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The Shema: Affirming Faith in God and His Commandments

Greco-Roman Period
Sources as early as the Dead Sea Scrolls testify to the twice-daily recitation of the Shema, the proclamation of Jewish faith. The first paragraph, Deut. 6-4-9, emphasizes the unity and sovereignty of God. The second paragraph, 11-13-21, emphasizes the obligation to observe his commandments, and the third, Num 15-37-41 to remember the experience of slavery in Egypt.

HEAR, O ISRAEL, THE LORD OUR GOD, THE LORD IS ONE. 24

BLESSED BE THE NAME OF HIS GLORIOUS KINGDOM

FOR EVER AND EVER. 25

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with
all your might. And these words, which I command youthis day, shall be in your hearts-
and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall speak of them when you sit
in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you
rise up. And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets
between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house, and upon
your gates.

And it shall come to pass, 26 if you will diligently obey my commandments which I
command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart
and with all your soul, that I will give the rain of your land in its season, the former rain
and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, and your wine, and your oil. And I
will give grass in your field for your cattle, and you shall eat and be satisfied. Beware,
lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;
and the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be
no rain, and the land yield not her fruit; and you perish quickly from off the good land
which the Lord gives you. Therefore you shall lay up these my words in your heart and in
your soul; and you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as
frontlets between your eyes. And you shall teach them to your children, speaking of them
when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and
when you rise up. And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house, and upon
your gates- that your days may be multiplied, and the days ofyour children, upon the land
which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as the days of the heavens above the
earth.

And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, 27 Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid
them make for themselves fringes upon the corners of their garments throughout their
generations, and put upon the fringe of each corner a cord of blue, and it shall be a fringe
unto you, that you may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord,
and do them; that you go not astray after your own heart and your own eyes, after which
you used to go astray- that you may remember and do all my commandments, and be
holy unto your God. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
to be your God- I am the Lord your God.

23. Trans. Heinemann and Petuchowski, Literature of the Synagogue,pp. 24-5.

24. Here starts the first paragraph of the Shema (Deut. 6-4-9) dealing with God’s unity and kingship over
the universe.

25. This line derives from the Temple rituals and is recited silently. It serves to highlight the main motif of
the Shema—God’s kingship over the universe.

26. Here begins the second paragraph of the Shema (Deut. 11-13-21) in which God’s commandments and
the concept of reward and punishment are discussed.

27. Here starts the third paragraph of the Shema (Num. 15-37-41) in which the obligation to remember the
commandments and the Exodus from Egypt is emphasized.

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