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Adelson A.

Jaugan #8

The Shema is the central prayer in the Jewish prayer book which is recited twice daily by the

pious Jews. This form of prayer is not just like any ordinary recitations. It is recited carefully word by

word while eyes are covered by right hand as the pious Jews remember and declare that “God is One”.

Also, they declare the commandment of God: “Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with

all your strength” (Deut. 6:5). Usually, this prayer is the first prayer taught to a Jewish child. The Hebrew

word “Shema Ysrael, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai Echad” emphasized that God is One as what’s written in

Deut. 6:4. In the following verse, Deut. 6:5, there is an emphasis of loving God. The Shema has been

described in various ways by many persons like Hertz, Plaut, Ramban, Rashi, etc. Yes, many have been

doing this form of prayer, but what is the significance as they recited this prayer? What is the significance

when we, believers, especially the Jewish people recite that “God is One” as declared in the Shema?

According To Maimonides, “God is One” means we derive from God who is our source and the

one who made us all., “it is a theological declaration that the Cause of all existence is One” (Fields).

Rashi believes that the human thought, which affects the beliefs and faith of the people, evolves and it

will come to the point that the belief of “God” as “One” will become accepted by all. Also, according to

another rabbi, the words of Shema are seen in a “very personal statement of Moses” (Fields). There is an

emphasis of God as “our God” as God was there with them, freeing the Israelites from the slavery so that

they can worship God. Though there are many explanations and views about the oneness of God, still, we,

finite beings cannot grasp the totality of God who is infinite. We cannot also grasp entirety of the infinite

will of God. We worship God not only because of the “good events” as we perceive through experience

but because of “everything”, literally everything. God is the source of all. Therefore, we should be

grateful to God because of the events that cause us to have either good or bad feelings (sometimes both).

There is an inner unity and uniqueness. In fact, there is only one order that exists in all of God’s creations.

Though distinct and diverse it may appear, there is a unity inside whether seen as individuals or as a

whole. We worship the One, only God who made all things, the infinite and the source of everything. The

Shema is against the belief of the plurality of gods and all the other forms of idolatry. Speaking of
idolatry, believing in God in different ways like confining God in one’s concept or like putting God in the

pocket is itself idolatry. Indeed, believing a one god is not the same as believing the “One God”. Even if

there are many interpretations and disputes about “God” as “One” in understanding the Shema, what is

certain is that it is what God has revealed throughout the salvation history especially during the time of

Moses whether in formal, or in a personal way. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one”

(Deut.6:4). In the following words of Shema, what does it mean when we speak of our love towards God?

For centuries, the meaning of loving God has been interpreted in various ways. It is the

commandment of God that at first we thought, we totally know its meaning but we realize in the long run

that it goes beyond our definition of it. Love is so dynamic that it cannot be confined in a particular act or

disposition. Worshipping God, observing the Jewish laws, and being a good example are forms of loving

God, but are these the only acts that defines our love to God? Loving God is neither merely following the

“mitzvah” (the commandments of the Jewish practices) nor merely through “contemplation and study”

(Fields) and the practice of doing away from the world. When we love, we give. We love in various

expressions because it grows and matures. It is a mysterious and wonderful gift from God which

continues to nourish us. Loving, in its complete sense, is much more powerful than fear. Love leads us to

give, but fear cripples us. Love makes our service excellent and colorful, but fear loses our confidence

and our creativity. The purpose of the love is not for us to keep it to our own, but to give it to others

especially to God. Many times, the act of loving God leads to hypocrisy to the extent that one worships

God but then, frequently passes judgment to others. On the first place, there’s no love that took place in

that case. We can love God through others. Isn’t that great? The presence of others is the opportunity for

us to love God. Certainly, we cannot confine love in a single act. Love, indeed grows, love is mysterious;

love is a grace that God gives us gratuitously., Accessed: August 19, 2014

Harvey J. Fields, A Torah Commentary For Our Times, Illustrations by. Giora Carmi (New York: UAHC Press) 109, Accessed: August 19, 2014 Accessed: August 19, 2014