HEAR O’ISRAEL: These three words are the beginning of the most holy scripture recited by Jews throughout the world. They are the beginning of what is called the S’hema. The complete words of the S’hema are Hear O’ Israel, The LORD our God, the LORD is One. In transliterated Hebrew, one would recite: S’hema Yisrael, ADONAI elohenu, ADONAI echad. This prayer is recited twice a day, once at night and once in the morning. The meaning of these words are very deep and carry much significance to the life of all believers. The first six words are a declaration, a statement of faith that God is one, that God is the only God and there is no other. It also emphasizes by using the word S’hema which means to hear, to listen, to obey and to respond. The people of Israel first heard these words while traveling through the desert on their way to the Promised Land. These words can be found in the book of Deuteronomy 6:4. They are followed by another six words as an undertone to these majestic first six words, which declare the very being of God, His very existence, and that all of Israel were to respond in obedience to His teachings (Torah). The next six words are said in response: B’aruch Shem Kavod, Malchuto L’Olem Vahed, which means Blessed is the name of His glorious Kingdom forever and ever. This response is recited to reflect the understanding that indeed, God deserves to be identified as the God of His people, He shall be blessed and His name exalted. The second part of these six words speak of the eternity of the LORD, forever and ever. It identifies with the fact the God was there at the beginning of creation and will be there long past our lives, He is eternal. Interestingly enough the word echad, the last of the first six words of the S’hema, means one as pointed out earlier. But what kind of “One” is echad referring to? This is key to understanding the S’hema and how it relates to our Messiah Yeshua, and the Holy Spirit or Ruach HaKodesh. Echad means one, but it is used with the intent of unity, not a singular one, but a plural one. So ADONAI is not just a single one but also a unity with the Son and Holy Spirit. They together, are the full meaning of echad. If this verse were to mean only one, the Hebrew word yachid could be used. This is the more common term for the number one. But instead, the term echad is used. This is missed by many Jews who only see God as one and that any thought of a triune God would go against the traditional thought that there can be no other Gods, therefore He must be One. Believing in a triune God goes against this theological meaning of the first two of the Ten Commandments. These first two commandments confirm that there is one God, and there shall be no other gods before Him. By believing in God as a triune God for traditional Jews would mean that they are believing in idols, other gods. This is why in Messianic Judaism we recite the S’hema along with all the other Jewish Congregations throughout the world. However when we, as a Messianic Congregation, recite the S’hema we praise ADONAI not just as a singular God but as a God of unity. We see the triune nature of the LORD, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
It is also important to note that just prior to the S’hema in Deuteromy 6:4, in the previous chapter Deuteronomy 6:1-3, reiterate the core of the teachings of ADONAI, the importance of obedience to these laws and regulations for future generations. God is telling the people that obedience will be a blessing to them, a promise of a great future. The S’hema also follows the giving of the Ten Commandments and the Israelites gathered together and listening to the voice of God. A thunderous, loud voice, coming from a fiery cloud covered in a thick mist as the Israelites were gathered together at the mountain where God gave the commandment to His servant Moses. The Israelites shuddered in fear and reverence to the God who brought them out of bondage in Egypt with a mighty hand. They had knowledge of such a God, they witnessed this through Moses and the plagues, the miracles, such a crossing the Red Sea as they escaped Pharaoes army and were finally free. Still they had not heard nor seen the God who had saved them. Seeing the fiery display and hearing the voice of God Almighty must have been both a moment of fear and a moment of truth. Therefore the declarative statement of the S’hema would give the Israelites a deeper and fuller understanding to the God who they shall serve. He is eternal, He is the only God. They need to listen, hear, obey and respond in order to receive the blessings promised in the preceding verses.
All of these majestic moments coming together, the giving of the law, the fire and cloud on the mountain top, the hearing of the loud and thunderous voice of ADONAI himself, reach a climax in the S’hema. It is a defining moment, a time immemorial for all generations to embrace the existence of their creator, their savior, their God who was like no other. Can you imagine for a a moment being amongst the Israelites witnessing all these events? These reasons explain why the S’hema is the holiest prayer in all of Judaism and is still recited at every Jewish Congregation throughout the world, every Shabbat but twice daily by the Orthodox Jews. The following verses; Deuteronomy 6:5-9 will be covered in the next writing as they are also a response to the S’hema, but as you will see have great meaning for all God’s people. I believe the S’hema has meaning for all believers now that you fully understand the meaning of these powerful, holy words coming from the book we all know are the very words of the God we serve. We are all grafted into the same tree, and therefore are all part of Israel so, Listen ALL Israel and respond accordingly. May you be blessed by this article.
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