Shema Yisrael (or Sh’ma Yisrael; Hebrew: שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל; “Hear, [Oh] Israel”) are the first two words of a section of the Torah, and is the title (sometimes shortened to simply Shema) of a prayer that serves as a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services. The first verse encapsulates the monotheistic essence of Judaism: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our GOD, the LORD is One” (Hebrew: שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָֽד׃), found in Deuteronomy 6, 4. Observant Jews consider the Shema to be the most important part of the prayer service in Judaism, and its twice-daily recitation as a mitzvah (religious commandment). It is traditional for Jews to say the Shema as their last words, and for parents to teach their children to say it before they go to sleep at night.
The term “Shema” is used by extension to refer to the whole part of the daily prayers that commences with Shema Yisrael and comprises Deuteronomy 6, 4–9, 11, 13-21, and Numbers 15, 37–41. These sections of the Torah are read in the weekly Torah portions Va’etchanan, Eikev, and Shlach, respectively.
“Hear, O Israel, the LORD is our GOD, the LORD is One.”
(Recite the following verse in an undertone:)
“Blessed be the Name of His glorious Kingdom forever and ever.”
“You shall love the LORD your GOD with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.”
(Longer version continue with:)
“And these words which I command you today shall be upon your heart.
The Shema is one of the Old Testament sentences quoted in the New Testament. The Gospel of Mark 12, 29-31 mentions that Jesus the Nazarene considered the opening exhortation of the Shema to be the first of his two greatest Commandments and linked with a second (based on Leviticus 19, 18b): “The first of all the Commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The LORD is our GOD, the LORD is One: And thou shalt love the LORD thy GOD with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first Commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” In Luke 10, 25-27 the Shema is also linked with Leviticus 19, 18, only by the questioner, before Jesus’ agreement. The verses Deuteronomy 6, 5 and Leviticus 19, 18b both begin with ve’ahavta, “and you shall love.” In Luke’s Gospel it appears that this connection between the two verses was already part of cultural discussion or practice.
Theologians Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch noted that “the heart is mentioned first (in Deuteronomy 6, 5), as the seat of the emotions generally and of love in particular; then follows the soul (nephesh) as the centre of personality in man, to depict the love as pervading the entire self-consciousness; and to this is added, “with all the strength,” i.e. of body and soul”.
The Shema has also been incorporated in Christian liturgy, and is discussed in terms of the Trinity. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer in use in Canada since 1962, has included the Shema in its Summary of the Law. Since 2012, when the Anglican Use version of the BCP was adapted for use in Canada, it has been recited by Roman Catholics as well.
The Orthodox Church of the Culdees utilize the Shema in the Daily Services.
Arabic: قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ – Qul Huwa ‘Llāhu ʾAḥad (“Say, He is ALLAH [GOD] the One”)
Hebrew: :שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יהוה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יהוה אֶחָד – Sh’ma Yisra’el YHWH ELOHEINU YHWH Eḥad