(Hear, O Israel)
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, The Lord is One.
This single line, Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad, is considered the cornerstone of Jewish faith. The first prayer taught to young children and the last prayer recited on one’s deathbed, in its simplicity and brevity this line captures the ultimate lessons of life: God is One, we are One, everything is Oneness. Described throughout the ages as the ultimate meditation tool and declaration of faith, the Shema, as it is known, is one of the most important sentences in the world.
Before the Jews finally enter the Land of Israel after 40 years of wandering in the desert, Moses recaps their experiences since the Exodus. He recounts the revelation at Mount Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments, and then proceeds to explain those commandments in preparation for living in a world where they will be relevant. In the midst of this he utters the Shema, followed by the instructions: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your resources” (Deut. 6:5).
What we learn from this is that faith is not just a matter of belief but of totality. To believe is to feel it on every level—emotional, spiritual, practical, and even physical (the Shema is inscribed in the scrolls kept inside mezuzahs, traditional ornaments affixed to the doorposts of homes).
In order to really say the Shema, you have to be convinced of it on every level. In fact, if you look at the Hebrew text as it is written on a Torah scroll, you’ll see that the last letters of both the first word and the last word of the sentence—Ayin and Dalet—are written twice as big as the other letters in the line. When you put the Ayin of Shema and the Dalet of Echad together, you get the word Ayd, which means “Witness.” Only if you are truly a witness to something can you fully comprehend it. And to truly hear what this prayer is about, you must witness its power for yourself.
The Shin is the first letter of the words Shalom(“peace”) and Shalem (“complete” or “whole”), so to feel like a complete person is to be at peace with oneself. To feel the wholeness of the universe—the single life force that propels all of us and the world around us—is to also find peace, to hear the lessons of the universe explained.
Traditionally, this prayer is said sitting down, with one’s eyes closed and the right hand covering them. Each word should be said slowly and focused on, one at a time. Doing this blind meditation teaches us to slow down, to minimize, to block out all outside interference, and to recognize that everything comes down to the single, original source of energy and light. In other words, despite our diverse backgrounds, we all come from the same place. When we truly recognize that unity is the goal of all life, that reconnecting with our origins is essential, we will have achieved wholeness.
The Shin is the beacon of peace and wholeness. By focusing on the Shemameditation, you can truly connect with the Oneness that is central to Kabala. Hear the lesson and make the statement true for yourself.
Realize that in the end, we all come from the same source. Close your eyes and focus on the light of creation . . . know that you are part of that light—we all are. You can find peace when you truly accept this principle and witness it for yourself.