Sh’ma

Synonyms:
Shema, שְׁמַע
Sh'ma (Wikipedia)
Shema Yisrael at the Knesset Menorah in Jerusalem

Shema Yisrael (or Sh'ma Yisrael; Hebrew: שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל; "Hear, [O] Israel") is a prayer. It is also 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 evening 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׃), found in Deuteronomy 6:4. 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). Also, 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 night.

The verse is sometimes alternatively translated as "The LORD is our God; the LORD is one" or "The LORD is our God, the LORD alone." (Biblical Hebrew rarely used a copula in the present tense, so it has to be inferred; in the Shema, the syntax behind this inference is ambiguous.) The word used for "the LORD" is the tetragrammaton YHWH.

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 of the Torah are read in the weekly Torah portions Va'etchanan, Eikev, and Shlach, respectively.

« Back to Glossary Index
Skip to toolbar