Note: This page contains the Sacred Name. If printed, please dispose of this page with due respect.
The Shema is the central, most instructive, and most important declaration in all of Judaism and biblical religion and spirituality. It is the first thing we say upon awakening, the last thing we say before sleep, and, if possible, our final words and thoughts before we return our bodies to the earth in death.
The first line:
Deuteronomy 6:4 Sh'ma Yis'ra'eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.
As Rashi explains:
The Lord is our God; the Lord is one: The Lord, who is now our God and not the God of the other nations - He will be [declared] in the future [to be] "the one God," as it is said: "For then I will convert the peoples to a pure language that all of them call in the name of the Lord" (Zephaniah 3:9), and it is [also] said: "On that day will the Lord be one and His name one" (Zechariah 14:9).Shema:
Hear, listen! Pay attention! This matters!Y'israel:
The Shema is the declaration by and for the people of Israel, the Jews, to hear and receive the Truth of who we are as members of the Covenant. Hear this you people of HaShem! And so we can say: Listen, this is for your ears! The Shema is to empower YOU, Jew! Receive this information and act upon it!
This is not to say that only Jews know and are accepted by HaShem, of course; however, the unique relationship between the One God and His Covenant people is to be our focus as Jews. As Rebbe Natan, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov's foremost disciple, notes:Both the Shema and the expression, "Blessed is the name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity," contain six words in Hebrew. Thus, Jacob and his sons together recited twelve words [Genesis 49:1], corresponding precisely to the number of Jacob's sons and the number of the future tribes of Israel. Together, Shema and "Blessed is the name" are comprised of forty-nine letters, corresponding precisely to the number of letters in the names of the twelve tribes!
From the basis of this foundational truth, the Jewish people bless the world. Through this authority and lineage, HaMashiach will eventually come, and there will be peace (Isaiah 11). The Shema affirms that we await his reign with joy and conviction. May HaMashiach come soon!
"Adonai" ("the Lord") indicates the presence of the Sacred Name of Four Letters within the text. "Elohaynu" is a generic form of the word "God" and speaks of HaShem as being "our" God, the only one we bow before. Adonai is with the Jewish people in a unique, contractual way. We Jews are therefore obligated to hear and act upon this Covenant: 'For you people of Israel, HaShem ("the Name") alone is God, and there can be no other gods for us. We must always remember that HaShem alone is our God: Hear O Israel! This truth applies to the Jewish people inclusive, whether religious or not, Orthodox, Liberal, or Secular. He is our God, and He is One. Therefore we are commanded to view ourselves as one extended family.
In addition to the literal gods worshiped by other religions, this essential truth also demands that our money, prestige, fame, honor, everything we have or aspire to must not become gods. Anything we place above HaShem is an idol, and we are to have no gods before Him nor coupled with Him, including our religious practices! HaShem alone is to be our God, not our beliefs about Him! Not our sectarian prejudices. Not our rules and regulations, not our denominations or movements. Not our cleaver interpretations nor our diverse Torah observances. Beliefs and practices are important, but they can all too easily replace HaShem and become idols. For this reason He warns us:Deuteronomy 10:12. Now, O Israel, what does Adonai, your God, demand of you? Only that you have awe or fear of Adonai, your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, and to worship Adonai, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul,
13. to keep the commandments of Adonai and observe His statutes, which I command you this day, for your good.
The heart, filled with emunah, and intention ("kavana") comes even before our observance and knowledge! LOVE HaShem first and foremost! Accept that not everyone will become a tzaddik (a person of deep and abiding righteousness) in this life; however, if we love Him, we will be drawn to ever greater Torah observance and study. We will gradually become more righteous, each in our way. THEN HaShem will accept our sacrifices and the mitzvot we perform because of the sincerity behind them. Observance without love and intention is not sufficient, as confirmed so many times in the Tanach: "Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked" (Deuteronomy 10:16).
HaShem is One. This sounds so simple. But it is the most profound truth of all!
The word "one" in Hebrew is echad. If it is not modified (and here it's not), then echad is absolute singular. HaShem is echad in every sense! He is One in determining our health! Our wealth! Our level of Torah observance! Our relationships, the length of our lives. He is One with His Name and His Attributes. There is no god with Him. There is none like Him. He is not a duality, a trinity, or a pantheon. HaShem is echad! (Deuteronomy 32:39)
AND everything that exists is One in HaShem, so we are safe within His Hands because there is no other place for us to be! All of creation is in His Hands. The only question is our acceptance of this Truth. For this reason, the rabbis teach us always to respond Baruch HaShem! Praise God for the seemingly positive and the seemingly negative that we encounter in our lives. He cares for us as individuals and as a collective people and always has our best interests at heart! If HaShem is with us, what have we to fear? Do your best and trust HaShem for the outcome because He is One. We desire to consciously enter His Oneness through attaining devekut.
Just have emunah! Have faith in the One God Who is revealed through the Torah and our collective experiences! If we can wrap our minds around the central truth of His Oneness, it will change everything! It will free us! We will channel His blessings to the world as the Torah says we are to be and do! We are to give blessings and to be blessed! This work and lifestyle will bring HaMashiach!Genesis 12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
We must become the kind of people worthy of being blessed! This level of emunah based holiness or chassidut is the eternal calling of Israel! HaShem is blessing the entire world through us, but our disobedience and lack of true spirituality often block His plans. In truth, nothing exists other than His blessings! Just recognize this and receive!
Exodus 19:6 You will be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation unto me. You are to speak these words to the children of Israel.
When we recite the Shema, we are referring to Deuteronomy 6:4. In Jewish liturgy, we add: Blessed is the name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity: Baruch shem kavod malchuto l'olam va-ed: בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד.
The complete Shema consists of Deuteronomy 6:4-8, 11:13-22 and Numbers 15:37-42:שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָֽדThis verse is traditionally followed in an undertone:
She-ma yisrael, adonai eloheinu, adonai echad
Hear O' Israel; the Lord is our God, the Lord is Oneבָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶדThe remainder of the Shema declaration is taken from the following three biblical sources:
Baruch shem kavod malchuto l’olam va-ed
Blessed is the name of His glorious kingdom forever and ever,
The Ve'ahavta: And You Shall Love, Deuteronomy 6:5-9:וְאָ֣הַבְתָּ֔ אֵ֖ת יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ֥ וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁךָ֖ וּבְכָל־מְאֹדֶֽךDeuteronomy 11:13-21
וְהָי֞וּ הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֗לֶּה אֲשֶׁ֨ר אָנֹכִ֧י מְצַוְּךָ֛ הַיּ֖וֹם עַל־לְבָבֶֽךָ
וְשִׁנַּנְתָּ֣ם לְבָנֶ֔יךָ וְדִבַּרְתָּ֖ בָּ֑ם בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ֤ בְּבֵיתֶ֙ךָ֙ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ֣ בַדֶּ֔רֶךְ וּֽבְשָׁכְבְּךָ֖ וּבְקוּמֶֽךָ
וּקְשַׁרְתָּ֥ם לְא֖וֹת עַל־יָדֶ֑ךָ וְהָי֥וּ לְטֹטָפֹ֖ת בֵּ֥ין עֵינֶֽיךָ
וּכְתַבְתָּ֛ם עַל־מְזוּזֹ֥ת בֵּיתֶ֖ךָ וּבִשְׁעָרֶֽיךָ
Ve'ahavta et Adonai Elohecha,
Vehayu had'varim ha'eleh,
asher Anochi metzav'cha
hayom al levavecha.
Uk'shartam le'ot al yadecha,
vehayu letotafot bein einecha.
Uch'tav'tam al mezuzot beitecha
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay at home, when you are away, when you lie down, and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead; inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and your gates.וְהָיָ֗ה אִם־שָׁמֹ֤עַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ֙ אֶל־מִצְותַ֔י אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָנֹכִ֛י מְצַוֶּ֥ה אֶתְכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם לְאַהֲבָ֞ה אֶת־יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶם֙ וּלְעָבְד֔וֹ בְּכָל־לְבַבְכֶ֖ם וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁכֶֽם׃ וְנָתַתִּ֧י מְטַֽר־אַרְצְכֶ֛ם בְּעִתּ֖וֹ יוֹרֶ֣ה וּמַלְק֑וֹשׁ וְאָסַפְתָּ֣ דְגָנֶ֔ךָ וְתִֽירֹשְׁךָ֖ וְיִצְהָרֶֽךָ׃ וְנָתַתִּ֛י עֵ֥שֶׂב בְּשָׂדְךָ֖ לִבְהֶמְתֶּ֑ךָ וְאָכַלְתָּ֖ וְשָׂבָֽעְתָּ׃ הִשָּֽׁמְר֣וּ לָכֶ֔ם פֶּ֥ן יִפְתֶּ֖ה לְבַבְכֶ֑ם וְסַרְתֶּ֗ם וַעֲבַדְתֶּם֙ אֱלֹהִ֣ים אֲחֵרִ֔ים וְהִשְׁתַּחֲוִיתֶ֖ם לָהֶֽם׃ וְחָרָ֨ה אַף־יְהוָ֜ה בָּכֶ֗ם וְעָצַ֤ר אֶת־הַשָּׁמַ֙יִם֙ וְלֹֽא־יִהְיֶ֣ה מָטָ֔ר וְהָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה לֹ֥א תִתֵּ֖ן אֶת־יְבוּלָ֑הּ וַאֲבַדְתֶּ֣ם מְהֵרָ֗ה מֵעַל֙ הָאָ֣רֶץ הַטֹּבָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר יְהוָ֖ה נֹתֵ֥ן לָכֶֽם׃ וְשַׂמְתֶּם֙ אֶת־דְּבָרַ֣י אֵ֔לֶּה עַל־לְבַבְכֶ֖ם וְעַֽל־נַפְשְׁכֶ֑ם וּקְשַׁרְתֶּ֨ם אֹתָ֤ם לְאוֹת֙ עַל־יֶדְכֶ֔ם וְהָי֥וּ לְטוֹטָפֹ֖ת בֵּ֥ין עֵינֵיכֶֽם׃ וְלִמַּדְתֶּ֥ם אֹתָ֛ם אֶת־בְּנֵיכֶ֖ם לְדַבֵּ֣ר בָּ֑ם בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ֤ בְּבֵיתֶ֙ךָ֙ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ֣ בַדֶּ֔רֶךְ וּֽבְשָׁכְבְּךָ֖ וּבְקוּמֶֽךָ׃ וּכְתַבְתָּ֛ם עַל־מְזוּז֥וֹת בֵּיתֶ֖ךָ וּבִשְׁעָרֶֽיךָ׃ לְמַ֨עַן יִרְבּ֤וּ יְמֵיכֶם֙ וִימֵ֣י בְנֵיכֶ֔ם עַ֚ל הָֽאֲדָמָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר נִשְׁבַּ֧ע יְהוָ֛ה לַאֲבֹתֵיכֶ֖ם לָתֵ֣ת לָהֶ֑ם כִּימֵ֥י הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃Numbers 15:37-41
If you obey the commandments that I enjoin upon you this day, loving Adonai your God and serving Him with all your heart and soul, I will grant the rain for your land in season, the early rain and the late. You shall gather in your new grain, wine, and oil— I will also provide grass in the fields for your cattle—and thus, you shall eat your fill. Take care not to be lured away to serve other gods and bow to them. For [if you do] Adonai's anger will flare up against you, and He will shut up the skies so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its produce; then you would soon perish from the good land that Adonai is giving to you. Therefore impress these My words upon your very heart: bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead, and teach them to your children—reciting them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up; and inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and your gates— to the end that you and your children may endure, in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give to them, as long as the heaven is over the earth.וַיֹּ֥אמֶר יְהוָ֖ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר׃ דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם וְעָשׂ֨וּ לָהֶ֥ם צִיצִ֛ת עַל־כַּנְפֵ֥י בִגְדֵיהֶ֖ם לְדֹרֹתָ֑ם וְנָֽתְנ֛וּ עַל־צִיצִ֥ת הַכָּנָ֖ף פְּתִ֥יל תְּכֵֽלֶת׃ וְהָיָ֣ה לָכֶם֮ לְצִיצִת֒ וּרְאִיתֶ֣ם אֹת֗וֹ וּזְכַרְתֶּם֙ אֶת־כָּל־מִצְוות יְהוָ֔ה וַעֲשִׂיתֶ֖ם אֹתָ֑ם וְלֹֽא־תָתֻ֜רוּ אַחֲרֵ֤י לְבַבְכֶם֙ וְאַחֲרֵ֣י עֵֽינֵיכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁר־אַתֶּ֥ם זֹנִ֖ים אַחֲרֵיהֶֽם׃ לְמַ֣עַן תִּזְכְּר֔וּ וַעֲשִׂיתֶ֖ם אֶת־כָּל־מִצְותָ֑י וִהְיִיתֶ֥ם קְדֹשִׁ֖ים לֵֽאלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃ אֲנִ֞י יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֗ם אֲשֶׁ֨ר הוֹצֵ֤אתִי אֶתְכֶם֙ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם לִהְי֥וֹת לָכֶ֖ם לֵאלֹהִ֑ים אֲנִ֖י יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃
Adonai said to Moses as follows: Speak to the Israelite people and instruct them to make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments throughout the ages; let them attach a cord of blue to the fringe at each corner. That will be your fringe. Look at it and remember all the commandments of Adonai and observe them so that you do not follow your heart and eyes in your lustful urge. Thus you shall be reminded to keep all My commandments and to be holy to your God. I, Adonai, am your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I, Adonai alone, am your God.
BECAUSE HaShem is echad (One), the Shema demands that we live in unity with one another and with Him. Jewish infighting and sectarianism destroyed the Second Holy Temple! We must stop this common practice and come together.
Because He is One, we partake in the blessings of His Oneness. When we bless others, we bless ourselves, which blesses others, and so on, until the entire world will, one day, be filled with Divine Light and blessings! On the other hand, when we fail to bless, we summon darkness and bring curses on the world. It is our job as Jews to bring blessings upon blessings to all life forms! The Shema demands that we recognize His oneness in all areas of life and honor all life as sacred.
People all too easily get wrapped up in traditions, personal practices, and self-importance. But it all boils down to the simple yet infinitely profound declaration of the Shema: God is One, and we, Israel, are His Nation of priests to bless the entire world.
Contemplation on the Shema
Calm your mind using the Breslov sigh or other method.
Recite the first paragraph of the Shema out loud. Listen intently to what you are saying. Contemplate these words one at a time and consider:
Sh'ma : Listen: Do I listen to HaShem with my full consciousness? Am I alert to His Voice? Do I initiate communion with Him regularly through prayer and hitbodedut, secluded time with Him alone? Affirm that you will do so more often and intentionally listen to His small, still Voice.
Y'israel : What does it mean to be part of Israel? It must mean something more than membership in a society. To be part of Israel is to be like Avraham, the father of Israel: Because he put his trust in Adonai, Adonai reckoned it to his merit (Genesis 15:6). Do I trust Adonai like that? Do I live in emunah, motivating faith, and bitichon, trust, or do I rely on my abilities and those of others? Do I "shema" or listen to Adonai and act accordingly? I will do better! I will trust You, Adonai, come what may! Ponder what living this way might look like. When have you placed your complete trust in Him? Did He come through for you?
Adonai: Can you conceive of Him in your contemplations? Yes! To the degree that He has made Himself known to you. Consider His known Attributes. Do I demonstrate such attributes? Compassion, forgiveness, love, generosity, and so on? Where would I be if He removed His blessings from me? Commit yourself to reflect His good qualities outward and to do what is often more difficult: love yourself. Love as He loves you. Understand that He knows no limitations and that when we walk in His Way, neither do we!
Elohaynu: Consider that the God of all existence has chosen you! He desires to be your Parent, best Friend, Beloved, and Defender. Say: Adonai is MY God! What a powerful and life-changing realization! He is the God of everything, but He is MY God! Ponder this immense Truth.
Adonai Echad: My Beloved and I are ONE! Call out to Him: Where are You, Adonai? I desire You! Please make Yourself known to me, my Beloved! Allow your soul to search for Him inwardly as a young maiden seeks her beloved. Hear as a voice asks:"Where has your beloved gone,
O fairest of women?
Whither has your beloved turned?
Let us seek him with you."
My beloved has gone down to his garden,
To the beds of spices,
To browse in the gardens
And to pick lilies.
I am my beloved's
And my beloved is mine;
He browses among the lilies.
You are beautiful, my darling, as Tirzah,
Comely as Jerusalem,
Awesome as bannered hosts.
Turn your eyes away from me,
For they overwhelm me!
Your hair is like a flock of goats
Streaming down from Gilead.
Your teeth are like a flock of ewes
Climbing up from the washing pool;
All of them bear twins,
And not one loses her young.
Your brow behind your veil
[Gleams] like a pomegranate split open.
[My Beloved replies]:
There are sixty queens,
And eighty concubines,
And damsels without number.
Only one is my dove,
My perfect one,
The only one of her mother,
The delight of her who bore her.
Maidens see and acclaim her;
Queens and concubines, and praise her.
Who is she that shines through like the dawn,
Beautiful as the moon,
Radiant as the sun
Awesome as bannered hosts?
I went down to the nut grove
To see the budding of the vale;
To see if the vines had blossomed,
If the pomegranates were in bloom.
Before I knew it,
My desire set me
amid the chariots of Amminadib.
LISTEN to your neshama, your soul, and know that YOU are your Beloved's, and He is yours. Experience His Presence.
* Rabbi Shlomo Nachman © January 20,2013 (last updated August 4,2023)
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