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The Shema

The Shema

Declare Your Belief


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 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 (26)
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.
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
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...
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.
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
October 6, 2013
The Shema's Clarion Call
L-rd G-od, we thank you for how you contend for our hearts minds, bodies, and souls unto the perfection of our knowledge of Your Love, Grace, Power and Authority. Your Shema L-rd G-d calls for your people to enter into that rest of oneness with you. You are in whom we trust. -Amen.
Scott Davis
San Ramon
October 6, 2013
We inhabit a cosmic mirage
"We inhabit a cosmic mirage." What does this mean?
Leonard Levine
Vienna, VA
October 6, 2013
Hear Israel L-rd our G-d L-rd one

Consider this. In the hebrew, there is only one verb "Shema" and an imperative directed at our people identified by the name given to Yaakov meaning that he contended with G-d and prevailed. The statement ends with four hebrew words referring to Hashem and in a specific order. The statement is not a grammatically correct sentence but the paragraph that follows is a guide to fulfilling the mitzvah.

Moshe Rabeinu taught us to hear these four words in our heart. That is where they will make sense. As you might view the sunrise when you lie down and sunset when you rise up. When we bind them to our arms near our hearts and to our heads as frontlets between our eyes, we see them, we feel them. That is when and how we know what they mean.