Shema Yisrael (or Sh'ma Yisrael; Hebrew: שְׁמַע
יִשְׂרָאֵל; "Hear, [O] Israel") are the first two words
of a section of the Torah, and is the title (better known as The
Shema) of a prayer that serves as a centerpiece of the morning and
Jewish prayer services. The first verse encapsulates the
monotheistic essence of Judaism: "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God,
the LORD is one" (Hebrew: שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל
יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָֽד׃),
Deuteronomy 6:4, sometimes alternatively translated as "The
LORD is our God, the LORD is one." Observant Jews consider the Shema
to be the most important part of the prayer service in Judaism, and
its twice-daily recitation as a mitzvah (religious commandment). It is
traditional for Jews to say the Shema as their last words, and for
parents to teach their children to say it before they go to sleep at
The term "Shema" is used by extension to refer to the whole part of
the daily prayers that commences with
Shema Yisrael and comprises
Deuteronomy 6:4–9, 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37–41. These sections
Torah are read in the weekly
Torah portions Va'etchanan, Eikev,
and Shlach, respectively.
2.1 Shema Yisrael
2.2 Baruch Shem
2.4 V'haya im shamoa
3 Jewish Women and the Shema
4 Accompanying blessings
5 Bedtime Shema
6 Other instances
7 Divine Unity of the Shema in
8 In Christianity
9 In Islam
10 See also
12 External links
Originally, the Shema consisted of only one verse:
Talmud Sukkah 42a and Berachot 13b). The recitation of the Shema
in the liturgy, however, consists of three portions: Deuteronomy
6:4–9, 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37–41. The three portions are
already mentioned in the
Mishnah (Berachot 2:2). The three portions
relate to central issues of Jewish belief. In the
2:5) the reciting of the shema was linked with re-affirming a personal
relationship with God's rule. Literally, reciting the shema was stated
as "receiving the kingdom of heaven." ["Heaven" is a metaphor for God.
The best texts of the Mishnah, Kaufmann and Parma, do not have the
addition "yoke" that is found in later printed Mishnahs: "receive the
yoke of the kingdom of Heaven." The original statement appears to
have been "to receive the kingdom of Heaven"]
Talmud points out that subtle references to the Ten
Commandments can be found in the three portions. As the Ten
Commandments were removed from daily prayer in the
(70-200 CE), the Shema is seen as an opportunity to commemorate the
There are two larger-print letters in the first sentence ('ayin ע and
daleth ד) which, when combined, spell "עד". In
Hebrew this means
"witness". The idea thus conveyed is that through the recitation or
proclamation of the Shema one is a living witness testifying to the
truth of its message. Modern Kabbalistic schools, namely that of the
Ari, teach that when one recites the last letter of the word
"'ecḥad'" (אחד), meaning "one", he is to intend that he is ready
to "die into God".
The first paragraph of the Shema seen in a
The first, pivotal, words of the Shema are, in the original Hebrew:
שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ
יְהוָה אֶחָֽד׃, which can be transliterated: Sh'ma
Judaism teaches that the
Tetragrammaton (י-ה-ו-ה), YHVH,
is the ineffable and actual name of God, and as such is not read aloud
in the Shema but is traditionally replaced with אדני, Adonai
("LORD"). For that reason, the Shema is recited aloud as:
Sh'ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Ecḥad - "Hear, O Israel: the
LORD is our God, the LORD is One."
The literal word meanings are roughly as follows:
Sh'ma — listen, or hear and do (according to the Targum, accept)
Yisrael — Israel, in the sense of the people or congregation of
Adonai — often translated as "LORD", it is read in place of the YHVH
written in the
Hebrew text; Samaritans say Shema, which is Aramaic for
"the [Divine] Name" and is the exact equivalent of the Hebrew
"ha-Shem", which Rabbinic Jews substitute for "Adonai" in a
non-liturgical context such as everyday speech.
Eloheinu — the plural 1st person possessive of אֱלֹהִים
Elohim, meaning “our God”.
Echad — the unified and cardinal number one אֶחָד
This first verse of the Shema relates to the kingship of God. The
first verse, "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD," has ever
been regarded as the confession of belief in the One God. Due to the
ambiguity of the possible ways to translate the
Hebrew passage, there
are several possible renderings:
"Hear, O Israel! Adonai is our God! Adonai is One!" and,
"Hear, O Israel! Adonai is our God – Adonai alone."
Many commentaries have been written about the subtle differences
between the translations. There is an emphasis on the oneness of God
and on the sole worship of God by Israel. There are other
translations, though most retain one or the other emphases.
בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ
לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד - "Blessed be the name of His glorious
kingdom for ever and ever”
The second line is a rabbinic addition and is recited silently during
congregational worship (except on Yom Kippur, when it is recited
aloud). It was originally a liturgical response in use in the Temple
when the name of God was pronounced and took the form of "Baruch shem
k’vod l’olam", "Blessed be His glorious name" (Psalm 72:19).
However, in time the words, "malchuto" ("His kingdom") and "va’ed"
("for ever and ever") were added. "Malchuto" was introduced by the
rabbis during Roman rule as a counter to the claim of divine honors by
Roman emperors. "Va’ed" was introduced at the time of the Second
Temple to contrast the view of the "minim" (sectarians) that there is
no life after death.
The following verses are commonly referred to as the V'ahavta
according to the first word of the verse immediately following the
Shema, or in Classical
Hebrew V'ahav'ta meaning "and you shall
love...". They contain the command to love God with all one's heart,
soul, and might (
Deuteronomy 6:5). The
Talmud emphasizes that you
will, at some point, whether you choose to or not, and therefore uses
"shall" - future tense - love God.
Then verse 7 goes on to remind the community to remember all the
commandments and to "teach them diligently to your children and speak
of them when you sit down and when you walk, when you lie down and
when you rise", to recite the words of God when retiring or rising;
to bind those words "on thy arm and thy head" (classically Jewish oral
tradition interprets as tefillin), and to "inscribe them on the
door-posts of your house and on your gates" (referring to mezuzah).
V'haya im shamoa
The passage following the "Shema" and "V'ahavta" relates to the issue
of reward and punishment. It contains the promise of reward for
serving God with all one's heart, soul, and might (Deut 11:13) and for
the fulfillment of the laws. It also contains punishment for
transgression. It also contains a repetition of the contents of the
first portion -but this time spoken to the second person plural,
(Whereas the first portion is directed to the individual Jew, this
time it is directed to the whole community, all the Jews).
The third portion relates to the issue of redemption. Specifically, it
contains the law concerning the tzitzit (Numbers 15:37-41) as a
reminder that all laws of God are obeyed, as a warning against
following evil inclinations and in remembrance of the exodus from
Egypt. For the prophets and rabbis, the exodus from Egypt is
paradigmatic of Jewish faith that God redeems from all forms of
foreign domination. It can be found in the portion "
Shlach Lecha" in
the book of Numbers.
In summary, the content flows from the assertion of the oneness of
God's kingship. Thus, in the first portion, there is a command to love
God with all one's heart, soul and might and to remember and teach
these very important words to the children throughout the day. Obeying
these commands, says the second portion, will lead to rewards, and
disobeying them will lead to punishment. To ensure fulfillment of
these key commands, God also commands in the third portion a practical
reminder, wearing the tzitzit, "that ye may remember and do all my
commandments, and be holy unto your God."
The full content verse by verse, in Hebrew, English transliteration
and English translation, can be found on the jewfaq.org website.
The second line quoted, "Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom
for ever and ever", was originally a congregational response to the
declaration of the Oneness of God; it is therefore often printed in
small font and recited in an undertone, as recognition that it is not,
itself, a part of the cited Biblical verses. The third section of the
Shema ends with Numbers 15:41, but traditional Jews end the recitation
of the Shema by reciting the first word of the following blessing,
Emet, or "Truth" without interruption.
Jewish Women and the Shema
Main article: Role of women in Judaism
In Orthodox Judaism, women are not required to recite the Shema (as a
command from the Torah), as with other time-bound requirements
which might impinge on their traditional familial obligations,
although they are obligated to pray at least once daily without a
specific liturgy requirement and many fulfill that obligation through
prayers like the Shema.
However, the practice among all Jews—women, men, and children—is
to recite it. The Mishnah suggests that the time for recitation
should not be more than 3rd hour, but if it is after that time, it
should still be read, since it contains expressions of the unity of
God, belief in a Creator etc.
It is incumbent to teach children to recite the first verse, and
subsequent paragraphs as soon as they are able to understand its
meaning. Women are not time bound in its recitation and therefore are
not required to say it within its time.
Rabbi Ephraim Greenblatt approvingly cites the Rashba, who holds
that the last set of Blessings are on the Shema, based on the rulings
Judaism generally regards Jewish women as being obligated
to recite the Shema at the same times as men.
Reform and Reconstructionist
Judaism do not regard gender-related
traditional Jewish ritual requirements as necessary in modern
circumstances, including obligations for men but not women to pray
specific prayers at specific times. Instead, both genders may fulfill
The Benedictions preceding and following the Shema are traditionally
credited to the members of the Great Assembly. They were first
instituted in the liturgy of the Temple in Jerusalem.
According to the Talmud, the reading of the Shema morning and evening
fulfils the commandment "You shall meditate therein day and night". As
soon as a child begins to speak, his father is directed to teach him
the verse "Moses commanded us a law, even the inheritance of the
congregation of Jacob" (Deut. 33:4), and teach him to read the Shema
(Talmud, Sukkah 42a). The reciting of the first verse of the Shema is
called "the acceptance of the yoke of the kingship of God" (kabalat ol
malchut shamayim) (
Mishnah Berachot 2:5). Judah ha-Nasi, who spent all
day involved with his studies and teaching, said just the first verse
of the Shema in the morning (
Talmud Berachot 13b) "as he passed his
hands over his eyes" which appears to be the origin of the Jewish
custom to cover the eyes with the right hand whilst reciting the first
The first verse of the Shema is recited aloud, simultaneously by the
hazzan and the congregation, which responds with the rabbinically
instituted Baruch Shem ("Blessed be the Name") in silence before
continuing the rest of Shema. Only on
Yom Kippur is this response said
aloud. The remainder of the Shema is read in silence. Sephardim recite
the whole of the Shema aloud, except the Baruch Shem. Reform Jews also
recite the whole of the first paragraph of the Shema aloud.
During Shacharit, there are two blessing before the Shema and one
thereafter. These numbers, two before and one after, are based on
Mishnah Tractate Berachos, Chapter 11, which states: "In the
morning one blesses two before and one after," though there is a
Jewish law as to whether one recites these blessing on the
Shema, or surrounding the Shema. The conclusion that has been drawn is
that they are to be blessing surrounding the Shema, because the
structure is similar to that of blessings of the Torah, and there is
doubt as to whether such blessings would actually enhance the
The two blessings that are recited before the Shema are
Yotzer ohr and
Ahava Rabbah/Ahavat Olam. The blessing after is known as Emet
During Maariv, there are two blessings before the Shema and two
after. The two before are Ha
Maariv Aravim and Ahavat Olam. The two
Emet V'Emunah and Hashkiveinu. Ashkenazim add Baruch Hashem
L'Olam outside of Israel on weekdays.
Overall, the three blessings in the morning and four in the evening
which accompany the Shema sum to seven, in accordance with the verse
in Psalms: "I praise You seven times each day for Your just
Before going to sleep, the first paragraph of the Shema is recited.
This is not only a commandment directly given in the Bible (in
Deuteronomy 6:6–7), but is also alluded to from verses such as
"Commune with your own heart upon your bed" (
Some also have the custom to read all three paragraphs, along with a
whole list of sections from Psalms, Tachanun, and other prayers.
Altogether this is known as the K'riat Shema she-al ha-mitah.
According to Arizal, reading this prayer with great concentration is
also effective in cleansing one from sin. This is discussed in the
The exhortation by the
Kohen ("priest") in calling Israel to arms
against an enemy (which does not apply when the Temple in
not standing) also includes Shema Yisrael. (
Deuteronomy 20:3; Talmud
Rabbi Akiva patiently endured while his flesh was being torn with iron
combs, and died reciting the Shema. He pronounced the last word of the
sentence, Eḥad ("one") with his last breath (
Talmud Berachot 61b).
Since then, it has been traditional for Jews to say the Shema as their
Roi Klein (d. 2006), a major in the IDF, said the Shema before jumping
on a live grenade to save his fellow soldiers, in accordance with
the traditional Jewish practice of reciting the Shema when one
believes one is going to die.
Arnold Schoenberg used it as part of the story to his narrative
A Survivor from Warsaw
A Survivor from Warsaw (1947).
In Parade, a musical based on true events, the main character Leo
Frank, wrongly accused of the murder of a child worker at the pencil
factory he manages, recites the
Shema Yisrael as a vigilante gang
kidnap and hang him in the final scenes of the work.
Pop versions have been published by
Mordechai ben David and Sarit
In Pi, Max Cohen and Lenny Meyer can be seen reciting the first three
verses of the Shema.
In The Shoes of the Fisherman, Anthony Quinn, as the fictional Pope
Kiril, explores the back streets of Rome disguised as a simple priest,
and recites the Shema at the bedside of a dying Roman Jew.
Matisyahu recites the Shema in his songs "Got no water"
and "Tel Aviv'n".
Yaakov Shwekey in his "Shema Yisrael," used the story of Rabbi Eliezer
Silver's saving Jewish children hidden in Christian monasteries
following the Holocaust by reciting the first line of the Shema.
Justin Bieber says the Shema before each public performance
with his manager Scooter Braun, who is Jewish.
Divine Unity of the Shema in
See also: Jewish philosophy, Kabbalah, and
Schneur Zalman of Liadi
Schneur Zalman of Liadi articulated Divine Unity in
The second section of the
Hasidic text the Tanya, by Schneur Zalman of
Liadi (Shaar Hayichud Vehaemunah-Gate of Unity and Faith), brings the
Panentheism of the founder of Hasidism, the Baal Shem Tov,
into philosophical explanation. It explains the
of God's Unity in the first two lines of the Shema, based upon their
interpretation in Kabbalah. The emphasis on Divine Omnipresence and
immanence lies behind
Hasidic joy and dveikut, and its stress on
transforming the material into spiritual worship. In this
internalisation of Kabbalistic ideas, the
Hasidic follower seeks to
reveal the Unity and hidden holiness in all activities of life.
Medieval, rationalist Jewish philosophers (exponents of
"Hakirah"-rational "investigation" from first principles in support of
Judaism), such as Maimonides, describe Biblical
Monotheism to mean
that there is only one God, and His essence is a unique, simple,
Jewish mysticism gives a deeper explanation, by
distinguishing between God's essence and emanation. In
especially Hasidism, God's Unity means that there is nothing
independent of His essence. The new doctrine in Lurianic
Tzimtzum ("Withdrawal"), received different interpretations
after Isaac Luria, from the literal to the metaphorical. To Hasidism
and Schneur Zalman, it is unthinkable for the "Withdrawal" of God that
"makes possible" Creation, to be taken literally.
relates to the
Ein Sof ("Infinite Light"), not the
Ein Sof (Divine
essence) itself. God's true infinity is revealed in both complementary
infinitude (infinite light) and finitude (finite light). The
"Withdrawal" was only a concealment of the Infinite Light into the
essence of God, to allow the latent potentially finite light to emerge
after the Tzimtzum. God Himself remains unaffected ("For I, the Lord,
I have not changed"
Malachi 3:6). His essence was One, alone, before
Creation, and still One, alone, after Creation, without any change. As
Tzimtzum was only a concealment, therefore God's Unity is
Omnipresent. In the Baal Shem Tov's new interpretation, Divine
Providence affects every detail of Creation. The "movement of a leaf
in the wind" is part of the unfolding Divine presence, and is a
necessary part of the complete Tikkun (Rectification in Kabbalah).
This awareness of the loving Divine purpose and significance of each
individual, awakens mystical love and awe of God.
Schneur Zalman explains that God's Unity has two levels, that are both
paradoxically true. The main text of Kabbalah, the Zohar, describes
the first verse of the Shema ("Hear Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord
is One") as the "Upper level Unity", and the second line ("Blessed be
the Name of the Glory of His Kingdom forever") as the "Lower level
Unity". Schneur Zalman gives the
Hasidic explanation of this. In
Kabbalah, all Creation is dependent on the immanent, potentially
finite, "Light that Fills all Worlds", that each Creation receives
continually. All is bittul-nullified to the light, even though in our
realm this complete dependence is hidden. From this perspective, of
God knowing the Creation on its own terms, Creation exists, but the
true essence of anything is only the Divine spark that continuously
recreates it from nothing. God is One, as nothing has any independent
existence without this continual flow of Divine Will to Create. This
is the Lower Level Unity.
In relation to God's essence, Creation affects no change or
withdrawal. All Creation takes place "within" God. "There is nothing
but God". The ability to create can only come from the infinite Divine
essence, represented by the
Tetragrammaton name of God. However, "It
is not the essence of the Divine, to create Worlds and sustain them",
as this ability is only external to the Infinite essence. Creation
only derives from God's revelatory "speech" (as in Genesis 1), and
even this is unlike the external speech of Man, as it too remains
"within" God. From this upper perspective of God knowing Himself on
His own terms, Creation does not exist, as it is as nothing in
relation to God's essence. This
Acosmism is the "Upper Level
Unity", as from this perspective, only God exists.
See also: Christian views on the Old Covenant
The Shema is one of the Old Testament sentences quoted in the New
Gospel of Mark
Gospel of Mark 12:29-31 mentions that Jesus of Nazareth
considered the opening exhortation of the Shema to be the first of his
two greatest commandments and linked with a second (based on Leviticus
19:18b): "The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The
Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with
all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with
all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is
like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." In Luke
10:25-27 the Shema is also linked with Leviticus 19:18, only by the
questioner, before Jesus' agreement. The verses
Deuteronomy 6:5 and
Leviticus 19:18b both begin with ve'ahavta, "and you shall love." In
Luke's Gospel it appears that this connection between the two verses
was already part of cultural discussion or practice.
Carl Friedrich Keil
Carl Friedrich Keil and
Franz Delitzsch noted that "the
heart is mentioned first (in
Deuteronomy 6:5), as the seat of the
emotions generally and of love in particular; then follows the soul
(nephesh) as the centre of personality in man, to depict the love as
pervading the entire self-consciousness; and to this is added, "with
all the strength," i.e. of body and soul".
The Shema has also been incorporated in Christian liturgy, and is
discussed in terms of the Trinity. The
Anglican Book of Common
Prayer in use in Canada since 1962, has included the Shema in its
Summary of the Law. Since 2012, when the
Anglican Use version of
the BCP was adapted for use in Canada, it has been recited by Roman
Catholics as well.
The Orthodox Church of the Culdees utilize the Shema in the Daily
The words used in the Shema prayer are similar to the words of Sura
Tawhid or Monotheism) in Quran. The words "أَحَدٌ" in
Arabic is identical to the word "אֶחָד" in Hebrew.
Arabic: قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ - Qul Huwa
'Llāhu ʾAḥad ("Say, He is
Allah the One")
Hebrew: :שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יהוה
אֱלֹהֵינוּ יהוה אֶחָד - Sh'ma Yisra'el YHVH
Torah » Blog Archive » Baruch Shem: The 2nd line of
the Shema – Ask the Rabbi". www.oztorah.com.
^ a b The Complete
Hebrew Bible (Tanach) based on JPS 1917
Deuteronomy 6, accessed 29 November 2015
Judaism 101: Shema". www.jewfaq.org.
Mishnah Berurah, O.C. 106:1 §7]
^ a b [Shailos and Teshuvos, Rav Ephraim Greenblatt, Rabbavot Ephraim,
Vol. 1, (O.C) §52]
^ Mishnah, Berachos 1:2
^ Mishnah, Berachos 1:2
^ Mishnah, Berachos 1:4
^ With all your heart: the Shema in Jewish worship, practice and life
By Meir Levin, ISBN 1-56871-215-4, page 207-12
^ Mishnah, Berachos 1:4
^ "[Otzar770 - Book page view]". otzar770.com.
^ Lubotzky, Asael (2016). From the Wilderness and Lebanon. Koren
Publishers Jerusalem. pp. 56–57.
^ "Justin Bieber: Tween Evangelist?". 9 February 2011 – via Huff
^ English translation and commentary on the second section of Tanya:
Shaar Hayichud Vehaemunah-Gate of Unity and Faith from Chabad.org.
Retrieved Oct. 2009
^ Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament on
Deuteronomy 6, accessed 6 November 2015
^ See Brian J. Wright, "
Deuteronomy 6:4 and the Trinity: How Can Jews
and Christians Both Embrace the 'Echad' of the Shema?"
^ "The Order for the Administration of The Lord's Supper or Holy
Communion". 7 December 2013.
^ "Liturgical BCP Prayer, "THE SHAMA" A
Prayer of Christendom and of
the Culdees – Orthodox Church of the Culdees(Celtic), Home of the
Priory of Salem, TCAWW, and Watchman News". christsassembly.com.
Media related to
Shema Yisrael at Wikimedia Commons
Jewish Encyclopedia: Shema
Recitation of the Shema Yisrael
Explanation of the Shema by Rabeinu Bachya
List of Jewish prayers and blessings
Mizmor Shir (Psalm 30)
Songs of thanksgiving
Baruch Adonai L'Olam
Atah Hu Adonai L'Vadecha
Torah reading1, 2, 3
Shir shel yom
Torah reading1, 5
Baruch Adonai L'Olam
Shabbat / Holiday additions
Pesukei dezimra (
Al Netilat Yadayim
El Malei Rachamim
1 On Shabbat
2 On holidays
3 On Mondays and Thursdays
4 Only on
Shabbat and holidays, according to
Nusach Ashkenaz in
5 On fast days