Does “Hear O Israel…” apply to a Noahide?

Question: What is the significance of Deut. 6:4 (“Hear, O Israel: the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is One”) for a Noahide, since it is specifically directed towards the Jewish people? Isn’t there a commandment for all mankind to believe in the Unity and Oneness of G-d?

Answer (from Rabbi Moshe Weiner of Jerusalem): Although this verse expresses one of the positive (“to do”) commandments for Jews specifically (that Jewish men must recite these words every day, in the morning and in the evening), the call is universal. The call “Hear O Israel,” that the True G-d is One, is appropriate to all mankind. Indeed, Rashi (in the name of the Talmud’s Sages) explains this verse by citing the Hebrew Bible’s prophecy that in the future Messianic Era (may it come speedily in our days!), the whole world will recognize that there is only the One G-d. In other words, the simple traditional meaning of the verse is:

Hear, O Israel, that the True G-d you have realized through His open revelation at Mount Sinai (and through His redeeming you miraculously from slavery in Egypt) is One G-d. Know as well that in the future Messianic Era, He will be recognized by all mankind as One G-d, as implied by the prophecy (Tzephania 3:9), “Then I will turn the hearts of all nations to call clearly in the Name of G-d,” and (Zecharia 14:9) “Then on that day [in the Messianic Era] G-d will be One, and His Name will be One [in the recognition of all humanity].”

There is an additional point here. Although a Jewish Commandment in the Torah is not given to Gentiles, that does not mean that it is entirely unrelated to the Gentiles. Many commandments specifically given to the Jews are incorporated in the 7 Universal Noahide commandments. In the case in point, as explained in my book The Divine Code, the general Noahide commandment not to worship idols includes many details, including positive aspects, such as believing in the One G-d, praying (only) to Him, and meditating about Him and His attributes and His Truth, in order to bring every person to awe and love of Him. Therefore, although the verse “Hear O Israel” should not be seen as an explicit commandment to Gentiles, it indeed expresses a very important aspect of their Divine service – the opportunity for every person to contemplate from this verse, and other verses in the Torah, about G-d’s greatness and Unity.

The same point goes the other way. Although G-d commanded all mankind in the Torah about a set of 7 Noahide Laws for Gentiles, these Divine Laws are thematically also directed in the Torah to Jews. The difference is that G-d has given more detailed and more exacting obligations for the Jews, whom G-d designated as his “kingdom of priests.” In this case, this verse “Hear O Israel” is an opening to the following verses which contain additional Jewish commandments, including: “And you shall love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart, and all your soul and all your might, etc.”

The details that follow there are added dimensions and specific requirements of this deeper recognition of G-d that is commanded to Jews, to deepen their belief into an especially demanding love for G-d. This includes constant obligatory preparedness to love G-d more than one’s own self and one’s own life, and for a Jew to translate this belief and love not only into giving up his or her life to sanctify the Name of G-d when an extraordinary situation demands this, but also into the special ritual activities and sanctified way of life on a continuous daily basis that G-d incorporated in the 613 Jewish commandments.