Shema Yisrael (or Sh'ma Yisrael) (Hebrew: שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל, "Hear, [O] Israel") are the first two words of the section of the Torah which is the central profession of monotheism in the Jewish faith. The first verse says Hebrew: שמע ישראל י-ה-ו-ה אלוהינו י-ה-ו-ה אחד, Shemá Yisrael Ado-nai Elohêinu Ado-nai Echad; "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD."
Originally, the Shema was constituted of a single verse (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 - see Talmud Sukkot 42a and Berachot 13b). Currently his recitation involves three parts, which constitute the main basis of the Jewish faith. The three parts are three paragraphs of the Bible and are recited in the Shacharit (Hebrew: שַחֲרִת, Shacharit) and Maariv (Hebrew: מעריב, Maariv). The full text is found in two Bible books, Deuteronomy (Devarim) and Numbers (Bamidbar):
"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates." — Deuteronomy 6:4-9
"And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto 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 you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full. Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; And then the LORD's wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you. Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth." — Deuteronomy 11:13-21
"And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue: And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring: That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God. I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD your God." — Numbers 15:37-41
The Shema is one of the sentences that is quoted in the New Testament. The Gospel of Mark 12:29 mentions that Jesus considered the Shema the beginning exhortation of the first of his two greatest commandments:
"And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment." — Mark 12:29-30
The Paul the Apostle, writing to the Corinthians around 55 AD, reminded them that all knowledgeable believers readily confessed and acknowledged that there is only one God and Lord, referencing the Shema:
"As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth (as there be gods many, and lords many) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him." — 1_Corinthians 8:4-6
The Shema was constantly on the lips of Jewish martyrs. The last letters of שמע and אחד comprise the word עד ("witness") and are written in large in the Hebrew Bible meaning that those who recite the Shema testify to the oneness of God before the world.
- Unterman, Alan (1997). Dictionary of Jewish Lore & Legend. Thames and Hudson. ISBN 978-0500279847.
- cf. N.T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant, 1994; E. Waaler, The Shema and the First Commandment in First Corinthians, 2008
- Birnbaum, Philip (1979). Encyclopedia of Jewish Concepts. Brooklyn, New York: Hebrew Publishing Company. p. 620. ISBN 0-88482-930-8.