Shemà שְׁמַע

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.

 

Prayer:

“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.
You shall teach them thoroughly to your children, and you shall speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise.
You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.
And it will be, if you will diligently obey My commandments which I enjoin upon you this day, to love the LORD your GOD and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, I will give rain for your land at the proper time, the early rain and the late rain, and you will gather in your grain, your wine and your oil.
And I will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be sated. Take care lest your heart be lured away, and you turn astray and worship alien gods and bow down to them.
For then the LORD’s wrath will flare up against you, and He will close the heavens so that there will be no rain and the earth will not yield its produce, and you will swiftly perish from the good land which the LORD gives you.
Therefore, place these words of Mine upon your heart and upon your soul, and bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes.
You shall teach them to your children, to speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise. And you shall inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates – so that your days and the days of your children may be prolonged on the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give to them for as long as the heavens are above the earth.
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the children of Israel and tell them to make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to attach a thread of blue on the fringe of each corner.
They shall be to you as tzizit, and you shall look upon them and remember all the commandments of the LORD and fulfill them, and you will not follow after your heart and after your eyes by which you go astray – so that you may remember and fulfill all My commandments and be holy to your GOD.
I am the LORD your GOD who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your GOD; I, the LORD, am your GOD. Amen.

(Shemà)

In Christianity

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.

In Islam

The words used in the Shema prayer are similar to the words of Sura 112 (Al-Tawhid or Monotheism) in Quran. The words “أَحَدٌ” in Arabic is identical to the word “אֶחָד” in Hebrew.

Arabic: قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ‎‎Qul 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

 


 

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