Hashem is One
There are many deep and esoteric levels of comprehension when it comes to the Mitzvos of Emunah – Faith, and the Mitzva of Yichud Hashem – the unification of Hashem. I would like to try and offer some original thoughts that can perhaps help bring these lofty concepts a little more down to earth, and explore how we can apply them in our struggles with the Yetzer Hara. Maybe if we have a better comprehension of these concepts, we can then work towards the right perspective to have when facing the battles of our Yetzer.
Chazal say: בא חבקוק והעמידן על אחת, צדיק באמונתו יחיה– The prophet Chavakuk came and founded all the Mitzvos of the Torah up on one Mitzva: that of EMUNAH, as the Pasuk (in Chavakuk) says “The righteous one lives in his faith.” This means that all the mitzvos of the Torah ultimately boil down to Emunah.
What does Emunah really mean? What are we supposed to believe or have faith in? That Hashem exists? That He is One? That He provides all our needs? That He is all powerful? Or maybe all of the above? In other words, what exactly does the Mitzva of Emunah entail, and why is it the most important Mitzva of all?
Before we attempt to answer this, let us first ask another important question. I am hopeful that with the answer to the second question, the answer to the first will also become apparent:
Why is the yichud (unification) of Hashem - the idea that Hashem is ONE - so central to Judaism? Why do we declare it with great fervor in Kriyas Shema twice a day? Any 5-year-old child knows that there is only one G-d, what’s the big deal? After all, there is also only one of ME and one of YOU! But there’s no Mitzva to believe that there’s only one of us or only ONE Mount Everest, or only ONE Western Wall in Jerusalem. What lies behind the great Mitzva of believing that Hashem is ONE?
So the simple meaning of the Mitzva is to believe that Hashem is the only force that exists, and no other will or force can do anything that He does not allow. It also means that ultimately, everything is really just an extension and manifestation of Him, in some way or another. Nothing exists separate from Him. But again, what difference does that really make to ME, on a personal level? Why is this Mitzva so important for us to declare and internalize deep in our hearts?
The chassidic sefarim explain that the Mitzva of unification of Hashem is really in our hearts, to strive that everything we do should ultimately be with ONE purpose: ONLY for Hashem’s sake and not for our own. When we exercise our own will in contrast to Hashem’s Will, it is, in some way, denying Hashem’s absolute unity, because we are declaring that OUR will also matters and can even CONFLICT with His Will. Our actions are declaring that there are really שני רשויות - two distinct dominions. On the other hand, completely negating our will to His is the ultimate form of unification and declaration of "Hashem ECHAD." And this is the goal of every Jew, to reach this complete unification, where our own will is ONE with Hashem’s.
But this is a very high level. How can a human being, who has such strong desires for so many things, be expected to negate his will completely before G-d?
So I’d like to suggest that the unity of Hashem is really twofold. The first aspect is what we discussed above, i.e. negating our will to His. However, the second aspect of ‘Divine Unity’ is like a flip side to the same coin of ONENESS. We have a Mitzva of Emunah - to believe that Hashem has absolutely no self-interest in anything He does. His will is also ONE, i.e. it is completely selfless and only for our good. Since He is G-d and needs nothing for Himself, then by definition everything He does is for US. As Chazal say: בשבילי נברא העולם– "the world was created for me." What this means is that we actually have a Mitzva to believe and have faith that anything that ever happened - or will happen - that affects us in any way, is ultimately for our good. There can never be any reason in the world that Hashem would not be doing everything possible for our very best interest at this very moment.
To elaborate a little more on this second aspect of divine Oneness, we need to believe that everything we have: our sustenance and possessions; every breath we take; all our strengths and weaknesses; and every atom and cell in our bodies all are EXACTLY what we need right now for our very best interest, and that we need absolutely NOTHING else. Because, if Hashem has no self-interest and only our best interest in Mind always, and if He is all powerful and all-wise, then by definition whatever we have and whatever our life circumstances are right now, must be the very best possible for us and EXACTLY what we need.
Now, if we truly believe this second aspect, then the FIRST aspect of Hashem’s unity (the negating of our will to His) becomes much easier. For, after all, why would we ever need to exercise our own will (in contrast to His) if He is providing all our needs with our very best interest in mind at ALL times? How could a person ever contemplate to go against Hashem’s Will, for example to steal someone else’s money or to desire someone else’s wife, or do anything against Hashem’s Will, if he truly internalizes that Hashem has only ONE thing in Mind – his own very best personal best interest – at all times?
Perhaps, we can understand this a bit better with a parable. Let’s imagine that a great and powerful king wants to reward one of his loyal subjects with everlasting riches and pleasures for the rest of his life. The king has a big mansion built for him, and gives him dozens of servants, a beautiful wife, all the finest foods, the best cooks, etc. all in an effort to ensure that his subject has everything that a human being could ever possibly want. But one day, this man slips out the backdoor and goes down to the town to eat, drink, and steal. Someone calls the police on him, and they find him in back alley with a prostitute. When he is brought before the royal court, the king is rightfully furious at him and yells, “Is all that I have done for you not enough, that you feel you need to take your own needs and desires into your own hands, and even go against my righteous laws?!"
In the same way, when we work on our Emunah – faith – that Hashem is ONE in His desires - having ONLY the desires of His creations in mind at all times, then the first part of the mitzvah of unity, which is negating our will to His, becomes an EASY task! How can we - and why would we ever need to assert our own will, if we can just give it all away to Hashem and trust completely that He has only our best interest in mind at all times? How could we even dream of going against His will?
So these two aspects of Divine Unity - Yichud Hashem, that (1) everything we do is for Him (2) everything He does is for us, are intrinsically tied together. As the pasuk says in Shir Hashirim: אני לדודי ודודי לי- I am for my beloved, and my beloved is for me. Because when we truly believe “my beloved is for me” then “I am for my beloved” logically ensues.
Perhaps, this is why when we unify Hashem twice a day in Kriyas Shema, we precede the declaration with the blessing: “Who has chosen his nation Yisrael with LOVE” (in Shacharis) and “Who loves his nation Yisrael” (in Maariv). Before we unify Hashem by negating our own will to His, we need to first internalize how much He loves US!
And this is the true meaning of the Mitzva that directly follows “Hashem Echad” in Kriyas Shema. As it says: “And you shall love Hashem your G-d with all your heart, all you soul, and all your means.” Now that we have internalized the unity of His love for us, we can be expected to love Him with everything we’ve got and completely negate our own desires for His. For what do we need our own will if we can just throw everything into His hands with complete trust and know that He will always be providing for us exactly what we need at all times?
Perhaps, this is also one of the hidden meanings in the pasuk in לדוד ה' אורי that we say in Elul: אם תקום אלי מלחמה בזאת אני בוטח , אחת שאלתי מאת ה'. “If a battle will come up against me, in this I put my trust: ONE (thing) I have asked from Hashem…” The greatest battle that we face in our lives is the battle with the Yetzer Hara. And the Yetzer Hara is really just a manifestation of our own “self will” as opposed to “Hashem’s Will”. Maybe, Dovid Hamelech is saying that when the battle of wills comes up, I can trust in the fact that I ask Hashem to help me UNIFY him: “In this I trust: ACHAS” - "I ask only to unify Hashem and believe that all He does is for me. And when I do this, I can win the strongest battles of the Yetzer Hara because I have no NEED any more to assert my own will. I can gratefully throw my will into His hands and negate all my own desires, knowing that He has got me completely covered."
At the end of the day, the whole Torah boils down to negating our will to Hashem’s Will. But as we explained before, this can only be done through EMUNAH in the other side of the coin, that Hashem is onlyטוב ומיטב and has only ONE will - our very best interest in mind at all times. Perhaps this is what Chazal meant when they said: בא חבקוק והעמידן על אחת , צדיק באמונתו יחיה. The ultimate expression of ACHAS is through the Emunah that Hashem has only our best interest in mind at all times. It is ultimately our Emunah in Hashem’s absolute goodness that allows us to achieve ACHAS – a true unification of Hashem and negation of our will to His. This is perhaps why all the mitzvos boil down to Emunah – complete faith in Hashem’s goodness. Because it is through this faith that we can then negate our will completely to His.