Deuteronomy 3:23 -7:11
The Shema prayer is one of the highlight of this week’s Torah portion. Listen Israel Adonai is Your God, Adonai is One (Deut. 6:4). These words are words that are emblazoned on the doorposts of our house in the mezuzah that protects our comings and goings. These words fill the tefillin boxes that we wrap around our head and near our heart. These words are also to be emblazoned in our very being.
We are to say them as we begin our day and as we end it with night time prayers. We say it in the Shachrit service and in the Maariv service. We say it throughout the prayer service when the Torah is taken out on Shabbat and holidays and in the musaf Amidah. We end the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur with the recitation of the Shema. The obligation to say the Shema is in addition to the mitzvah to pray daily.
Along with the V’ahavta paragraph that follows (Deut. 6:5-9) also found in this week’s portion we learn a message of unity, oneness, faith and love.
I often say the Shema is our love song to God. It is a statement of our faith; of our affirmation in the belief of One God. But even as we affirm the notion that God is One, we also seek to unify our lives with this same oneness. We are created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God. And just as God is One we too need to bring all the different parts of ourselves into a fine weave of oneness. This same principle holds true for the Jewish people. Even as we span the globe, and interpret differently we still must link our lives and arms and our hearts as one.
The prayer that precedes the Shema speaks of God’s great love for us. In the morning prayers it is Ahavah Rabbah-A great love; in the evening Ahavat Olam an eternal love. It speaks of the gifts of Torah and mitzvot that help us shape our lives and are the gifts of the covenant that we have with the Eternal. Our recitation of the Shema and the V’ahavata is then our love song back to the Divine Holy One. It is call and answer. It is gift given and the thank you we recite.
It is the offer of covenant and our acceptance. It is a spiritual discipline to direct our efforts at creating a better world both large and small.
So many people say they don’t believe in God or doubt the existence of God. Our recitation of the Shema asserts that there is a Divine Unity that connects all life and all of us. That is our vision of God. Like the colors of the spectrum, God has many aspects but ultimately the light is one. So too the Divine Unity has many aspects. Our Torah is the prism through which we struggle to understand these many aspects. But ultimately we affirm the Divine Oneness even when we doubt, even when we are struggling in the ultimate hope that we can hear, listen, come to know and yes, to love.
So get in the habit. Reaffirm your connection to our people and to the Divine Unity. And let God’s love wash over you and open your heart to being a loving human being connected to all life and love.