The Truth about the Shema
James Scott Trimm
Many Anti-missionaries have argued that the Shema (Deut. 6:4) conflicts with any understanding of the Deity of Messiah as taught in the so-called “New Testament”.
In this article I will prove using only ancient Jewish sources that, to the contrary, the Shema itself has been anciently understood in Judaism to refer to the unity of the three Pillars of the Godhead. Furthermore it has been taught anciently in Judaism that the Middle Pillar of the Godhead reconciles the two outer Pillars, that this Middle Pillar of the Godhead is the Son of Yah, the firstborn of all creation who will glorify all the bodies which are in the grave, and that this is the Word of YHWH in whom Abraham placed his faith and who made the covenant with Israel, and which is the Savior. Most importantly it has been taught that this Middle Pillar, the Son of Yah, the Word is the Messiah himself.
The opening of the Shema reads:
SH’MA YISRAEL YHWH ELOHEYNU YHWH ECHAD
“Hear O Israel, YHWH, our Elohim, YHWH is one (ECHAD)”
Let us examine other passages in the Torah to understand how this word ECHAD (“one”) is used in the Torah:
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined
to his wife, and they shall become one [ECHAD] flesh.
And YHWH said, “Indeed the people are one [ECHAD] and they
all have one language…
Thus it is clear that the word ECHAD in no way requires a singularity and can refer to a composite unity.
Now let us to explore how this passage is understood by the Zohar:
The [profession of] unity that every day is [a profession of] unity
is to be understood and to be perceived. We have said in many places
that this prayer is a profession of Unity that is proclaimed:
”Hear O Yisrael, YHWH“ first, [then] “Eloheynu” [and] “YHWH” they are all One and thus He is called “One”.
Behold, these are three names, how can they be one? Is it because we call them one? (literally: And also concerning the proclamation that we call them one?). How these are one can only through the vision of the Holy Sprit be known. And these are through the vision of the closed eye (or the hidden eye) To make known that these three are one.
And this is the mystery of the voice that is heard. The voice is one. And is three GAUNIN: fire and air and water. And all these are one in the mystery of the voice.
And also here “YHWH, Eloheynu, YHWH” these are One. Three GAUNIN that are One. And this is the voice of the act of a son of man in [proclaiming] the Unity.
And to which he sees by the Unity of the “All” from Eyn Sof (the Inifinite One) to the end of the “All”. Because of the voice in which it is done, in these are three that are one.
And this is the [profession] of the daily profession of Unity that is revealed in the mystery of the Holy Spirit.
And there are many GAUNIN that are a Unity, and all of them are true, what the one does, that the other does, and what that one does, the other does.
יחוד דכל יומא. איהו יחוד למנדע ולשואה רעותא.
יחודא דא. הא אמרן בכמה דוכתי יחיד דכל מא איהו יחוד דקרא. שמע ישראל יי קדמאח. אלהינו יי. הא כלהו חד. ועד אקרי אחד.
הא תלת שמהין אינון. היך אינון חד ואף על גב דקרינן אחד. היך אינון חד. אלא בחזיונא דרוח קודשא אתיידע. ואינון בחיזו דעינא סתימא. למנדע דתלתא אלין אחד.
ודא איהו רזא דקול דאשתמע. קול איהו חד.ואיהו תלתא גוונין. אשא ורוחא ומיא. וכלהו חד ברזא דקול.
ואף הכא יי אלהינו יי אינון חד תלתא גוונין דאינון חד. ודא איהו קול דעביד בר נש ביחודא ולשוואה רעותיה בחודא דכלא מאין סוף עד סופא דכלא. בהאי קול דקא עביד בהני תלתא דאינון חד.
ודא איהו יחודא דכל יומא דאתגלי ברזא דרוח קודשא.
וכמה גוונין דיחודא אתערו וכלהו קשוט. מאן דעביד האי עביד ומן דעביד האי עביד.
(The Aramaic word GA’UN (sing.)/GAUNIN (plural) comes from the word for “color” and refers to an “aspect, element, substance, essence”. )
Thus the Zohar understands the Sh’ma to mean that YHWH, Elohim and YHWH are three GA’UNIN. This section of the Zohar also recalls a reading from the Sefer Yetzirah:
Three “mothers”: Alef; Mem and Shin
Their foundation is a pan of merit
a pan of liability
and the tongue of decree deciding between them.
(Sefer Yetzirah 3:1)
Three “mothers”, Alef, Mem, Shin
in the universe are air, water, fire…
(Sefer Yetzirah 3:4a)
(Note: The letter SHIN has a gematria (numerical value) of 300 which is the same as the gematria of the phrase ”Ruach Elohim” (the Spirit of Elohim).)
As it we will demonstrate the “tongue of decree deciding between them” is the Middle Pillar of the Godhead which reconciles the two outer pillars of the Godhead.
The Three Pillars of the Godhead
The Zohar also calls these three GAUNIN the three pillars of the Godhead. The Zohar teaches that the two outer pillars are reconciled by the middle pillar just as the “tongue of decree” decides between the two pans of the scale in the Sefer Yetzirah. The Zohar reads as follows:
Concerning this, too, it is written: “Let there be light, and there was light” (Gen. I, 3). Why, it may be asked, was it necessary to repeat the word “light” in this verse? The answer is that the first “light” refers to the primordial light which is of the Right Hand, and is destined for the “end of days”; while the second “light” refers to the Left Hand, which issues from the Right. The next words, “And God saw the light that it was good” (Gen. 1, 4), refer to the pillar which, standing midway between them, unites both sides, and therefore when the unity of the three, right, left, and middle, was complete, “it was good”, since there could be no completion until the third had appeared to remove the strife between Right and Left, as it is written, “And Elohim separated between the light and between the darkness” (Ibid.).
This is the Middle Pillar: Ki Tob (that it was good) threw light above and below and on all other sides, in virtue of Tetragrammaton, the name which embraces all sides.
The First Century Jewish Writer Philo says similarly that the Word reconciles the two sides:
…the Divine Word (Logos)…fills all things and becomes a mediator and arbitrator for the two sides….from the Divine Word (Logos), as from a spring, there divide and break forth two powers. One is the creative through which the Artificer placed and ordered all things. This is named “God”. And the royal, since through it the Creator rules over created things. This is called “Lord” And from these two powers have grown the others. For by the side of the creative power there grows the propitious of which is named “beneficial” while (besides) the royal the legislative, of which is aptly named “punitive”. And below these and beside them is the ark.”
(Philo on Q&A on Exodus, II.68)
The Middle Pillar of the Godhead is the Son of Yah
According to the Zohar the Middle Pillar of the Godhead is the Son of Yah:
שכן קרוב מאח רחוק. דהיינו עמודא דאמצעיתא דאיהו בן יה,
Better is a neighbor that is near, than a brother far off.
This neighbor is the Middle Pillar in the Godhead,
which is the Son of Yah.
The Zohar also says of the Son of YHWH:
The Holy One, blessed be He, has a son, whose glory (tifret)
shines from one end of the world to another. He is a great
and mighty tree, whose head reaches heaven, and whose roots
are set in the holy ground, and his name is “Mispar” and his
place is in the uppermost heaven… as it is written, “The heavens
declare (me-SaPRim) the glory (tifret) of God” (Ps. 19:1).
Were it not for this “Mispar” there would be neither hosts
nor offspring in any of the worlds.
This Zohar passage is intended to recall a passage from the Bahir:
Why are they called Sephirot?
Because it is written (Ps. 19:2),
“The heavens declare (me-SaPRim) the glory (tifret) of God.”
The Zohar also says concerning the Son of Yah:
“We may also translate “he who withholds blessings
from the Son” (Prov. 11:26), whom the Father and Mother
have CROWNED and blessed with many blessings,
and concerning whom they commanded, “Kiss the SON
lest he be angry” (Ps. 2:12), since he is invested
with judgment (GEVURAH) and with mercy (CHESED)”
According to the Zohar, the Middle Pillar of the Godhead is not only known as the “Son of Yah” but also as “Metatron”:
Better is a neighbor that is near, than a brother far off.
This neighbor is the Middle Pillar in the godhead,
which is the Son of Yah.
The Middle Pillar is also known as “Metatron”:
The Middle Pillar [of the godhead] is Metatron,
Who has accomplished peace above,
According to the glorious state there.
In the Zohar we are also told that Metatron is “the firstborn”:
“And Abraham said to his oldest servant of his house…” (Gen. 24:2) Who is this of whom it said “his servant?” In what sense must this be understood? Who is this servant? R. Nehori answered:
“It is in no other sense to be understood than expressed in the word “His servant,”
His servant, the servant of Elohim, the chief to His service. And who is he? Metatron, as said. He is appointed to glorify the bodies which are in the grave.
This is the meaning of the words “Abraham said to His servant” that is to the servant of Elohim. The servant is Metatron, the eldest of His [YHWH's] House, who is the firstborn of all creatures of Elohim, who is the ruler of all He has; because Elohim has committed to Him the government over all His hosts.
So in Judaism both Israel and “The Son of Yah” are identified as the “first-born Son of YHWH”.
According to the first century Jewish writer Philo, this firstborn Son of Elohim is also known as “The Word.”
Philo Writes of the Word (Logos):
For there are, as it seems, two temples belonging to God; one being this world, in which the high priest is the divine word, his own firstborn son. The other is the rational soul, the priest of which is the real true man,
(On Dreams 215)
And if there be not as yet any one who is worthy to be called a son of God, neverthless let him labour earnestly to be adorned according to his Firstborn Word, the eldest of his angels, as the great archangel of many names; for He is called, “the Authority”, and “the Name of God”, and “the Word”, and “man according to God’s image”, and “He who sees Israel”. . . For even if we are not yet suitable to be called the sons of God, still we may deserve to be called the children of his eternal image, of his most sacred Word; for the image of God is his most ancient word.
( On the Confusion of Tongues XXVIII:146-147)
Thus, indeed, being a shepherd is a good thing, so that it is justly attributed, not only to kings, and to wise men, and to souls who are perfectly purified, but also to God, the ruler of all things; and he who confirms this is not any ordinary person, but a prophet, whom it is good to believe, he namely who wrote the psalms; for he speaks thus, “The Lord is my shepherd, and he shall cause me to lack Nothing;” (Ps. 23:1.) and let every one in his turn say the same thing, for it is very becoming to every man who loves God to study such a song as this, but above all this world should sing it. For God, like a shepherd and a king, governs (as if they were a flock of sheep) the earth, and the water, and the air, and the fire, and all the plants, and living creatures that are in them, whether mortal or divine; and he regulates the nature of the heaven, and the periodical revolutions of the sun and moon, and the variations and harmonious movements of the other stars, ruling them according to law and justice; appointing, as their immediate superintendent, his own right reason, his first-born son, who is to receive the charge of this sacred company, as the lieutenant of the great king; for it is said somewhere, “Behold, I am he! I will send my messenger before thy face, who shall keep thee in the Road.”(Ex. 23:20.)
(On Husbandry 50-51)
The Targums were authoritative Aramaic paraphrases of the books of the Tanak which were read in the synagogues along with the Hebrew of the Torah and Haftorah readings. Whenever the Targums come to passages where YHWH is anthropomorphisised or seen, or where two or more YHWHs are indicated by the text, the Targums will often substitute “The Word [Memra] of YHWH” for YHWH. For example in Gen. 19:4 the Tanak has:
Then YHWH caused to rain upon S’dom and upon Amora,
brimstone and fire from YHWH, out of heaven.
The Hebrew grammar here indicates that one YHWH rains fire from another YHWH) But Targum Jonathan substitutes “The Word of YHWH/the LORD” for the first of the two YHWHs as follows:
And the Word of the YHWH caused to descend
upon the peoples of Sodom and Gommorah,
brimstone and fire from the YHWH in heaven.
In another example the Torah has:
Ex. 24:1a (YHWH is the speaker, see Ex. 20:1-2)
Now He [YHWH] said to Moses, “come up to YHWH…”
But Targum Jonathan paraphrases the speaker in Ex. 20:1 with the substitution “the Word [Memra] of YHWH” in place of “YHWH.”
And the Word of the Lord spoke all these glorious words…
So it would seem that one of these entities called “YHWH” in these Torah passages was actually understood by the Targumists as being the “Word of YHWH.” It was, according to Targum Onkelos, this Word of YHWH that Abraham trusted in:
And Abraham trusted in the Word [Memra] of YHWH,
and He counted it to him for righteousness.
(Targum Onkelos Gen. 15:6)
Moreover Abraham prayed in the name of the Word of YHWH:
And Abraham worshipped and prayed
in the name of the Word [Memra] of YHWH,
and said, “You are YHWH who does see, but You cannot be seen.”
(Jerusalem Targum Gen. 22:14)
Note that here Abraham prays “in the name of the Word of YHWH” to the YHWH who “cannot be seen.” Here two YHWHs are very apparent. Abraham is praying in the name of the Word of YHWH but is praying to the YHWH who cannot be seen. This idea is reinforced elsewhere as follows:
And Hagar praised and prayed
in the name of the Word [Memra] Of YHWH
who had revealed Himself to her…
(Jerusalem Targum Gen. 16:3)
It was this Word of YHWH that Jacob also trusted in:
And Jacob vowed a vow, saying,
“If the Word [Memra] of YHWH will be my support,
and will keep me in the way that I go,
and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
so that I come again to my father’s house in peace;
then shall the Word [Memra]of YHWH be my God.
(Targum Onkelos on Gen. 28:20-21)
King David also urged Israel to trust in the Word of Yah as the Targum of Psalm 62 reads:
Trust in the Word of Yah at all times,
O people of the house of Israel!
Pour out before Him the sighings of your heart;
Say, God is our trust forever.
(Targum on Psalm 62:9)
This “Word of YHWH” was, according to Targum Jonathan, the Creator:
And the Word [Memra] of YHWH
created man in his likeness,
in the likeness of YHWH, YHWH created,
male and female created He them.
(Targ. Jonathan Gen. 1:27)
This idea is also put forward in the Jerusalem Targum:
And the Word [Memra] of YHWH said to Moses:
“I am He who said unto the world ‘Be!’ and it was:
and who in the future shall say to it ‘Be!’ and it shall be.”
And He said: “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel:
‘I Am’ has sent me to you.”
(Jerusalem Targum Ex. 3:14)
The Fragmentary Targum of the Torah also expresses that the Word of YHWH was the Creator:
The first night, when the “Word of YHWH”
was revealed to the world in order to create it,
the world was desolate and void,
and darkness spread over the face of the abyss
and the “Word of the Lord” was bright and illuminating
and He called it the first night.
(Fragmentary Targum Ex. 12:42)
That the Word of YHWH was the Creator can also be seen in the Tanak itself:
By the Word of YHWH were the heavens made,
And all the hosts of them by the Spirit of His mouth.
The Word was also the covenant maker. For example the Noachdic covenant was between the Word and all mankind:
And YHWH said to Noah,
“This is the token of the covenant
which I have established between My Word [Memra]
and between all flesh that is upon the earth.
(Targum Onkelos Gen. 9:17)
The Word also made the Abrahamic covenant as Targum Onkelos also paraphrases:
And I will establish my covenant
between My Word [Memra] and between you…
(Targum Onkelos Gen. 17:7)
The Word of YHWH was also the giver of the Mosaic Covenant and the Torah as the Jerusalem Targum (as quoted above) makes the Torah giver “the Word of YHWH” in Ex. 20:1. It was to th e Word that Jacob turned to for salvation:
Our father Jacob said: “My soul does not wait for salvation
such as that wrought by Gideon, the son of Joash,
for that was but temporal; neither for a salvation
like that of Samson, which was only transitory;
but for that salvation which You have promised to come,
through Your Word unto Your people, the children of Israel;
for your salvation my soul hopes.”
(Targum Jonathan Gen. 49:18)
That the Word of YHWH is the savior is expressed elsewhere:
But Israel shall be saved by the Word of YHWH
with an everlasting salvation…
By the Word of YHWH shall all the seed of Israel be justified…
(Targum Jonathan Is. 45:17, 25)
But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah,
and I will save them by the Word of YHWH, their God.
(Targum Jonathan Hosea 1:7)
Furthermore Philo tells us that “The Word” (Logos) and the Messiah are one and the same:
“The head of all things is the eternal Word (Logos) of the eternal God, under which, as if it were his feet or other limbs, is placed the whole world, over which He passes and firmly stands. Now it is not because Messiah is Lord that He passes and sits over the whole world, for His seat with His Father and God but because for its perfect fullness the world is in need of the care and superintendence of the best ordered dispensation, and for its own complete piety, of the Divine Word (Logos), just as living creatures (need) a head, without which it is impossible to live.”
(Q&A on Exodus, II, 117)
Thus the Zohar teaches that the Sh’ma (Deut. 6:4) refers to the three pillars of the Godhead as being ECHAD and that the Middle Pillar of the Godhead reconciles the two outer Pillars. The Zohar further teaches that this Middle Pillar of the Godhead is the Son of Yah, the firstborn of all creation who will glorify all the bodies which are in the grave. This is the Word of YHWH in whom Abraham placed his faith and who made the covenant with Israel, and which is the Savior and is the Messiah.
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