Monday, December 1, 2008

Hear O Israel

"Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one!"

Articulate it please! Say it out loud - slowly, deliberately...ahh, now, that’s the way to say the Shema.

This first line of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4) is the basic creed of Judaism: the belief in one God who takes an active role in our lives. The sages therefore declared that the recitation of this line of the Shema prayer fulfills the Torah commandment of “speaking of them [these words] when sitting in your house or when going on the road, when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

According to Rabbi Judah the Prince (second century Jewish leader, sage and editor of the Mishnah), by reciting this one verse, one accepts upon one’s self the yoke of the kingship of heaven – the recognition of an omnipotent God who cares about humanity and, consequently, the mandate to live by God’s laws.

Because the Shema is such an important statement, the Talmud stresses the fact that these words, which are recited at least twice a day, must be enunciated clearly and said with a special level of kavanah, awareness and concentration. In fact, Rabbi Judah the Prince instituted the practice of covering one’s eyes with the right hand during the recitation of the Shema in order to fully concentrate on the words and to avoid distraction.

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