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The Shema

The Shema

By Eric Carlson on August 1, 2022

Deuteronomy 6:4.

“Sh’ma, Yisra’el! ADONAI Eloheinu, ADONAI echad [Hear, Isra’el! ADONAI our God, ADONAI is one];

The term Shema is derived from the Hebrew root shin, mem, ayin. Sh’ma is a noun that is most often translated as hear or hearing. On a side note, the word for rumor is shmu-aw; the plural, rumors, is shmu-aws. If that word for rumors, shmu-aws, sounds vaguely familiar, it should. For rumors, shmu-aws, is the basis of that wildly popular yiddish-american word, “schmooze”. So the next time you hear or use the word schmooze, and that probably won’t take very long, you will I’m sure recall that the Hebrew root of “schmooze” is shin, mem, ayin, and from that you will be e reminded of the daily obligation of the recitation of the Shema.

The Shema marks the declaration that God is One. If someone doesn’t understand Hebrew, they might read this verse “Here, O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is one (Deu.6:4) and think that Adonai doesn’t exist as a triune nature or in plurality! This however is not the case, the word used in Hebrew is echad.

The word echad, or “one” as it appears in the Hebrew text of Deuteronomy 6:4, doesn’t mean one, Yachid in modern Hebrew means singular or Aleph in biblical Hebrew means one. Echad means more than one part, a compound, a complex unity, oneness through plurality.

For example, in Exodus 26:6 the various parts of the Tabernacle (Mishkan) are to be constructed so that “it shall be one (echad) tabernacle,” and Ezekiel spoke of two “sticks” (representing a divided nation) as being reunited into one: “and they shall be one (echad) stick in My hand” (Ezekiel 37:19).

So scripturally we see that Echad is a completeness through pluralism!  The root word of Echad is “Ached”:  It means to unify, to be in accord, in unison, no more separate parts!  Adam and Eve are described as “one flesh”, Echad!

Genesis 2:24: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall be one flesh.”

Echad Flesh!  Complete, Whole, in Unity! This does not denote a sexual connotation.  It is a spiritual concept!

I Corinthians 6:16-17.  Don’t you know that a man who joins himself to a prostitute becomes physically one with her? For the Tanakh says, “The two will become one flesh;” 17 but the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit.

Our God is Echad, Complete! Unified, as the three cords of a rope are bound together and unbreakable!  We are Echad with God, our wives, and are to be Echad with each other! Echad has a powerful impact in our lives and is found over 900 times in Tanach!

Exodus 24:3 And Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord, and all the judgments; and all the people answered with one voice, (Kol Echad) and said, All the words which the Lord has said will we do.

This is a key focal point to both Echad and Shema. Kolot in Hebrew is a multitude of voices! Kol Echad is a unified voice, they replied with a voice of Unity! This is simply understood to be the voice of many people speaking in unison so that you heard one sound. The core concept and understanding of Echad is revealed in:

Isaiah 40:31. “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

The word “wait” in this verse is the Hebrew word Khavah (kaw-vaw) and it means to “twist and bind, gather together, to be strong and robust from the idea of binding fast.” Read the verse again knowing the definition “But they that are bound to the Lord- They that are gathered together with the Lord shall renew their strength.” This is a powerful, supernatural understanding! Strength is produced when we bind our lives together with the Lord’s. This twisting, this binding, this gathering with the Lord makes us Echad (complete) with God. Yeshua said in:

John 10:30. I and the Father are one.”

Echad, bound together as the cords of a rope is what Yeshua said, the same word used in Deuteronomy 6:4, and by using it, He clearly defines it. He was using the word Echad in the same vernacular as in Genesis. Yeshua identifies himself as complete with the Father, YWHW. The Jewish people of that time period knew exactly what he was saying.  They became enraged and picked up stones to stone him. He was declaring that he and the Father are unified, twisted, and bound together, gathered together, complete, Echad, they were in complete Shalom. They shared singleness of purpose. Yeshua said “I only do what I see me Father do!”  The enemy hates unity and seeks discord-that is how HaSatan conquers and divides!

Yeshua’s interpretation of Echad with God is: I am in the Father and the Father is in me, united, bound together, gathered together, complete, whole!  Just as the two parts of a day or Adam and Eve is Echad, complete, so too is Yeshua Echad with Father!  We as the body of believers are to be Echad but how do we get there?  Let’s go back to the Sh’ma:

The Shema is a declaration of faith, a pledge of allegiance to Adonai. It is said upon arising in the morning and upon going to sleep at night. It is said when praising God and when beseeching Him. It is the first prayer that a Jewish child is taught to recite. It is the last words a Jewish person recites prior to death.

The Torah records Moses including the Shema in his farewell address to the Jewish people. We recite Shema when preparing to read the Torah, on Shabbat, and when beginning the Feast of the Lord!  We recite Shema at the start of every service. The Shema is contained in the mezuzah we affix to the doorpost of our home, and in the tefillin that we bind to our arm and head. The Sh’ma is interwoven into every aspect of our expression of worship and faith! We must “Sh’ma, hear and obey.  The world is being shaken one more time and events will happen that defy understanding, we must have “singleness of purpose” operating in unity while listening, Shema to the voice of Adonai!! Shema is a verb that has several meanings.

1. To simply Hear:

Genesis 14:14. Then Avram heard (Shema) that his nephew had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, who had been born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.

Abram heard that his relative Lot had been taken captive.

2) To listen, pay attention, heed.

Genesis 3:17. To Adam he said, “Because you listened (Shema) to what your wife said and ate from the tree about which I gave you the order, ‘You are not to eat from it,’ the ground is cursed on your account; you will work hard to eat from it as long as you live.

Many, many people hear but they don’t listen. Listening is a character trait that must be developed in our lives, particularly regarding the voice and word of Adonai. God doesn’t just hear, He listens:

Genesis 30:6. Rachel said, “God has judged in my favor; indeed he has heard (Shema) me and given me a son.” Therefore she called him Dan [he judged].

3) Shema is to obey without always understanding.

Exodus 24:7. Then he took the book of the covenant and read it aloud, so that the people could hear (Shema); and they responded, “Everything that ADONAI has spoken, we will do and obey (na’aseh v’nishma).

Na’aseh v’nishma “First we will do, then understand.”

4) Willing to obey by deed, by action.

This is found in the angel’s words to Abraham after the binding of Isaac:

Genesis 22:18. and by your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed – because you obeyed (Shema’ta) my order.”

5) To respond by deed, by action to do what someone else wants.

Genesis 21:12. But God said to Avraham, “Don’t be distressed because of the boy and your slave-girl. Listen to everything (shema bekolah-do watever) Sarah says to you, because it is your descendants through Yitz’chak who will be counted.

In this last sense it comes closest in meaning to “obey.” We see there is a profound, supernatural understanding to Shema-hearing, listening, understanding, obeying, and doing by action and deed! Now, with the knowledge and understanding of the complexities of the word Shema lets read:

Deuteronomy 8:3. He humbled you, allowing you to become hungry, and then fed you with man, which neither you nor your ancestors had ever known, to make you understand (Shema) that a person does not live on food alone but on everything that comes from the mouth of ADONAI (Be Al Peh).

There is a deep, profound understanding revealed in the word from the Mouth of Adonai that should also be upon our own mouth: 

Deuteronomy 30:14-18.  On the contrary, the word is very close to you – in your mouth, even in your heart; therefore, you can do it! 15 “Look! I am presenting you today with, on the one hand, life and good; and on the other, death and evil – 16 in that I am ordering you today to love ADONAI your God, to follow his ways, and to obey his mitzvot, regulations and rulings ; for if you do, you will live and increase your numbers; and ADONAI your God will bless you in the land you are entering in order to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, if you refuse to listen (Lo Shema), if you are drawn away to prostrate yourselves before other gods and serve them; 18 I am announcing to you today that you will certainly perish; you will not live long in the land you are crossing the Yarden to enter and possess.

Reading isn’t enough. To Shema, to listen and hear we must read out loud! This is the essence of Shabbat service, of Feast Days, of our own daily walk with Adonai! It’s not just reading it, its reading it out loud that we may Shema! That we may hear it, understanding, do it, obey it, and live it!  It’s through speaking the word, having it upon our lips, in our mouth, that we may hear the words of Adonai. That’s how we get His word into our heart and soul. It’s by refusing to listen and obey one turns away from Adonai

And finally Sh’ma is family! As a congregation we are to live as family! Support, protecting, encouraging, correcting, and loving each other. Our love of God is the fruit of obedience which is why we recite the Sh’ma. Your family is the first place you receive love and give love.  I’m by no means an expert but I have spent more time with people who are terminally ill than most and it strikes me that as I listened, as I talked with them all they discuss is family. Their parents, children, siblings, love they gave, love they should have given, love they received and love they didn’t receive. I have never, ever had a theological or doctrinal conversation with a person who is dying. How does the Sh’ma end?  You shall love the Lord thy God. Love is a command, something you do. Love is the fruit of obedience.

I John 2:3-5.  The way we can be sure we know him is if we are obeying his commands. 4 Anyone who says, “I know him,” but isn’t obeying his commands is a liar – the truth is not in him. 5 But if someone keeps doing what he says, then truly love for God has been brought to its goal in him. This is how we are sure that we are united with him.

This is why the Sh’ma is so important! It teaches us the core kingdom tenant to love and obey! By speaking His word, we Shema! Speak God’s word into every situation of your life, release the living word out loud, by mouth, Be Al Peh, the Word of Adonai. Speak those things that aren’t as though they are! Speak life, healing, speak the restoration and revival of Israel! You have the power to speak life or death! Shema!