I have in the past written on the Shema – Hear O Israel! What I didn’t delve into was the broader aspects of how our lives and communities are affected if we heed this simple injunction contained in a few short verses. First a bit of context. In later Judaism the Shema has verses added from other texts (Deuteronomy 11:13-21, Numbers 15:37-41) but the original passage referred to as the Shema is simply the text we have in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. We see the significance of it in that when asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus responded by quoting the beginning of the Shema.
28 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” 29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. Mark 12:28–30 (NKJV)
In Judaism the Shema is to be prayed twice a day, morning and evening then before retiring for the night. It is the final prayer in the Yom Kippur service (the holiest day of the year in Judaism and is to be a Jews final prayer before death.
Now we delve into the Shema and the areas it covers. I have used the NKJV but included the names of God and hear in Hebrew rather than the normal rendering.
4 “Shema, O Israel: Yahweh our Elohim, Yahweh is one! 5 You shall love Yahweh your Elohim with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4–9 (NKJV)
This is what we see in the Shema as we apply it to our lives. The word, scripture, is to be held in our hearts. It is to guide our thinking and acting (on our foreheads and hands). That is the individual aspect. Scripture is to be taught in the home, the impact spreads to our family. As we go further the Shema spreads out, it is to guard our homes by being on our doorposts. The doorposts represent the entryways to our homes. Our entryway is to be grounded in scripture and those who enter our homes should encounter the truth of scripture.
The last place we see scripture needing to be written is on the gates. In the culture of the day when Moses wrote the elders sat in the gates as the town/city gates were the place of governance, where legislative decisions were made and court transactions were enacted. The place this is played out very clearly in scripture is in Ruth 4:1-12. Boaz chooses to function as a kinsmen redeemer and gathers the elders at the gate. Here a legal transaction is performed and witnessed by the Bethlehem elders. This enables Boaz to redeem the land Naomi had lost and also enables him to marry Ruth.
If we have a relationship with Yahweh and honour Him by incorporating the principles of the Shema into our lives, we will see it bring blessing at the level of ourselves, our homes and families, and our communities. It will ultimately affect our nation as nations are composed of communities. So, Shema my friends!