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The prayer of Shema is one of the most beautiful and traditional prayers within Judaism. We explore its passages and meaning, as well as the reason for recitation. Join with us.
Amongst many in Judaism, the Shema is considered to be one of, if not the most important of all the prayers. It is recited during the morning prayer, as well as evening prayer services daily. The Shema prayer is an affirmation to God’s kingship of the world and is considered by most Jewish people to be a commandment. The verses of Shema are a heartfelt call to God, reminding each of the faithful of their love for him and the many blessings offered to those who serve with love. You can expect to explore its meaning, context, and structure further on.
Continue to discover:
- * The First verses of Shema
- * Three Biblical Sources
- * Deuteronomy 6:5-9
- * Deuteronomy 11:13-21
- * Numbers 15:37-31
- * The Meaning of Shema
The First Verse of Shema
The Shema prayer is begun by reciting a verse pulled from the sixth chapter in Deuteronomy. It is one of the most famous in Jewish liturgy.
On the holiest day of the year in Judaism known as Yom Kippur, this verse is recited at the final, most climactic moment of the last prayer. It is recited as the final words before death as well. Most recite it with their hands covering their eyes. The verse is as follows.
She-ma yisrael, adonai eloheinu, adonai echad, which translates to “Hear O’ Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.” Traditionally, this recitation of the verse is then followed in an undertone by the words
baruch shem kavod malchuto l’olam va-ed, which means
“Blessed is the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever.”
Three Biblical Sources
Once the beginning verses have been recited, the Shema prayer is continued by speaking the lines from three biblical sources.
Deuteronomy 6:5-9: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead, inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 11:13-21: If then, you obey the commandments that I enjoin upon you this day, loving the LORD your God and serving Him with all your heart and soul, I will grant the rain for your land in season, the early rain and the late. You shall gather in your new grain and wine and oil— I will also provide grass in the fields for your cattle—and thus, you shall eat your fill. Take care not to be lured away to serve other gods and bow to them. For the LORD’s anger will flare up against you, and He will shut up the skies so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its produce; and you will soon perish from the good land that the LORD is assigning to you.
Therefore impress these My words upon your very heart: bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead, and teach them to your children—reciting them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up; and inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates— to the end that you and your children may endure, in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to assign to them, as long as there is a heaven over the earth.
Numbers 15:37-31: The LORD said to Moses as follows: Speak to the Israelite people and instruct them to make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments throughout the ages; let them attach a cord of blue to the fringe at each corner. That shall be your fringe; look at it and recall all the commandments of the LORD and observe them, so that you do not follow your heart and eyes in your lustful urge. Thus you shall be reminded to observe all My commandments and to be holy to your God. I the LORD am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I, the LORD your God.
The Meaning of Shema
The lord is our God, the Lord is one. This passage is considered the primary declaration of the faith itself. That the Lord is one with everything, one with each of his followers; after that, the proceeding passages deal with the precise ways that those of the faith should live their lives.
To love God with all their being, pass on the teachings to their children, to recite this love daily, and bind it to your body. There are then specific details of what happens if the commands of God are not followed, and what happens when they are correctly followed, such as being blessed with abundant food and good weather. The final part of Shema deals with the commandment tzitzit, which are the ritual fringes worn by most orthodox men of the faith. This is there as a reminder to all to never forget these commandments and to obey always.
Within Deuteronomy 6:7, it is commanded to “recite them…when you lie down and when you get up.” The rabbis have read this to mean that the Shema is to be performed in both the morning and during the evening prayer. When the Shema is recited during the morning prayer, there are three long blessings, which are spoken as well. The first two blessings are said before Shema and focus on thanking the Lord for creation and for revelation.
After Shema is completed, the third blessing is about thanking God for redeeming his faithful. The Shema and its blessings are beautiful prayers and are a wonderful way for even those not of the faith to explore and understand the faith.