Shema Yisrael – A Timeless Message
If you thought Moshe Rabbeinu’s review of the Ten Commandments was important, you’re right. Now, Moshe Rabbeinu, continues with something else that is super-important, and this time it’s not a review.
You’re probably familiar with the words, Shema Yisrael. It’s the ultimate declaration of faith!
שמע ישראל ה’ אלקינו ה’ אחד
Shema Yisrael, HaShem Elokeinu, HaShem Echad!
“Hear O’ Israel! HaShem – who is our G-d – HaShem is one!”
Shema. It’s the belief and understanding that there is only one G-d. A fancy English word for this is monotheism. It’s what Avraham and Sarah tried to teach the world. A world full of idol worship.
“Hear O’ Israel.” It’s more than hearing… it’s understanding. Comprehending. Investigating. (You’ve probably heard people say, “I hear what you’re saying,” when what they really mean is “I understand.”)
Shema Yisrael. These words are whispered into the little ears of Jewish newborns, and are the last words uttered by a Jew. So, Jewish life begins and ends with the purest of faith – “Shema Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad!”
But it’s more than just words. When we say the first sentence of Shema, we cover our eyes with our right hand to help us concentrate on the words that came from our great leader, Moshe!
Shema is more than just one sentence – it’s actually comprised of three paragraphs that speak about the Mitzvos of Tefillin, Mezuzah, teaching Torah, and more. It’s what Jews worldwide say in their prayers, in the morning and the evening. It’s also the words of the Oral-Law, the Mishnah, which begins: “From when is a person allowed to read the Shema in the evening?”
The first paragraph of Shema is here in Parshas VaEschanan. The next paragraph is in next week’s Parsha, Eikev, and for the third paragraph we have to rewind back to the end of Parshas Shlach in the Book of BaMidbar. Remember?
Whew… it sure has been a long, long Parsha! So we’ll continue learning about Tefillin and Mezuzos when we delve into the second paragraph of Shema next week, in Parshas Eikev.