This post started off as tweets about the #Shema…
Before getting carried away with more depth and inner meaning of the #Shema, here’s a link to basic key “ten facts every Jew should know about #Shema” from @chabad.
(1) #Shema (Hear O’ Israel… G-d is One!) is one of Judaism’s best known lines. Many Jews know it even in the original Hebrew. So simple yet so complex, it is both the Jewish basis & its depth, oft-repeated, lived with & died with. #Shema is said in so many ways in the Jewish tradition: Twice daily is the biblical commandment, mornings & evenings – which the Rabbis wove into the fabric of the daily prayers. #Shema is said each time we take #Torah scrolls out of the ark, it is said in the Musaf Kedusha prayer on #Shabbat, it is one of the 12 verses #Rebbe encouraged kids to learn by heart & recite at gatherings. It is said each night at bedtime, at the climax at the end #YomKippur, and at the time of one’s passing.
(2) Judaism encourages us to open our eyes, to seek & find G-dliness in the world all around us, to see it in each other, to have vision… but for the #Shema, we take that moment to close our eyes, we cover our eyes, we hear and take it within – so we can see it all around outside. As a people & by tradition, Jews focus more on hearing (ideas, teachings) than seeing (objects, images) this declaration (HEAR O’ Israel) reflects that. We shut out what we see (just for a moment) to prioritize & focus on what we hear.
(3) The last word of a #Ketubah (marriage contract) is the 2-letter word “Eid” or witness. The Hebrew letters that spell עד (witness) are the two supersized letters in a #Torah scroll in the first sentence of #Shema. A witness’ primary role is to see, of course. But that seeing is more than just an observation (as Talmud commentaries point out) such seeing establishes facts, creates and reveals a reality. And so it is with the witnesses that we are via the #Shema.
(4) Oneness of G-d in the @Shema has its basic meaning of monotheism, of course, but also its deeper, Chassidic & Kabbalistic meaning of two Divine names mentioned in the first sentence of the #Shema, they & all they represent are one. It sounds Kabbalistical but its very relevant! Those two Divine names are two opposite spiritual energies: finite vs infinite, self-actualizing & selfless, within the world vs beyond it, the revealed reality & the hidden one, body vs soul. #Shema’s oneness means they are one, both real, both essential to G-d’s oneness. Back to the two names of G-d in the first line of the #Shema, see this “SuperJew” appeal we did before the climax of #YomKippur about Clark Kent and Superman in our Judaism: https://www.shabboshouse.org/mendels-messages/clark-kent-superman-judaism-yom-kippur-appeal/ … In plain talk, this Chassidic interpretation of #Shema (based on #Arizal, explained in Tanya Part II etc) is the philosophy behind seeing G-dliness within our world, seeing unity & synthesis between spiritual & physical, elevating the physical, finding infinite in the finite.
(5) This #Chassidic story of #Shema, the #Rebbe #Maharash and a simple wagon-driver Chassid has a different message & direction: Instead of the earthly grounding of the Chassidic #shema message, this story & message is about lifting our eyes heavenward: https://www.shabboshouse.org/mendels-messages/lift-eyes-heavenward/ and also see this inspiration from inside UAlbany Mascot Little D’s head.
(6) The previous Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, describes the spontaneous outcry of #Shema that erupted in a crowded shelter during the Nazi bombing of Warsaw, a unifying cry despite the vast spectrum of differences in observance, belief, styles of religious worship.
(7) After #Holocaust a Rabbi (it is told about Rabbi Kahaneman and also said about Rabbi Chazkel Besser and others) confronted denials that Jewish children were held at a convent, so he said #Shema aloud, & many young kids instinctively covered their eyes & cried out “Mama!” revealing their past, their identity. The @ShwekeyOfficial “Shema” song is based on this story.
(8) So where does #Shema take us? The next biblical line (& first paragraph of #Shema) begins with “You Shall Love!” that love of G-d is described 3 ways: (1) all your hearts (both of them), (2) with all your soul, (3) with all your might – or all your VERY, everything you’ve got. And the all your hearts love, soulful love, love w/ everything you’ve got… the verse continues with how it is expressed: study words of Torah, teach your kids, speak of them at home & away, wrap them as #Tefillin, and affix as #Mezuzah to your homes. Concrete expressions of love.
(9) btw, the verse in #Shema strangely says that #Torah words should be ON our hearts (not IN our hearts). Here’s one explanation from personal experience: https://www.shabboshouse.org/mendels-messages/yk-rain-flooding-the-drain-on-great-dane-drive/ …
There’s so much about the Shema, we did a 2-part Torah-Tuesday class titled “The Bose Shema: Better Hear O’ Israel Through Research”. Perhaps one day to add to this post.
But the main thing is to try to say the Shema, at least the first line (or first paragraph if you can) twice daily, once every morning and once each night.