Come, all ye faithful”–at this time in our secular calendar, we’re likely to hear this song on the radio, whether we like it or not. It reminds us of the prominent place of faith in Christianity. In contrast, we think with no little relief, Judaism is a tradition focused more on action than on faith. Judaism embraces doubt, not blind faith.
 
Or does it?
 
In our Beginnings of Judaism class this past Monday evening, we looked at the development of Rabbinic Judaism, particularly the Mishnah. The Mishnah begins with instructions about reciting the Shema, which one student described as “the pledge of allegiance of the Jewish People.” That’s not a bad way to describe what is likely the best-known Jewish prayer, at least its first verse. It’s a mere six words: Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Ehad. “Hear, oh Israel, Adonai our God, Adonai alone.” This certainly looks like a required credo, doesn’t it? Is there room for doubt?
 
On Shabbat morning, let’s have a frank conversation about theShema and faith in Judaism. I’ll share a midrash from this week’s portion, Vayehi, to raise a question about who we want to listen when we say the Shema. And we’ll explore what it means to make a definite statement about God when most of us aren’t entirely sure what we believe.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
 
Rabbi David Wise