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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 (19)
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
Literally
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.
Anonymous
Ha-eretz
September 28, 2013
I wonder
when Moses was teaching the Shema to the children of Israel, did he say Ha'Shem, Adonai?
Michael
October 27, 2012
Shema
I am in agreement with the anonymous writer. I think Hashem would rather we say our prayers whatever time we rise and lay down as not to say them at all. Man's restrictions sometimes keeps us from G-d.
Anonymous
North Carolina
October 1, 2012
mezuzah
I love the comment that Sarah Yarbrough, Canton, GA made about the mezuzah on her bed post. It's a great ideal! Love it :)
Carol Leib
Columbia, Ky
August 19, 2012
Shema
Shema Israel Adonai Elohainu, Adoni Echad.

These special and sweet words have been from my lips on to my children's ears and will go on to their children's and so forth. Never to be forgotten, never forget!
iret kraham
coral springs, Florida
August 14, 2012
Shema
I've been saying it to my kids since the day they were born, even before they could say it! It's very important that they know their roots.
Jason
July 30, 2012
A Place To Pray
My current sleeping location is only semi safely available for about 7 night hours per day, 1AM to 7 to 8AM. When I awake, washing often someone opens the door to look threateningly at me.
Usually, I try to at least say Modeh Ani. On good days I try to complete all the Morning Blessings.
I'd surely hope to find time for Hareini and Adon Alom along with all the Morning Prayer. I used to enjoy Shacharit 3 days each week. Sometimes from lack of sleep and overwork, I fall asleep before I can even complete the Night Prayers which really embarrasses me. I always try to complete the, to me, very important Nights Prayers.
The Shema is a beautiful and important prayer that all should learn, know, and use whenever needed.
The Kaddish is also when appropriate a central and inspiring prayer.
Dr. Elyas F. Isaacs
New York , New York
July 30, 2012
The Mezuzah...just me.
Of course the Mezuzah is for the doorpost, but as a reminder when I lay down and when I rise up I have the one on my bedpost...as I leave this world in sleep my hand goes to it and when I wake up again my hand goes to it. It is much more meaningful than the one on the door as I dash in and out of the house.
Sarah Yarbrough
Canton, GA
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