Out of Sight

In  Va’Etchanan, this week’s Torah portion we read the first paragraph of the Sh’ma -the Jewish credo. There we read:

Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words, which I command you this day, shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the door-posts of your house, and upon your gates. (Deuteronomy 6: 4- 9)

These words are familiar to many of us. We rarely stop to think about what they mean. Surely we are even less likely to stop to ask why we cover our eyes when we say the Sh’ma?

One explanation is that for the Jewish creed, there is a presumption that God has no form. It follows that our deepest faith is in something that we will never experience with our eyes. In covering our eyes it is as if we are saying, “I believe in You/you even when I do not see You/you”. To what degree is this true for us in other relationships in our lives? Do we feel like we are part of this community even when we do not see each other?

On Monday we are sending our eldest child to overnight camp for the first time. Do we trust him even when we do not have an eye on him? Do we trust the staff of the camp to take care of him? The answers are yes and yes. And further, camp is an amazing place in which he will be able to explore “these words” at all points of the day and in all media of expression. It is important  that our son has the space to explore Judaism and his role in the  community  beyond our watchful eyes. I am confident that giving him this own space at camp will ensure his commitment to the Jewish project. The only question is how he will he keep connected with his camp friends after the summer when he can no longer sees them.


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