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The Shema

The Shema

Declare Your Belief

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We inhabit a cosmic mirage. We perceive myriad creations, all seemingly self-sufficient and independent beings. But, as Jews, we believe that in fact there is only one true entity. One G‑d who is the essence of everything. One G‑d manifest in an infinite amount of creations.

Engraving this counterintuitive idea into our psyches is our greatest challenge, but key to developing a true appreciation for, and a relationship with, our Creator. Towards this end, every morning and night we recite the “Shema”—three biblical paragraphs (Deuteronomy 6:4–9; 11:13–21; Numbers 15:37–41), which starts with Judaism’s defining statement: Hear O Israel, the L‑rd is our G‑d, the L‑rd is One. Shema then discusses some of Judaism’s basics: love of G‑d, Torah study, the principle of divine reward and punishment, and our exodus from Egypt. Click here to find the full text.

Contemplating the words of Shema enables us to see beyond the mirageContemplating these words enables us to see beyond the mirage—and live accordingly.

Shema is part of the morning and evening prayers. Say the Shema, though, even if you won’t be reciting the prayers.

When:

“When you lie down and when you rise up”—Deuteronomy 6:7.

Morning: During the first quarter of the day—starting from when there is sufficient light to recognize a casual acquaintance from a short distance.

Night: From when the stars appear until dawn. Preferably, however, before midnight.

(Click here to find the exact times for Shema for any location or date.)

How:

Say the Shema in your vernacular if you don’t understand Hebrew.

Ascertain that your environment is clean and modest, and make sure to carefully articulate and enunciate each word. No interruptions for the duration of the prayer.

Cover your eyes with your right hand while you say the first verse—blocking out distracting external stimuli. Recite the verse aloud, for the same reason.

Ideally, men should wear tallit and tefillinmitzvahs discussed in the Shema—for the morning Shema.

Illustrations by Yehuda Lang. To view more artwork by this artist, click here.
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Discussion (29)
January 7, 2016
To Gershon
Everyone covers their eyes with the right hand, even left-handed people.
Eliezer Zalmanov
for Chabad.org
December 29, 2015
It is never too late to start practicing especially if you are feeling the need to do so. Follow that feeling.
Anonymous
Miami
December 24, 2015
Do left handed people cover their eyes with their left hand?
Gershon
Long Island
November 18, 2015
Lapsed Jew
I am a 78 year old man born of two Jewish parents - Bar Mitzvah at 13, but I have not been a practising Jew, is it possible for me to return and be accepted into the fold? I feel the need to do so.
Anonymous
England
September 17, 2015
The Daily Declaration of Faith
On June 14, 2015, I suffered a full Cardiac Arrest with Brain Death. 3 days later I was sitting up in my hospital bed telling my family on this wonderful tour of heaven that I had just traveled. After they explained to me what had happened, I then understood that my daily activities (and of course other spiritual forces) somehow reached a cumulative total, and when I needed to make a withdrawal, faith was standing right there. There is for me and my house, only One True G-d, and I will make all of us declare this until I die again!! Whenever that will be!! (Smiles). Luv U Israel. Get ready for your Final Redemption; get ready for Mashiach!!
Cheryl Mallory-Harris
Altadena, California, USA
August 11, 2014
Speaking of Divine Reward:
If you are permitted to passionately love Gd on the inside, that is with emotion that resides in your gut and that goes beyond reason at the outset, then it is only a matter of time before the outside, the place of your dwelling, improves.
Craig Hamilton
Sandwich, MA
May 15, 2014
AMEN
philip goldman
phila., pa.
May 15, 2014
Fantastic. I think it's so nice for every Jew to fulfill this mitzva even if it's only to say the basics.... Thank you for this wonderful push-technology...
Anonymous
Vancouver, WA
April 22, 2014
The angels finish prayers
I was reading the post from Dr. Isaacs that goes back to July 2012 and would like to comfort him by knowing when feeling tired while reciting prayers and you fall asleep before you finish just know that the angels of Hashem are finishing your prayers for you.
Fishel
Yonkers NY
April 17, 2014
praying shema is being
shema instructs us. It tells us to act and be. We do not just say the shema we hear and we do. We are the prayer because we live it. The prayer lives in us. Torah lives through us.
paul bourgeois
finland