What Is the Shema?

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What is the Shema? Why is it important to Jews?

The Shema is a profession of faith that, in Hebrew, every good Jew has memorized by heart. It is recited every day and especially on the Biblical Sabbath. Its name comes from the first word of its profession that is found in Deuteronomy 6.

Hear (shema, Strong's #H8085), O Israel: The Lord (#H3068 which is known as the Tetragrammaton) our God (Elohim, #H430) is one Lord (KJV).

Hear, O Israel. Our one God is the Lord, the Lord (HBFV).

Although the original Shema consisted of only one verse (Deuteronomy 6:4), the basis of the profession, for liturgical purposes, is Deuteronomy 6:4 - 9, 11:13 - 21, and Numbers 15:37 - 41 (1906 Jewish Encyclopedia).

Meaning of "One"

The Shema is used as one of the primary arguments justifying the teaching that only one Being is God (in the Godhead). One of the corollaries of this belief is that Jesus Christ was not and is not God. The "one Lord" or God of the Shema, however, based on the Bible interpreting itself, signifies a compound unity.

"With regard to the teaching pertaining to the nature of God, the word "one" (echad, Strong's #H259, as found in the Shema) designates a compound unity rather than an absolute singular . . .

"The compound singular word for "one" first occurs in Genesis 2:24 where a man and woman, though separate entities, are seen to be one (echad) in marriage" (Tyndale Bible Dictionary).

"Scholars would have us believe that the Old Testament (specifically the Shema) supports the Jewish view of a monotheistic God. But the truth of Scripture is that Moses' words in Deuteronomy 6:4 do not limit the Godhead to a single divine being" (HBFV, Appendix W by Carl Franklin).

When Jesus quoted the Shema during his ministry, he did so knowing that it did not infringe on the fact that he was a member of the Godhead.

And one of the scribes who had come up to Him . . . asked Him, "Which is the first commandment of all?" Then Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is, 'Hear, O Israel. Our one God is the Lord, the Lord. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul . . .'" (Mark 12:28 - 30, HBFV).

The Truth

The Godhead, proclaimed in the Shema, is One in the sense that it alone deserves worship. It is one or unified in perfect holy character, purpose and power. It is currently not composed of a single Deity but rather two Beings who are both God.

"Basing their belief on a monotheistic interpretation of Deuteronomy 6:4 (the Shema), the followers of Judaism reject the truth of the duality of the Godhead and refuse to acknowledge the existence of the two Jehovahs of the Old Testament.

"Yet both the Old and New Testaments reveal that the two Jehovahs - Who became the Father and the Son - have always existed" (HBFV, Appendix W by Carl Franklin).

List of All Terms in
Dictionary of Biblical Words

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1906 Jewish Encyclopedia
Holman Bible Dictionary
Holy Bible Faithful Version (HBFV)
Tyndale Bible Dictionary