Shema Prayer


 

The Shema prayer is the central prayer in Jewish worship and is considered the most important declaration of faith in Judaism. The Shema is found in the Hebrew Bible and consists of three biblical passages: Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Deuteronomy 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37-41.


The Shema prayer begins with the Hebrew phrase "Shema Yisrael," which means "Hear, O Israel." The prayer emphasizes the unity and oneness of God, as well as the importance of loving God and following His commandments. Reciting the Shema is a fundamental aspect of Jewish prayer services and is traditionally recited twice daily – once in the morning and once in the evening.


The background of the Shema prayer is rooted in the ancient Israelite tradition and the covenantal relationship between God and the Israelites. The prayer encapsulates the key theological and ethical principles of Judaism, including the belief in one God, the importance of loving and obeying God, and the responsibility to transmit these values to future generations.


The first passage of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) is known as the "Ve'ahavta," which means "and you shall love." This passage emphasizes the importance of loving God with all one's heart, soul, and strength, and of teaching these values to one's children. The passage also instructs the Israelites to keep God's commandments in mind at all times by binding them on their hands and foreheads, and inscribing them on the doorposts of their houses and gates. These instructions are the basis for the Jewish practices of wearing tefillin (phylacteries) and affixing mezuzot to doorposts.


The second passage (Deuteronomy 11:13-21) emphasizes the importance of obedience to God's commandments and the consequences of both obedience and disobedience. The third passage (Numbers 15:37-41) contains God's commandment to the Israelites to wear tzitzit (fringes) on the corners of their garments as a reminder of their covenant and God's commandments.


In summary, the Shema prayer is a central declaration of Jewish faith, expressing belief in the oneness of God and the importance of obedience to His commandments. The prayer has a long history within Judaism and remains an essential part of Jewish worship and daily life.

 

The full prayer is as follows:

 

"Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad."
In English, this translates to:
"Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one."
The Shema is often followed by additional lines that further emphasize the importance of loving God and following His commandments. These lines are:
"Ve'ahavta et Adonai Elohecha b'kol levavcha uv'kol nafshecha uv'kol meodecha."
Which translates to:
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might."