Do We Really Know?
Ka’kasuv b’Soraso: V’yadata hayom, va’hasheivosa el l’vavecha…
…as it is written in His Torah: “You are to know this day and take to your heart that Hashem is the only G-d…”
Knowing that “Hashem Hu HaElokim (Hashem is the only G-d)” must be as “clear as day” to us; we must perceive it with total clarity. Yet, we are still told that after “v’yadata (you are to know)” we still need “va’hasheivosa... (and take [to your heart]).” It is not enough to know intellectually. We are obligated to review it again and again so that we “place it on our hearts.”
What does it mean to truly know?
HaRav Yechiel Perr, the Rosh HaYeshiva of the Yeshiva of Far Rockaway, related that he once visited a Holocaust survivor in Canada who had escaped a particular concentration camp known for no successful escapees. Rav Perr asked him a question. Though I don’t recall the entire question, the question began with “How did you know?” The survivor responded rhetorically, “What does it mean to ‘know’? Let me tell you what it means to ‘know.’” He proceeded to relate how he had put his life at risk to enter the Vatican to speak with a high-ranking bishop about what was going on, in order to try to get them to take action and save thousands of lives. Someone managed to sneak him in and arrange a meeting with this senior official. As he related what he had experienced and seen, the bishop kept repeating, “Oh, so terrible,” but it seemed that the message was not hitting home. The survivor then told the bishop that he had seen someone dressed exactly like he was, with the same bishop’s garb, etc. He then related how he had witnessed that man being burned alive in his garb. This time, the bishop fainted. He was revived and fainted again. Eventually, many lives were saved as a result of this meeting.
In the first few attempts to get the message across to the bishop, the bishop heard the factual information being related to him, but he did not yet really “know” what was happening inside the camps. It was outside of him. An intellectual response of “Oh, so terrible” was the result. When he envisioned himself being burned alive, then he “knew.” That is knowing.
When the knowledge that Hashem Hu HaElokim affects the way we live our lives and how we make our decisions, that is when we truly “know.” In order to get to that point, we must constantly contemplate and learn about emunah and bitachon. The key question is: Do we actually live our lives with “Hashem Hu HaElokim”? [HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Sifsei Chaim – Moadim 1, in the name of HaRav Yisrael Salanter]
Let us take advantage of the great opportunity given to us to recite Aleinu three times a day, and to say it with heart and emotion, to work on really “knowing” that Hashem Hu HaElokim.
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You can direct any questions or comments to Eliezer Szrolovits at 917-551-0150.