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SHEMA Shema (“hear”) is the Hebrew word that begins the most important prayer not only in Judaism, but in Christianity as well. The Shema is found at Deuteronomy 6:4, which begins with the command to “Hear.” The word sh'ma in Paleo-Hebrew A Hebrew interpretation of the Sh'ma (Hear O Israel) Heb., Yehwahʹ ʼElo·hehʹnu Yehwahʹ ʼe·chadhʹ. Hear, O Israel: yhwh our God is one yhwh: And you shall love yhwh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4,5) Hear The Hebrew verb שמע (Sh.M.Ah) means "to hear" but with the Hebraic idea "to pay attention to what is being spoken and act upon it." When Israel "hears" the directions of God, they agree to act upon them (they obey his words). When God "hears" the pleas of Israel in bondage in Egypt, he acts upon them (he rescues Israel). One The use of the word "one" (ehhad) in this verse is commonly interpreted to mean that there is only "one" God. This verse is specific that yhwh is not only one but his actions are always clear and in unity with himself. (Malachi 3:6 says: “For I am Jehovah; I do not change…) A good example of this is the pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. A cloud and fire are opposites—one provides coolness and shade and the other heat and light. Yet, they work together to preserve the people during the day and the night. Love Love, the Hebrew verb אהב is not an emotion: it is an action. The context of this word in the text indicates that we are to "love" God with our actions, not with our emotions. Heart The heart, לבב in Hebrew, is the thoughts of the mind, not an emotion as the word is generally understood in western minds. In this passage, we are informed how to "love" Yahweh—by keeping all of our thoughts focused on him. Soul The Hebrew word נפש (nephesh) is literally the whole of the person. First we are told to love Yahweh with our minds, now with our entire being. Might The Hebrew word used here is מאד (me'od) and is a very interesting word, especially in the way that it is used in this context. This word is used throughout the Hebrew text as an adverb, intensifying a verb, and is usually translated as very, greatly, or much. This is the only time this word appears as a noun and is best translated as "muchness." This idea of muchness is expanding on the previous two ways we are to love Yahweh, first with our mind, then with our body, and now with everything we have. A Re-Translation Now that we have examined each word in this passage, to uncover their original meanings in the Hebrew culture, let’s translate it with a more Hebraic flavor. "Israel, pay careful attention and respond: Jehovah works in unity with himself: and you shall act upon your love to Jehovah with your thoughts and mind, with your entire body and with everything that you possess." The phrase "heart, mind and soul," as it is translated in the RSV, is generally interpreted to mean that we are to love Jehovah with "three" things, but the reality is that this phrase is a form of poetry that is using three synonyms to show that our love for Jehovah is to be all encompassing, beginning with our thoughts, then our bodies, then everything we possess. The Masoretic Text In modern day Hebrew Bibles, this passage is written as follows. שמע .1 ישראל יהוה אלהינו יהוה אחד Notice that the ayin (ע), the last letter in the first word (written right to left) is written oversized, as is the dalet (ד), the last letter in the last word. When these two letters are placed together, they form the wordעד (eyd, Strong's #5707) meaning "witness." In Judaism, the sh’ma (the name given to this verse as it is the first word in this verse) is Israel’s witness, their statement of faith if you will. However, these oversized letters are not found in any ancient scroll such as found in the Dead Sea Caves. They first appear in the Masoretic Hebrew texts from 1,000 A.D. Whether the Masorites added them or not we don't know, in fact the origins of these oversized letters are a mystery. Even though these letters do not appear to have been in the original texts, they are still excellent teaching tools. The Shema is so important that Jesus used it as the beginning of His answer to the “greatest commandment” question in Mark 12:28–30: One of the scribes who had come up and heard them disputing, knowing that he had answered them in a fine way, asked him: “Which commandment is first of all?” 29 Jesus answered: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah, 30 and you must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength.’ When Jesus answered with Shema He acknowledged Jehovah God as the most important and that all worship and devotion to Him is the most important of the commandments. (Deuteronomy 5:7) You must never have any other gods besides me. (Isaiah 42:8) I am Jehovah. That is my name; I give my glory to no one else, Nor my praise to graven images. (Zechariah 14:9) And Jehovah will be King over all the earth. In that day Jehovah will be one, and his name one. (Mark 12:29) Jesus answered: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah,