Wit­ness to the One: The spir­i­tu­al his­to­ry of the Sh’ma

Rab­bi Joseph B. Meszler
  • Review
By – May 14, 2012
The Sh’ma, Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One,” is the sun­light that sparkles on the rip­pling waters that flow through Jew­ish time. It means dif­fer­ent things in dif­fer­ent eras, dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple, and takes on dif­fer­ent mean­ings with­in a sin­gle life­time. In his book, Rab­bi Mes­zler shows us how the Sh’ma was expe­ri­enced and expressed by a hand­ful of extra­or­di­nary Jew­ish thinkers, philoso­phers and rab­bis from bib­li­cal to mod­ern times. Some, like Moses Mai­monides and Aki­ba ben Joseph, are wide­ly famil­iar. Oth­ers, like Saa­dia Gaon, a Jew­ish schol­ar of Baby­lo­nia of the 9th and 10th cen­turies, and Rab­bi Leo Baeck, a leader of Ger­man Jew­ry dur­ing the 20th cen­tu­ry, less so. The dis­cus­sions, which occa­sion­al­ly lean toward the aca­d­e­m­ic, con­tain won­der­ful insights on the one­ness” of both God and the Jew­ish peo­ple. By pro­vid­ing just the right sprin­kling of his­tor­i­cal con­text and a dis­cus­sion guide, Mes­zler makes this slim vol­ume an ide­al Jew­ish book club choice. The author is an edu­ca­tor and a rab­bi at Tem­ple Sinai in Sharon, Mass­a­chu­setts. Foot­notes, bibliography.
Robin K. Levin­son is an award-win­ning jour­nal­ist and author of a dozen books, includ­ing the Gali Girls series of Jew­ish his­tor­i­cal fic­tion for chil­dren. She cur­rent­ly works as an assess­ment spe­cial­ist for a glob­al edu­ca­tion­al test­ing orga­ni­za­tion. She lives in Hamil­ton, NJ.

Discussion Questions