Lederer Books, a division of
Messianic Jewish Publishers, 2007
Yeshua was once asked, “What is the greatest commandment?”
Yeshua answered, “The first is, ‘Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad. Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. And you shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31 TLV).
The Sh’ma is often called the watchword or confession of faith and is an essential part of Hebrew liturgy. Our response, which immediately follows the Sh’ma in the liturgy, is the V’ahavta – “And you shall love…” In this book, The Greatest Commandment – How the Sh’ma Leads to More Love in Your Life, the author Irene Lipson begins with an overview of the Sh’ma and it’s place in Jewish life and tradition. She sets the stage for how she will examine each phrase of the Sh’ma and V’ahavta, dividing them into three “calls.”
A Call to Listen
Mrs. Lipson looks at each phrase of the Sh’ma in four chapters, “Hear,” “Israel,” “The Lord Our God,” and “The Lord Is One.” She offers insight from both the Hebrew language and from other Scripture passages as well as traditional Jewish sources. They aren’t long chapters, but they are very insightful. Each chapter ends with a prayer applying the topics discussed in as a response to God.
After these, she takes a similar approach to the second phrase in the next two chapters. I was encouraged here as she confirmed something I have recently learned. This is how she begins:
There is an inserted sentence added after the first six words of the Sh’ma: “Blessed be his glorious name whose kingdom is forever and ever.” These words are not biblical, and their origin is uncertain.
Most traditional sources translate Baruch shem k’vod malchuto l’olam va’ed as “Blessed is the name of his glorious kingdom for all eternity” (The Complete Artscroll Siddur and others). I was glad to see Mrs. Lipson write “Blessed be his glorious name,” which is the way I learned it in Messianic circles. It wasn’t until recently that I learned that the phrase baruch shem k’vod does, in fact, appear in Scripture in Psalm 72:19 where it is translated “… blessed be His glorious name …”
A Call to Love
After examining the Sh’ma, the author moves right into the V’ahavta where the focus is a call to “love the Lord your God.” This, she says, is “love, a response to love” as described in 1 John 4:19, “We love, because He first loved us.”
Again, there are for chapters breaking down this call, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might,” or as Mrs. Lipson explains, with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your resources. She closes each of these with a prayer as well.
A Call to Do
The final section is a little longer as Mrs. Lipson offers insight on the things we are to do as an expression of and to remind us of our love for God. She begins with another ahavta – love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18). Being a call to “do,” consider this challenge:
We do not have to like our neighbors. We do not have to feel loving toward them. It is what we do that matters.
Then she looks at the teaching of Yeshua regarding the parable of The Good Samaritan. In fact, while this book draws heavily on Jewish teaching and tradition, the every chapter covering every phrase has one segment simply designated “Yeshua.” Mrs. Lipson demonstrates Yeshua, the ultimate expression of God’s love toward us and the greatest example of how to love God, throughout this whole discussion. In many chapters, there is also a segment designated “Sha’ul” in which she looks at other New Testament passages as they relate to the Sh’ma and V’ahavta.
Irene Lipson begins the final chapter with the same question Yeshua asked Peter: “Do you love me?” and concludes with a prayer that begins:
Lord, you know everything about me. You know that I love you. You also know that I am afraid of what this love will lead me into, ask of me, demand of my loved ones. Yet I realize that your grace and power will never fail me when I am put to the test…”
About The Author
Irene Lipson comes from a Christian church background. She was married to the late Messianic Rabbi Eric Lipson with background in Judaism. Together they “set off on the adventure of maintaining a Jewish lifestyle in Messiah Yeshua.” In the foreword by Daniel Juster he describes this book as “a very fine outline of both Jewish traditional teaching on the Sh’ma and re-application from a New Covenant perspective… I have concluded that all who read this book will find blessing and will be glad for their effort.”
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