Monotheism: “Hear O Israel”

Question

What does it mean that God is One? There are so many different things in the world!

5 months

Answers

  1. The Creator is One and is unique. His unity is not the same as the unity of a category (e.g., one species, which contains many individual animals) and is not similar to one object or body, which can be subdivided into many parts (e.g., skeleton, organs, limbs, soul, intellect). His unity is not even the same as the number one, because it too can be divided into smaller and smaller fractions. Rather, He is a totally unique Oneness, which cannot be compared to anything else at all. This principle is based on the verse, “Hear O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is One.”

    We are monotheists – there is only one God and everything in the world is under His control. Pagans believed in gods of good and gods of evil. As a result, they did not expect the world to be harmonious or even comprehensible, since every natural power represented a different god and all were competing with one another. Monotheism, in contrast, sees all of existence as coming ultimately from one source, as expressed in Isaiah (45:7), “[I am the One] Who forms light and creates darkness; Who makes peace and creates evil; I am God, Maker of all these.” Monotheism taught people to look for uniformity and harmony in the universe. Albert Einstein pointed out that monotheism, in fact, laid the foundation for all scientific enquiry:

    “Science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. Without the belief in the uniformity of nature, no theoretical formula of universal character could be established.”

    Maimonides alludes to a similar idea at the beginning of the Mishneh Torah, “The foundation of foundations and the pillar of wisdoms is to know that there is a Prime Cause Who brought everything into existence.” (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Foundations of the Torah 1:1)

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team