Please note that this page contain the name of God.
If you print it out, please treat it with appropriate respect.

If you do not have experience reading transliteration
please see the Guide to Transliteration.

The Shema is one of only two prayers that are specifically commanded in Torah (the other is Birkat Ha-Mazon -- grace after meals). It is the oldest fixed daily prayer in Judaism, recited morning and night since ancient times. It consists of three biblical passages, two of which specifically say to speak of these things "when you lie down and when you rise up." This commandment is fulfilled by including the Shema in the liturgy for Ma'ariv (evening services) and Shacharit (morning services). Traditional prayerbooks also include a Bedtime Shema, a series of passages including the Shema to be read at home before going to bed at night. Note that, as in most Jewish texts, it puts evening before morning, expressing once again the idea that the day starts at night.

Part 1: Deuteronomy 6:4-9

The first part of the Shema begins with one of the best-known, most fundamental expressions of Jewish belief, and the one from which this prayer gets its name: Shema Yisra'el... (Hear, Israel). This expression is so fundamental that the most liberal Reform synagogue I know has these words carved on the outside of the building in foot-high letters (albeit in English). The end of that line, The Lord is One, expresses some core ideas about Judaism: monotheism (there is only one god) and that God is a single, unified whole (any attempt to describe Him in attributes or pieces is merely an accommodation of our limited human understanding).

The second line of this part (Barukh sheim k'vod...) is actually not part of this passage from the Torah. It doesn't even appear anywhere in the Bible. It's a congregational response from the days of the Temple: whenever the High Priest would say the Divine Name, the people would respond with this line. Today, it is not said aloud except during Yom Kippur services. The rest of the time, it is read only in an undertone.

Later in this paragraph, it commands two important symbols of Judaism: tefillin and mezuzot. Mezuzot are cases containing passages of scripture that are attached to the doorposts of the house. Most Jewish houses have these on their doorposts. Tefillin are strapped to the arm and the forehead between the eyes during weekday morning services. Most Jews today don't attend weekday services, so this is a less common observance. The Hebrew word used in this passage for the thing between the eyes is totafot, and the meaning of the word is not clear. The root, Tet-Tet-Peh, does not occur in the Bible in any other context. Many Christian Bibles translate the word as "frontlets" but I have no idea what that's supposed to mean. Many Orthodox sources simply translate the word as tefillin. Some Conservative prayer books translate it as "reminder," which is a good understanding of the purpose.

Part 3 introduces an third important symbol: tzitzit.

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ יְיָ אֶחָד
Sh'ma Yisra'eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.

in an undertone

בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ
Barukh sheim k'vod malkhuto.
Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom
לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד
l'olam va'ed.
for ever and ever
וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת יְיָ אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ
V'ahavta eit Adonai Elohekha.
And you shall love the Lord your God
בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשְׁךָ
b'khol l'vavkha uv'khol nafsh'kha.
with all your heart and with all your soul
וּבְכָל מְאֹדֶֽךָ
uv'khol m'odekha
and with all your might
וְהָיוּ הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵֽלֶּה
V'hayu had'varim ha'eileh
And it shall be that these words
אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם
asher anokhi m'tzavkha hayom
that I command you today
עַל לְבָבֶֽךָ
al l'vavekha
[shall be] in your heart
וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶֽיךָ
V'shinantam l'vanekha
And you shall teach them diligently to your children
וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם
v'dibarta bam
and you shall speak of them
בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶֽךָ
b'shivt'kha b'veitekha
when you sit at home
וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּֽרֶךְ
uv'lekht'kha vaderekh
and when you walk along the way
וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ וּבְקוּמֶֽךָ
uv'shakhb'kha uv'kumekha
and when you lie down and when you rise up.
וּקְשַׁרְתָּם לְאוֹת עַל יָדֶֽךָ
Uk'shartam l'ot al yadekha.
And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand
וְהָיוּ לְטֹטָפֹת בֵּין עֵינֶֽיךָ
v'hayu l'totafot bein einekha.
and they shall be for totafot between your eyes
And you shall write them
עַל מְזֻזוֹת בֵּיתֶֽךָ וּבִשְׁעָרֶֽיךָ
al m'zuzot beitekha uvish'arekha
on the doorposts of your house and on your gates

Part 2: Deuteronomy 11:13-21

The second part of the Shema repeats many of the themes from the first part, but adds promises of rewards and punishments.

וְהָיָה אִם שָׁמֹֽעַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ
V'hayah im shamo'a tishm'u
And it shall come to pass if you surely listen
אֶל מִצְוֹתַי
el mitzvotai
to My commandments
אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם הַיּוֹם
asher anokhi m'tzaveh etkhem hayom
that I command you today
לְאַהֲבָה אֶת יְיָ אֱלֹהֵיכֶם
l'ahavah et Adonai Eloheikhem
to love the Lord your God
וּלְעָבְדוֹ בְּכָל לְבַבְכֶם
ul'avdo b'khol l'vavkhem
and to serve him with all your heart
וּבְכָל נַפְשְׁכֶם
uv'khol nafsh'khem
and with all your soul
וְנָתַתִּי מְטַר אַרְצְכֶם בְּעִתּוֹ
V'natati m'tar artz'khem b'ito
That I will give rain to your land in its time
יוֹרֶה וּמַלְקוֹשׁ
yoreh umalkosh
the early rains and the late rains
וְאָסַפְתָּ דְגָנֶֽךָ וְתִירֹשְׁךָ וְיִצְהָרֶֽךָ
v'asafta d'ganekha v'tiroshkha v'yitzharekha
that you may gather in your grain, your wine and your oil
וְנָתַתִּי עֵֽשֶׂב בְּשָׂדְךָ לִבְהֶמְתֶּֽךָ
V'natati eisev b'sadkha livhemtekha.
And I will give grass in your fields for your cattle
וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבָֽעְתָּ
v'akhalta v'savata
and you will eat and you will be satisfied
הִשָּׁמְרוּ לָכֶם פֶּן יִפְתֶּה לְבַבְכֶם
Hishamru lakhem pen yifteh l'vavkhem
Beware, lest your heart be deceived
וְסַרְתֶּם וַעֲבַדְתֶּם אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים
v'sartem va'avad'tem Elohim acheirim
and you turn and serve other gods
וְהִשְׁתַּחֲוִיתֶם לָהֶם
v'hishtachavitem lahem
and worship them
וְחָרָה אַף יְיָ בָּכֶם
V'charah af Adonai bakhem
And anger of the Lord will blaze against you
וְעָצַר אֶת הַשָּׁמַֽיִם
v'atzar et hashamayim
and he will close the heavens
וְלֹא יִהְיֶה מָטָר
v'lo yihyeh matar
and there will not be rain
וְהָאֲדָמָה לֹא תִתֵּן אֶת יְבוּלָהּ
v'ha'adamah lo titein et y'vulah
and the earth will not give you its fullness
וַאֲבַדְתֶּם מְהֵרָה
va'avad'tem m'heirah.
and you will perish quickly
מֵעַל הָאָֽרֶץ הַטֹּבָה
mei'al ha'aretz hatovah.
from the good land
אֲשֶׁר יְיָ נֹתֵן לָכֶם
asher Adonai notein lakhem
that the Lord gives you
וְשַׂמְתֶּם אֶת דְּבָרַי אֵֽלֶּה
V'samtem et d'varai eileh
So you shall put my words, these
עַל לְבַבְכֶם וְעַל נַפְשְׁכֶם
al l'vavkhem v'al nafsh'khem
on your heart and on your soul
וּקְשַׁרְתֶּם אֹתָם לְאוֹת עַל יֶדְכֶם
ukshartem otam l'ot al yedkhem
and you shall bind them for signs on your hands
וְהָיוּ לְטוֹטָפֹת בֵּין עֵינֵיכֶם
v'hayu l'totafot bein eineikhem
and they shall be for totafot between your eyes
וְלִמַּדְתֶּם אֹתָם אֶת בְּנֵיכֶם
V'limad'tem otam et b'neikhem
And you shall teach them to your children
לְדַבֵּר בָּם
l'dabeir bam
and you shall speak of them
בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶֽךָ
b'shivt'kha b'veitekha
when you sit at home
וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּֽרֶךְ
uv'lekht'kha vaderekh
and when you walk along the way
וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ וּבְקוּמֶֽךָ
uv'shakhb'kha uvkumekha
and when you lie down and when you rise up.
And you shall write them
עַל מְזוּזוֹת בֵּיתֶֽךָ וּבִשְׁעָרֶֽיךָ
al m'zuzot beitekha uvish'arekha
on the doorposts of your house and on your gates
לְמַֽעַן יִרְבּוּ יְמֵיכֶם
L'ma'an yirbu y'maychem
In order to prolong your days
וִימֵי בְנֵיכֶם עַל הָאֲדָמָה
vi-y'may v'naychem al ha-adamah
and the days of your children on the land
אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע יְיָ לַאֲבֹתֵיכֶם
asher nishba Adonai la-avotaychem
that the Lord promised your fathers
לָתֵת לָהֶם
latayt lahem
that he would give them
כִּימֵי הַשָּׁמַֽיִם עַל הָאָֽרֶץ
ki-y'may ha-shamayim al ha-aretz
for the days that the heavens are over the earth

Part 3: Numbers 15:37-41

This third part of the Shema does not mention the need to speak of these things morning and night. It talks about the tzitzit (fringes) that are traditionally worn like a string around the finger as a reminder of the commandments. It is included in the Shema because, like the tefillin and mezuzot that are commanded in the first two paragraphs, tzitzit are a symbol that serves as a reminder of the commandments. The passage is also included to fulfill the mitzvah to remember the Exodus from Egypt every day of our lives.

וַיֹּֽאמֶר יְיָ אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר
Vayomer Adonai el mosheh leimor
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying...
דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל
Dabeir el b'nei Yisra'eil
Speak to the children of Israel
וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם
v'amarta aleihem
and say to them
וְעָשׂוּ לָהֶם צִיצִת
v'asu lahem tzitzit
they should make themselves tzitzit
עַל כַּנְפֵי בִגְדֵיהֶם לְדֹרֹתָם
al kanfei vigdeihem l'dorotam
on the corners of their clothing throughout their generations
וְנָתְנוּ עַל צִיצִת הַכָּנָף
v'natnu al tzitzit hakanaf
and give the tzitzit of each corner
פְּתִיל תְּכֵֽלֶת
p'til t'kheilet
a thread of blue
וְהָיָה לָכֶם לְצִיצִת
V'hayah lakhem l'tzitzit
And they shall be tzitzit for you
וּרְאִיתֶם אֹתוֹ
ur'item oto
and when you look at them
וּזְכַרְתֶּם אֶת כָּל מִצְוֹת יְיָ
uzkhartem et kol mitzvot Adonai
you will remember all of the Lord's commandments
וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם
va'asitem otam
and do them
וְלֹא תָתֽוּרוּ
v'lo taturu
and not follow
אַחֲרֵי לְבַבְכֶם וְאַחֲרֵי עֵינֵיכֶם
acharei l'vavkhem v'acharei eineikhem
after your heart and after your eyes
אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם זֹנִים אַחֲרֵיהֶם
asher atem zonim achareihem
which lead you astray
לְמַֽעַן תִּזְכְּרוּ וַעֲשִׂיתֶם
L'ma'an tizk'ru va'asitem
In order to remember and do
אֶת כָּל מִצְוֹתָי
et kol mitzvotai
all of My commandments
וִהְיִיתֶם קְדֹשִׁים לֵאלֹהֵיכֶם
viyitem k'doshim leiloheikhem
and be holy for your God
אֲנִי יְיָ אֱלֹהֵיכֶם
Ani Adonai Eloheikhem
I am the Lord, your God
אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵֽאתִי אֶתְכֶם
asher hotzeiti etkhem
who lead you
מֵאֶֽרֶץ מִצְרַֽיִם
mei'eretz Mitzrayim
from the land of Egypt
לִהְיוֹת לָכֶם לֵאלֹהִים
lihyot lakhhem leilohim
to be a God to you
אֲנִי יְיָ אֱלֹהֵיכֶם
Ani Adonai Eloheikhem
I am the Lord, your God

In services, the Shema is normally followed one of two other prayers: in the evening, Emet ve'Emunah (True and Faithful), which emphasizes His powerful deeds for Israel (deliverance from tyrants, etc.); in the morning, Emet v'Yatziv (True and Certain), which emphasizes His characteristics (fair, faithful, awesome, powerful, etc.). The prayers are tied together when the chazzan loudly proclaims the last two words of the Shema with he first word of the next prayer: Adonai Eloheikhem Emes! (The Lord, Your God, is True! or It is True that the Lord is our God!)

Related Pages

Star of David Tzitzit and Tallit
Learn about the tzitzit (fringes) that we are commanded to wear in the third part of the Shema and the tallit (prayer shawl) that they are worn on.
blessings Common Prayers and Blessings
A list of common prayers and blessings that are available on this site for viewing online. Hebrew, transliteration, and English translation are available.
blessings Prayers and Blessings
Learn about the importance of prayer in Judaism and the form and content of prayers and blessings.
prayer book Jewish Liturgy
Learn about the history and structure of the traditional Jewish prayer service.

What's Nu? | Current Calendar | About
Copyright © 5758-5783 (1998-2023), Tracey R Rich