By Zach Plesent, Mitzvah Corps Pacific Northwest 2018 Team Leader
This week’s Torah portion, Va’etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11), contains the famous words of the Shma. Shma is the central creed of our people. Our motto, if you will. Hear O Israel, Adonai is our God, Adonai is One. This motto makes us think about the ideas of oneness, and of unity. We have just arrived in Seattle from all different parts of the country and with all different perspectives and experiences, but we are here together. The first few days of our trip have been focused on just that, uniting together as one community. We are forming our unique group that will work together as one to do our part in repairing our world. We have toured a bit of the city, talked about the values and stories that have led us to this moment, and begun our training with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to prepare for next week’s summer camp.
The work we are preparing to do here in Seattle also centers around the idea of Oneness. Our great partnership with the IRC helps to further their mission – to help those who have been oppressed and have come to this country – a mission we know is also found in our texts, as we learn 36 times in Torah that we as Jews are commanded to “‘not oppress the stranger, for we were once strangers.”
The Shma reminds us of the importance of Oneness in our lives and in the work we are doing. We have begun to create one community amongst ourselves, and as we prepare for the work of the week ahead, we know that it not only embodies the central creed of our faith as Jews, but it also embodies one of the original goals of this country’s founders – a goal that is now the official motto of America. E Pluribus Unum. Out of many, One.