By Richard Sison | 2013
Shema Yisrael or simply called Shema (Hebrew: שמע ישראל; "Hear, [O] Israel") are the first two words of a section of the Torah (First 5 books of the Bible) that is considered as a centerpiece of the morning and evening prayers among Jewish people. The first verse encapsulates the monotheistic essence of Judaism. Shema runs like this:
Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheynu Adonai Echad.
Baruch shem kevod malchuto L'olam va'ed
Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God the Lord is one. Blessed is
the name of his glorious kingdom for all eternity.
Shema is considered as the most important prayer among the Jews and one of the oldest liturgies (over 3,000 years old) in Judaism. They would recite it twice a day, one in the morning and one before sleeping in obedience to Deut 6:7. The term "Shema" is used by extension to refer to the whole part of the daily prayers that commences with Shema Yisrael and comprises Deut 6:4–9, 11:13-21, Num 15:37–41 and Lev 19:18. As for the messianic believers Jewish people who acknowledges Yeshua (Jesus) as Lord and Messiah), they would recite the Shema and V'ahavta(meaning "And you shall love...") as stated in Deut 6:4–9 and Lev 19:18. The way it is being recited by the Jewish people is thru their traditional song from way back, thousands of years ago. The commandment to recite the Shema twice daily is ascribed by Josephus to Moses ("Antiquities" 6:8), and it has always been regarded as a divine commandment (Sifre, Deut. 31.)
To the Jews, other than being recited day and night,
Shema is one of the sentences that are quoted in the New Testament. The Gospel of Mark 12:29 mentions that Jesus considered the Shema the beginning exhortation of the first of his two greatest commandments: "And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, 'Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord'" (KJV). Jesus also refers to the Shema in The Gospel of John 10:30. A group of Jews in the Temple in Jerusalem at the Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah, asks him if he is Messiah, the anointed one of God. Jesus concludes his response with the words "I
and my Father are one" (KJV). This is an allusion to the Shema, which the Jews immediately recognize.
In addition, the apostle Paul reworks the Shema in 1 Corinthians 8:6 vis-à-vis the risen Christ: "yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist." (N.T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant, 1994; E. Waaler, The shema and
the First Commandment in First Corinthians, 2008).
Recitation of Shema was commanded by God in Deut 6:4-9 as a testimony to the Jews (and to us all) that God is existing in compound unity. If we look carefully the shema, it says there, Shema (hear) Yisrael (Israel) Adonai (the Lord) Eloheynu (our God) Adonai (the Lord) Echad (is one/united). The repetition of Adonai in-between Eloheynu is forced and grammatically appears as over description. However, this is a revelation of the compound unity of the Triune God (Trinity). This message was given away by the use of the word Echad. Why Moses did use the word Echad which means compound unity (united as one or simply one in compound form) instead of the word Yachid which means one (and only one)? If he did use the word yachid then there is nothing more to say. However, he used Echad declaring to the Jews and to all people about the compound unity of God. Every time a Jewish person would recite the shema, he is practically confessing with his mouth the compound unity of God and it is also a testimony to him day and night.
For us believers, this is a wonderful truth that we can ponder upon day in and day out. Isn`t it a good thing if we recite the shema day and night as part of our prayers in the morning and at night time. Come to think of it, they are Scriptural verses anyway and was commanded by God that even Jesus recited it Himself. I don`t believe that you have to do it legalistically especially if you don’t feel doing it but for a believer who wants to obey this command and wants to joyfully confess God`s compound unity together with God`s chosen people, then we are free to do so and nobody should stop us or judge us. After all, we have freedom in Christ!