Shema’ Yisra’el, Adonai ‘Elohenu, Adonai ‘echad, (Deuteronomy 6:4)
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (NASB)
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
We looked at a part of this scripture earlier in the year. The Shema, with its call for complete personal devotion to God, became a standard for the various forms of Judaism of the Second Temple period; in fact, these verses were cited by Jesus as the “first” of all commandments (Mark 12:29–30). When asked: What is the greatest commandment in the law? Remember that Jesus Christ Himself answered without hesitation or evasion. He answered with all the authority of God Himself, and His answer was an eye-opener: He quoted this passage in Deuteronomy.
“Blessed are we who, early and late, evening and morning, say twice each day, Shema’ Yisra’el, Adonai ‘Elohenu, Adonai ‘echad,” or, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” This text is known as the Shema and is a foundational affirmation of faith within Judaism. The Shema to Jews is like the Apostles’ Creed to Christians.
- Sh’ma — listen, or hear and do (according to the Targum, accept)
- Yisrael — Israel, in the sense of the people or congregation of Israel
- Adonai — often translated as “Lord”, it is read in place of YHWH; Samaritans say Shema, which is Aramaic for “the [Divine] Name” and is the exact equivalent of the Hebrew “ha-Shem”, which Rabbinic Jews substitute for “Adonai” in a non-liturgical context such as everyday speech.
- Eloheinu — the plural 1st person possessive of אֱלֹהִים Elohim, meaning “our God”.
- Echad — the unified and cardinal number one אֶחָד
Shema can be translated “hear” but with its use in this context it means to listen, to understand, and to obey. The content flows from the proclamation of the oneness of God’s kingship. There is a command to love God with all one’s heart, soul and might and to remember and teach these very important words to the children throughout the day. The Shema represents the greatest commandment of Judaism and Christianity, as it represents God’s expectation that God’s people will remain wholly loyal to him.