The Universal Mission of Israel

Yael Eckstein  |  August 11, 2022

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. — Deuteronomy 6:4

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Va’etchanan, which means “I pleaded,” from Deuteronomy 3:23–7:11.

Have you ever thought what it must have been like for Abraham? Can you imagine being the only person on earth to have faith in God? Have you ever believed something to be true, but everyone else around you tells you that you’re crazy? Imagine what Abraham thought when God told him that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). “All peoples on earth”? How was that possible when Abraham was the only person to believe in God?

Many years later, when the children of Israel stood at Sinai, God told them that their mission was to become “a kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6). A “kingdom of priests” means that Israel’s mission is to inspire others, to influence the world, and to bring them closer to faith in the God of Israel. Imagine how impossible this must have seemed to them, having just escaped from slavery.

And yet, here we are today, thousands of years later, and most of the world knows about the Bible and the God of Israel. Now, obviously not everyone has faith, but look how much closer we are to what God told Abraham almost 4,000 years ago.

The Universal Mission of Israel

We see the universal mission of Israel expressed in this week’s Torah portion, in what for Jews is the most well-known verse in the entire Torah, recited by Jews multiple times every day: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”

While at first glance this verse is nothing more than a statement of monotheistic faith, Jewish tradition teaches us a deeper lesson.

The famous and influential Jewish commentator, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, known as Rashi, is studied by Jews from the youngest age. His commentaries are so standard that they are printed in almost every Hebrew version of the Torah. Rashi’s comment on this verse is as follows:

Moses said to Israel, Hear O Israel, right now the LORD is Our God.” The nations do not yet know Him. But in the future, He will be the one LORD over all the earth. As the prophet Zechariah states, “The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name” (14:9).

In other words, Deuteronomy 6:4 is not only a statement of faith. It is a statement of the universal mission of Israel, one that began with God’s call to Abraham and continues today.

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