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 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.)
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 tefillin—mitzvahs discussed in the Shema—for the morning Shema.