Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Index - How to Read & Understand the Bible

Index - How to Read & Understand the Bible

This Index is one of two Indexes I've put together. The structure here will follow a chronological date-order from newest to oldest. The other, uses its own subtopical lists as I weed out duplicate articles. Here, I will not as each article will have some kind of relevancy to the category at hand.

When I began developing this site I had hoped to lend as many voices as I could to mine own so that more than one perspective might be gained. And if reading from topic to topic I do not believe any article will be found unhelpful or out-of-date. If anything, as I have moved from positionally from traditional Christianity to a Process-based Christian Faith the older readings will be useful as I build on my past theology to my understandings of my faith.
Lastly, my decidedly fundament/conservative evangelical protestant M.Div. degree held 125 graduate credit hours - mostly in expository and biblical studies from the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. So I feel quite comfortable in doing what I am doing, which is rewriting my faith so that it is contemporaneous with the world today and not built upon safer, more acceptable or popular Christian beliefs. Should you continue to read the posts here I hope it will challenge, enlighten, and spur your ideas of God, salvation, the church, and people in a better light than has recently been done over these past several decades.
R.E. Slater

Reading the Bible from a New Perspective

Bible Study

~ Unfinished Section ~

A Contemporary Understanding of the Bible - Part 4: How Israel's Shema Became Jesus' Renewed Command

A Contemporary Understanding of the Bible
Part 4 - Israel's Shema Became Jesus' Renewed Command

Series Information

Israel's Shema
Deuteronomy 6:2-14

Matthew 22.34-40 (NASB)

34But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35And one of them, [t]a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him: 36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ 38This is the great and [u]foremost commandment. 39The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ 40Upon these two commandments [v]hang the whole Law and the Prophets.”

When I come across conservative Jewish or Christian thinking (though this could apply to any religion) I often think about the word or phrase, "theological particularism" or "religious particularism." Says one Internet link:

As with many words, the term particularism carries different meanings in different contexts. Particularism has been applied to sub-categories within diverse subjects such as politics, literature, history, ethics, and religion. Each of these topics brings a separate meaning to particularism, heavily influencing whether or not the idea is biblically justified. There are three areas in which the term particularism is most relevant to the Bible and Christian faith. These are theology, ethics, and philosophy.

As used in theology, defining particularism still requires context. The primary usage of the word relates it closely to the idea of exclusivism. In this meaning, particularism holds that there is a “particular” way for people to be saved—namely, through faith in Christ—and that there are no other means of salvation. This meaning of particularism contradicts the idea of there being many paths to salvation. We should note that the issue of how one is saved is actually separate from universalism. A person might believe that all people will eventually be saved—which is biblically incorrect—while also believing that only Christ’s death on the cross saves. Such a stance would be an example of particularism combined with universalism.

Another, somewhat less common theological use of the term particularism is as a synonym for the idea of predestination and/or limited atonement. The Particular Baptists use the term in that sense. In certain situations, theological particularism is meant to imply the concept of double predestination: the idea that God has defined a “particular” destiny for all people, saved or otherwise.

Ethically, the term particularism refers to the suggestion that moral judgments are only meaningful on a case-by-case basis. According to moral particularism, there are no objective or universal moral values, only decisions made as each particular instance unfolds. This approach is, of course, contrary to Scripture, which presents a very real difference between good and evil, transcending human opinion or judgment (Isaiah 55:9Genesis 2:17Deuteronomy 30:15). Moral particularism is also philosophically weak, in that any “judgment,” even on a case-by-case basis, assumes some standard by which to judge.
The one sense in which moral particularism finds biblical support is in the idea of “right judgment.” Biblically, we are commanded not to be shallow, legalistic, hypocritical, or foolish in our use of judgment (John 7:24). In that sense, we are meant to gauge moral issues on a “case-by-case” basis. It’s critical to note that Scripture does not suggest there are no objective moral values. On the contrary, the point made in the Bible is that we need to apply objective morality accurately (Romans 12:2), not in a legalistic or simplistic way. However, this is a nuance that moral particularism does not generally share.

In philosophy, particularism usually refers to the practice of asking, “What do I know?” before asking, “How do I know?” Philosophical particularism asserts the truth of a statement before—or even without—establishing reasons or justifications for it. “I don’t know how I know; I just know” is an expression of “blind faith,” an extreme version of philosophical particularism. As such, what is termed “epistemological particularism” is denounced for being insufficiently skeptical. To a large extent, the Bible agrees with this criticism—Scripture sees absolutely no virtue in being gullible or ignorant (Acts 17:11Colossians 2:81 Peter 3:15).

On the other hand, from a practical standpoint, a grain of epistemological particularism is unavoidable. Everyone believes something, even if it’s not well-justified. Before one can meaningfully discuss the nature of belief itself, one has to assume certain ideas; attempting to eliminate as many of these as possible led Descartes to distill the beginning of all philosophy as “I think, therefore I am.” But even this maxim begins by claiming that the statements “I am” and “I think” are known to be true—establishing a “what I know” before establishing “how I know.”

What’s important, both philosophically and biblically, is that we are willing to filter our assumptions and beliefs through some kind of justification, rather than simply insisting they are true, devoid of any evidence (1 John 4:12 Peter 1:16). From that perspective, one can say that epistemological particularism is (mostly) contrary to the Bible’s stance on faith and belief. We are not meant to assume truth—we are meant to seek it (Matthew 7:7–8).

And there, in a nutshell, is the problem. We've taken God's great love and have particularized it into many categories - some godly, some ungodly - as Christian believers in the Faith of Jesus.

I would rather, however, not do this when making God's love as the Center and Foundation of the Christian Faith. I'll explain why in the article following using Israel's Shema as the running context for Jesus' statement, "If you love God, love your neighbor" (abridged: Matthew 22 above).

There are a lot of ways we as Christians might "particularize" or " divvy-up" Jesus' Commandment to "Love one another" however every time we do we mitigate, or lessen, it's impact for us to change, repent, and just do.... Preachers may get up on their high horse and thunder condemnation upon the liberality of the Christ-filled challenge to love all men and women as God loves the world. But I mostly think such preaching is to protect the exclusionary laws of the Christian faith as it has developed since Jesus.

Meaning, the Church, no less than the Jewish Templed religious leaders then, have corrupted God's Word by adding their own nuances and laws to a very simple command. If you love God this will be shown by your love for your fellow man.

And to those preachers who do love and challenge their congregations to love apart from the ritualization of loving others are to be commended. We, as human beings, love idols, self-righteousness, and are given to pride and prejudice. It is unnatural to our God-given Image lying within us, but wholly natural to our fallen natures given to sin and evil.

By the Spirit of God, and in the power of Jesus' atoning resurrection, let us resist such unloving urges and state clearly to our very religious Christian brethren and sisters around us that God's love is pure, without preference or regard of person, and seeks our spiritual reformation to learn to love as God is Love.

Let us pray then to the our Lord and Savior that this become so in our lives and let go of all the societal and religious structures which say to hate our brothers and sisters, whether of the faith or not of the faith. This would be right and good giving supreme attention to the New Command and Testament of our Lord Jesus to live redeemed lives as hearts beating for one another instead of upon one another.


R.E. Slater
October 2, 2022

The SHEMA of Israel

Deuteronomy Chapter 6 דְּבָרִים

א  וְזֹאת הַמִּצְוָה, הַחֻקִּים וְהַמִּשְׁפָּטִים, אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, לְלַמֵּד אֶתְכֶם--לַעֲשׂוֹת בָּאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם עֹבְרִים שָׁמָּה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ.1 Now this is the commandment, the statutes, and the ordinances, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it--
ב  לְמַעַן תִּירָא אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, לִשְׁמֹר אֶת-כָּל-חֻקֹּתָיו וּמִצְוֺתָיו אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּךָ, אַתָּה וּבִנְךָ וּבֶן-בִּנְךָ, כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ--וּלְמַעַן, יַאֲרִכֻן יָמֶיךָ.2 that thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.
ג  וְשָׁמַעְתָּ יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְשָׁמַרְתָּ לַעֲשׂוֹת, אֲשֶׁר יִיטַב לְךָ, וַאֲשֶׁר תִּרְבּוּן מְאֹד:  כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי אֲבֹתֶיךָ, לָךְ--אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב, וּדְבָשׁ.  {פ}3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD, the God of thy fathers, hath promised unto thee--a land flowing with milk and honey. {P}
ד  שְׁמַע, יִשְׂרָאֵל:  יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ, יְהוָה אֶחָד.4 Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.
ה  וְאָהַבְתָּ, אֵת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁךָ, וּבְכָל-מְאֹדֶךָ.5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
ו  וְהָיוּ הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם--עַל-לְבָבֶךָ.6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon thy heart;
ז  וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ, וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם, בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּרֶךְ, וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ וּבְקוּמֶךָ.7 and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
ח  וּקְשַׁרְתָּם לְאוֹת, עַל-יָדֶךָ; וְהָיוּ לְטֹטָפֹת, בֵּין עֵינֶיךָ.8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes.
ט  וּכְתַבְתָּם עַל-מְזֻזוֹת בֵּיתֶךָ, וּבִשְׁעָרֶיךָ.  {ס}9 And thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thy house, and upon thy gates. {S}
י  וְהָיָה כִּי יְבִיאֲךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹב--לָתֶת לָךְ:  עָרִים גְּדֹלֹת וְטֹבֹת, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-בָנִיתָ.10 And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land which He swore unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee--great and goodly cities, which thou didst not build,
יא  וּבָתִּים מְלֵאִים כָּל-טוּב, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-מִלֵּאתָ, וּבֹרֹת חֲצוּבִים אֲשֶׁר לֹא-חָצַבְתָּ, כְּרָמִים וְזֵיתִים אֲשֶׁר לֹא-נָטָעְתָּ; וְאָכַלְתָּ, וְשָׂבָעְתָּ.11 and houses full of all good things, which thou didst not fill, and cisterns hewn out, which thou didst not hew, vineyards and olive-trees, which thou didst not plant, and thou shalt eat and be satisfied--
יב  הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ, פֶּן-תִּשְׁכַּח אֶת-יְהוָה, אֲשֶׁר הוֹצִיאֲךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים.12 then beware lest thou forget the LORD, who brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
יג  אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ תִּירָא, וְאֹתוֹ תַעֲבֹד; וּבִשְׁמוֹ, תִּשָּׁבֵעַ.13 Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; and Him shalt thou serve, and by His name shalt thou swear.
יד  לֹא תֵלְכוּן, אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים--מֵאֱלֹהֵי, הָעַמִּים, אֲשֶׁר, סְבִיבוֹתֵיכֶם.14 Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the peoples that are round about you;
טו  כִּי אֵל קַנָּא יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּקִרְבֶּךָ:  פֶּן-יֶחֱרֶה אַף-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בָּךְ, וְהִשְׁמִידְךָ, מֵעַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה.  {ס}15 for a jealous God, even the LORD thy God, is in the midst of thee; lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and He destroy thee from off the face of the earth. {S}
טז  לֹא תְנַסּוּ, אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, כַּאֲשֶׁר נִסִּיתֶם, בַּמַּסָּה.16 Ye shall not try the LORD your God, as ye tried Him in Massah.
יז  שָׁמוֹר תִּשְׁמְרוּן, אֶת-מִצְוֺת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, וְעֵדֹתָיו וְחֻקָּיו, אֲשֶׁר צִוָּךְ.17 Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and His testimonies, and His statutes, which He hath commanded thee.
יח  וְעָשִׂיתָ הַיָּשָׁר וְהַטּוֹב, בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה--לְמַעַן, יִיטַב לָךְ, וּבָאתָ וְיָרַשְׁתָּ אֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַטֹּבָה, אֲשֶׁר-נִשְׁבַּע יְהוָה לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ.18 And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the LORD; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest go in and possess the good land which the LORD swore unto thy fathers,
יט  לַהֲדֹף אֶת-כָּל-אֹיְבֶיךָ, מִפָּנֶיךָ, כַּאֲשֶׁר, דִּבֶּר יְהוָה.  {ס}19 to thrust out all thine enemies from before thee, as the LORD hath spoken. {S}
כ  כִּי-יִשְׁאָלְךָ בִנְךָ מָחָר, לֵאמֹר:  מָה הָעֵדֹת, וְהַחֻקִּים וְהַמִּשְׁפָּטִים, אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ, אֶתְכֶם.20 When thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying: 'What mean the testimonies, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which the LORD our God hath commanded you?
כא  וְאָמַרְתָּ לְבִנְךָ, עֲבָדִים הָיִינוּ לְפַרְעֹה בְּמִצְרָיִם; וַיֹּצִיאֵנוּ יְהוָה מִמִּצְרַיִם, בְּיָד חֲזָקָה.21 then thou shalt say unto thy son: 'We were Pharaoh's bondmen in Egypt; and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.
כב  וַיִּתֵּן יְהוָה אוֹתֹת וּמֹפְתִים גְּדֹלִים וְרָעִים בְּמִצְרַיִם, בְּפַרְעֹה וּבְכָל-בֵּיתוֹ--לְעֵינֵינוּ.22 And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his house, before our eyes.
כג  וְאוֹתָנוּ, הוֹצִיא מִשָּׁם--לְמַעַן, הָבִיא אֹתָנוּ, לָתֶת לָנוּ אֶת-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לַאֲבֹתֵינוּ.23 And He brought us out from thence, that He might bring us in, to give us the land which He swore unto our fathers.
כד  וַיְצַוֵּנוּ יְהוָה, לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת-כָּל-הַחֻקִּים הָאֵלֶּה, לְיִרְאָה, אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ--לְטוֹב לָנוּ כָּל-הַיָּמִים, לְחַיֹּתֵנוּ כְּהַיּוֹם הַזֶּה.24 And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is at this day.
כה  וּצְדָקָה, תִּהְיֶה-לָּנוּ:  כִּי-נִשְׁמֹר לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת-כָּל-הַמִּצְוָה הַזֹּאת, לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ--כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּנוּ.  {ס}25 And it shall be righteousness unto us, if we observe to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as He hath commanded us.' {S}

* * * * * *

Love Your Neighbor:
How [the Shema] Became the Golden Rule

The biblical precept “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” has long been understood in Jewish and Christian circles as universal, a transcendent principle encompassing the whole Torah. However, in Leviticus, it is actually one of many action-oriented commandments focused on Israelite social cohesion.

Prof. John J. Collins is Holmes Professor of Old Testament Criticism and Interpretation at Yale University. He received his Ph. D. from Harvard (1972) and holds honorary degrees from the University College Dublin and the University of Zurich. Collins' most recent books are The Invention of Judaism. Torah and Jewish Identity from Deuteronomy to Paul (University of California, 2017), and What Are Biblical Values? (Yale, 2019). He serves as general editor of the Anchor Yale Bible and Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library and has received the Burkitt medal for biblical scholarship from the British Academy.

The Neighbor as Kinsman

We are familiar with the precept in Leviticus 19:18 וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” which is found in the Holiness Collection (Leviticus 17–26). The Collection, which intersperses moral laws with ritual ones, gets its name from a refrain, found for example in the introduction to this chapter:

The remainder of the chapter is usually divided into two panels, vv. 3–18 and 19–36, with this law, וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ אֲנִי יְ־הוָה “love your neighbor as yourself, I am YHWH” marking the end of the first panel. Despite general familiarity with this injunction, each of its three Hebrew words requires unpacking.

1. What Is Love?

What does it mean to “love” one’s neighbor? We often think of this as requiring us to feel something, but its more probable meaning becomes clear when we look at some of the preceding laws:

ויקרא יט:יג לֹא תַעֲשֹׁק אֶת רֵעֲךָ וְלֹא תִגְזֹל לֹא תָלִין פְּעֻלַּת שָׂכִיר אִתְּךָ עַד בֹּקֶר.... יט:טו לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ עָוֶל בַּמִּשְׁפָּט לֹא תִשָּׂא פְנֵי דָל וְלֹא תֶהְדַּר פְּנֵי גָדוֹל בְּצֶדֶק תִּשְׁפֹּט עֲמִיתֶךָ. יט:טז לֹא תֵלֵךְ רָכִיל בְּעַמֶּיךָ לֹא תַעֲמֹד עַל דַּם רֵעֶךָ אֲנִי יְ־הוָה.
Lev 19:13 You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning…. 19:15 You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. 19:16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am YHWH.

Love, then, is not an emotion here, but refers to treating one’s neighbor justly—the manner you might treat someone whom you do love.[1]

2. Who Is Your Neighbor?

Most contemporary scholars agree that the “neighbor” (רע) in Leviticus 19 refers to fellow-members of the Israelite or Judahite community.[2] Although the word itself does not necessarily refer to Israelites, the context here is determinative:

ויקרא יט:יז לֹא תִשְׂנָא אֶת אָחִיךָ בִּלְבָבֶךָ הוֹכֵחַ תּוֹכִיחַ אֶת עֲמִיתֶךָ וְלֹא תִשָּׂא עָלָיו חֵטְא. יט:יח לֹא תִקֹּם וְלֹא תִטֹּר אֶת בְּנֵי עַמֶּךָ וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ אֲנִי יְ־הוָה.
Lev 19:17 You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall reprove your kinsman, and not incur guilt because of him. 19:18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor like yourself; I am YHWH.”

The term “neighbor” is the fourth in a sequence that includes “brother,” “kinsman,” and “your people.” Neighbor, like the previous three, refers to a fellow Israelite.

3. “Like Yourself” or “One Who Is Like You”?

The most difficult part of the formulation in Leviticus 19:18 is the use of the word kamokha.[3] The more common interpretation is to construe the phrase adverbially, i.e., the way you should love them is the same way you love yourself. For example, Abraham ibn Ezra (1089–1167) writes:

ועל דעתי: שהוא כמשמעו, שיאהב הטוב לחבירו כאשר יאהב לנפשו.
In my opinion, it means what it sounds like, that one should love for good to happen to one’s neighbor the way one would love it for oneself.

This is also the way the Greek Septuagint (LXX) translates the term, “as yourself,” ὡς σεαυτόν. Scholars almost invariably take this as “a reflexive, adverbial modifier that defines the manner in which one should love.”[4]

The other interpretation is to understand the phrase adjectivally, i.e., “(only) if he is like you.” Among medieval Jewish interpreters, this is suggested by ibn Ezra’s contemporary, Rabbi Samuel ben Meir (Rashbam):

אם הוא רעך שהוא אדם טוב כמוך.[5] אבל אם הוא רשע – כדכתיב: יראת י״י שנאת רע.
If he is your neighbor, that is he is a good person like you. But if he is wicked, it is thus written (Prov 8:13) “Fear of the LORD is hating the wicked.”

Alternatively, it could be considered as explanatory, as suggested by Hartwig Wessely (1725–1805), “love your neighbor, that is someone like you” (liebe deinen Nächsten wie dich selbst),[6] and most famously in the Die Schrift Bible translation of Martin Buber (1878–1965) and Franz Rosenzweig (1886–1929), “love your fellow, [he is] like you,” (halte lieb deinen Genossendir gleich).[7] All of these readings are grammatically possible, but the parallel command in the second panel of this chapter discounts this latter interpretation.

Is the Alien “Like You”?

Leviticus 19:18 should not be understood in isolation. Toward the end of the second panel, we find a parallel to the love your neighbor passage:

ויקרא יט:לג וְכִי יָגוּר אִתְּךָ גֵּר בְּאַרְצְכֶם לֹא תוֹנוּ אֹתוֹ. יט:לד כְּאֶזְרָח מִכֶּם יִהְיֶה לָכֶם הַגֵּר הַגָּר אִתְּכֶם וְאָהַבְתָּ לוֹ כָּמוֹךָ כִּי גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם אֲנִי יְ־הוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם.
Lev 19:33 When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress him. 19:34 The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the native born among you; you shall love the alien like yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am YHWH your God.

The word ger (here rendered “alien”) occurs 92 times in the Hebrew Bible—21 times in H— and refers not to all foreigners, but only to one who has settled in the land for some time and has special legal status as a resident alien.[8] Leviticus repeatedly commands that the גר be treated like the native born, even though he is still different. In this case, the command to “love him” is identical to the earlier command to love one’s neighbor.

Since the ger by definition is not an Israelite, kamokha here cannot have an adjectival force (the alien who is like you).[9] The reason given for the command to love the alien is “for you were aliens in the land of Egypt,” a reason often given in support of concern for the alien (Exod 22:20; 23:9; Deut 10:19; 23:8). Kamokha then—here and in verse 18—is adverbial, which is to say that it clarifies how one should love.[10]

This verse does not ground the command in ontology, in the creation of all human beings in the image of God. If it did, there would be no reason to distinguish between the ger and other kinds of foreigners. It is grounded in analogous experience, and calls to mind the Golden Rule: one should treat others as one would wish to be treated oneself.

Summary: The Meaning of the Law

In short, a few things seem clear regarding the law of loving one’s neighbor as oneself, and its corollary of loving the ger, in its original context:

  1. Love here is not a matter of feelings but of practice.
  2. The love command is not universal but applies only to Israelites (19:18) and to the ger (19:34). It is primarily concerned with relations within the Israelite community, whether with other Israelites or with long-term foreigners living in their midst.
  3. The preposition and suffix kamokha is used adverbially to indicate how one should love the neighbor or the alien.

Thus, to love one’s neighbors (fellow-Israelites) as oneself is to treat them as you yourself would wish to be treated. To treat aliens as like oneself is to treat them as one would native-born Israelites.

Second Temple Interpretations

Second Temple authors in the Greek and Roman periods made use of these laws in their works. For example, the book of Jubilees (3rd cent. B.C.E.) makes several allusions to the love commandment, in the stories of Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and the exodus, though it never cites the commandment to love the ger, thus restricting its application to fellow Jews.[11] The Damascus Document (2nd cent. B.C.E.) clearly alludes to both, instructing the members of the group (CD 6:20):

לאהוב אישׁ את אחיהו כמוהו ‎ולהחזיק ביד עני ואביון 〚 〛 וגר ולדרוש איש את שלום אחיהו
To love his brother like himself,[12] support the poor, destitute, and ger, and to seek each man the peace of his brother.

By the time of the Scrolls, the ger is probably—though not certainly—a proselyte, and thus, ipso facto, a reference only to Jews.[13] The usage in these works has the same function as in Leviticus, namely to ensure the cohesion of the group. In the first and second centuries C.E., however, the understanding of the law undergoes a change.

The Emergence of the Golden Rule

In a series of stories about the 1st cent. B.C.E. sage, Hillel the Elder, the Babylonian Talmud tells the following story (Venice printing):

שוב מעשה בגוי אחד שבא לפני שמאי אמר ליה גיירני ע"מ שתלמדיני כל התורה כולה כשאני עומד על רגל אחת דחפו באמת הבניין שבידו בא לפני הילל גייריה א[מר] ליה דעלך סני לחברך לא תעביד זו היא כל התורה כולה ואידך פירושה הוא זיל גמור.
It happened again that a gentile came before Shammai. He said to him: “Convert me on the condition that you teach me the entire Torah as I stand on one leg.” He pushed him away with the builder’s cubit in his hand. [The gentile] came before Hillel, who converted him. He (=Hillel) said to him: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. This is the whole entire Torah; the rest is its explanation. Go and learn.”

While Hillel is not quoting Leviticus, this seems to be an interpretation of that verse, since, as noted above, the verse is about actions and not about feelings. In fact, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan (ca. 6th–8th C.E.), a rabbinic-Jewish translation into Aramaic which utilizes midrashic tropes, translates Leviticus 19:18 to match Hillel’s maxim:

ותרחמיה לחברך דמן אנת סני לך לא תעביד ליה
Love your fellow, that which is hateful to you, do not do to him.[14]

What is significant here is that, to Hillel, this maxim is a transcendent moral principle, encompassing all other commandments. While Hillel lived in the 1st century B.C.E., the Babylonian Talmud was only written in the 6th century C.E., which makes it difficult to evaluate this story’s historical validity. Nevertheless, a much earlier source, the Sifra—a 3rd century rabbinic commentary on Leviticus—ascribes a similar sentiment to the 2nd cent. C.E. sage, Rabbi Akiva (Sifra, Kedoshim 2:4.12):

ואהבת לרעך כמוך, רבי עקיבא אומר זה כלל גדול בתורה
“Love your neighbor as yourself”—Rabbi Akiva says: “This is a great general principle in the Torah.”

In between Hillel and Rabbi Akiva, another Jewish teacher also advocated for this law as an overarching ethical principle.

Love Your Neighbor in the Gospels

In the Gospel of Mark, the earliest of the canonical gospels, Jesus declares this law to be one of the two most important commandments, together with the command to love God found in the Shema:

Mark 12:28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 12:29 Jesus answered, “The first is (Deut 6:4–5), ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 12:30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 12:31 The second is this (Lev 19:18), ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”[15]

The Gospel of Matthew, which includes this story from Mark in its own words, adds “on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (22:40).[16] The parallel passage in Luke 10:25–28, the third Synoptic Gospel, runs the two passages—love God and love your neighbor—together, as if it were one passage:

Luke 10:25 Just then Torah scholar (nomikos) stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 10:26 He (Jesus) said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 10:27 He (the Torah scholar) answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 10:28 And he (Jesus) said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”[17]

Paul’s Epistles

One of the prominent early apostles of Jesus, also a Jew, presents this law in a similar way as the Talmud does for Hillel. For example, in Romans, Paul writes:

Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 13:9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.[18]

Here Paul explicitly describes the ethical commandments in the Decalogue as deriving from this principle. Similarly, Paul writes in Galatians:

Galatians 5:14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”[19]

From all these sources, it is clear that by the first century of the common era, Leviticus 19:18 had attained an exalted status among Jewish interpreters as an especially important commandment, transcendent in that it included all others.[20]

Moderate Expansions of the Law

Nothing in the rabbinic or New Testament sources states that the law applies to all human beings. Instead, the most natural interpretation in context is that it applies within a given group: Israelites, Jews, early Christians, etc. [21] Nevertheless, some moderate expansions already appear during this period.

The Good Samaritan

For example, the version of the story in the Gospel of Luke (quoted above) broadens the horizon, if only somewhat, in the parable of the Good Samaritan. After Jesus elicits the response from the questioner that loving God and loving one’s neighbor are the most important commandments, the story continues with the law expert challenging Jesus with “and who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds with a parable in which a priest (kohen) and a Levite fail to take care of a fellow injured Jew, and instead a Samaritan does so.

Jesus then asks which one of these three people fulfilled the principle of love your neighbor, and the man answers that it was the Samaritan. The point here is that the Samaritan, a “Jew-like” person—Samaritans see themselves as Israelites and follow (a version of) the Torah similar to but distinct from the Masoretic Text—but not actually a Jew, and one who certainly does not belong to the questioner’s core group, counts as a neighbor. This is a somewhat expansive definition of neighbor, but it is unclear that it would apply to gentiles, who are in no way connected to Israel.[22]

Love your Enemy: The Sermons of Jesus

The most striking innovation in the Gospels, exceptional in ancient literature, is the command to love one’s enemies, which is framed as an expansion of the laws in Leviticus. Thus, in the Gospel of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says:

Matthew 5:43 You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 5:45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 5:46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors (=bad people) do the same? 5:47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?[23]

From the final verse, it is clear that Jesus is speaking only to Jews. Moreover, his opening reference about hating enemies is not from the Hebrew Bible. Nevertheless, neither is loving one’s enemy, though a number of texts from the Hebrew Bible comment on the importance of treating one’s enemy properly:

שמות כג:ד כִּי תִפְגַּע שׁוֹר אֹיִבְךָ אוֹ חֲמֹרוֹ תֹּעֶה הָשֵׁב תְּשִׁיבֶנּוּ לוֹ. כג:ה כִּי תִרְאֶה חֲמוֹר שֹׂנַאֲךָ רֹבֵץ תַּחַת מַשָּׂאוֹ וְחָדַלְתָּ מֵעֲזֹב לוֹ עָזֹב תַּעֲזֹב עִמּוֹ.
Exod 23:4 4 When you encounter your enemy’s ox or ass wandering, you must take it back to him. 23:5 When you see the ass of your enemy lying under its burden and would refrain from raising it, you must nevertheless raise it with him.
משלי כד:יז בִּנְפֹל (אויביך) [אוֹיִבְךָ] אַל תִּשְׂמָח וּבִכָּשְׁלוֹ אַל יָגֵל לִבֶּךָ.
Prov 24:17 If your enemy falls, do not exult; If he trips, let your heart not rejoice.
משלי כה:כא אִם רָעֵב שֹׂנַאֲךָ הַאֲכִלֵהוּ לָחֶם וְאִם צָמֵא הַשְׁקֵהוּ מָיִם.
Prov 25:21 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; If he is thirsty, give him water to drink.

None of the sources speak of loving the enemy, thus Jesus can be seen as taking the biblical values a step further, which is an important theme in Sermon on the Mount. (In both cases, “enemy” likely refers to “enemy Jews.”) The connection between Jesus’ speech and the verses in the Hebrew Bible is clearer when we remember that “love” here, as in Leviticus 19, refers mainly to actions and not feelings.

A parallel command appears in Luke’s Sermon on the Plain:

Luke 6:27 But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 6:28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 6:29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 6:30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 6:32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 6:33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 6:34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 6:35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.[24]

That Jesus is referring to actions rather than feelings is even clearer in Luke than in Matthew, as he adduces practical examples such as charity, praying for one’s enemies, and allowing them to abuse you.

Love All Humanity?

The command to love one’s neighbor as oneself is undoubtedly one of the great contributions of the Hebrew Bible to the ethical development of humanity. In context, the law was primarily concerned with the cohesion and identity of a particular people, yet the application of the “neighbor” would in time be extended to all people, and grounded in the recognition of shared humanity.

* * * * * *

Shema Yisrael

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Shema Yisrael
Knesset Menorah Shema Inscription.jpg
Shema Yisrael at the Knesset Menorah in Jerusalem
Halakhic texts relating to this article
Torah:Deut. 6:4–9Deut. 11:13–21 and Num. 15:37–41
Mishnah:Berakhot ch. 1–3
Babylonian Talmud:Berakhot
Jerusalem Talmud:Berakhot
Mishneh Torah:Mishneh Torah, Sefer Ahava ch. 1–4
Shulchan Aruch:Orach Chayim 58–88
Other rabbinic codes:Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, ch. 17
Indian jews praying "Shema Yisrael", illustration on a book cover

Shema Yisrael (Shema Israel or Sh'ma YisraelHebrewשְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל Šəmaʿ Yīsrāʾēl, "Hear, O Israel") is a Jewish prayer (known as the Shema) that serves as a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services. Its first verse encapsulates the monotheistic essence of Judaism: "Hear, O Israel: YHWH is our God, YHWH is one" (Hebrewשְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָֽד׃), found in Deuteronomy 6:4.[1]

The first part can be translated as either "The LORD our God" or "The LORD is our God", and the second part as either "the LORD is one" or as "the one LORD" (in the sense of "the LORD alone"), since Hebrew does not normally use a copula in the present tense, so translators must decide by inference whether one is appropriate in English. The word used for "the LORD" is the tetragrammaton YHWH.

Observant Jews consider the Shema to be the most important part of the prayer service in Judaism, and its twice-daily recitation as a mitzvah (religious commandment). Also, it is traditional for Jews to say the Shema as their last words, and for parents to teach their children to say it before they go to sleep at night.[2][3]

The term Shema is used by extension to refer to the whole part of the daily prayers that commences with Shema Yisrael and comprises Deuteronomy 6:4–911:13–21, and Numbers 15:37–41. These sections of the Torah are read in the weekly Torah portions Va'etchananEikev, and Shlach, respectively.


Originally, the Shema consisted of only one verse: Deuteronomy 6:4 (see Talmud Sukkah 42a and Berachot 13b). The recitation of the Shema in the liturgy, however, consists of three portions: Deuteronomy 6:4–911:13–21, and Numbers 15:37–41. The three portions are mentioned in the Mishnah (Berachot 2:2). The three portions relate to central issues of Jewish belief. In the Mishnah (Berakhot 2:5) the reciting of the shema was linked with re-affirming a personal relationship with God's rule. Literally, reciting the shema was stated as "receiving the kingdom of heaven." ["Heaven" is a metaphor for God. The best texts of the Mishnah, Kaufmann and Parma, do not have the addition "yoke" that is found in later printed Mishnahs: "receive the {yoke of the} kingdom of Heaven." The original statement appears to have been "to receive the kingdom of Heaven".]

Additionally, the Talmud points out that subtle references to the Ten Commandments can be found in the three portions. As the Ten Commandments were removed from daily prayer in the Mishnaic period (70–200 CE), the Shema is seen as an opportunity to commemorate the Ten Commandments.

There are two larger-print letters in the first sentence ('ayin ע and daleth ד) which, when combined, spell "עד". In Hebrew this means "witness". The idea thus conveyed is that through the recitation or proclamation of the Shema one is a living witness testifying to the truth of its message. Modern Kabbalistic schools, namely that of the Ari, teach that when one recites the last letter of the word ecḥad (אחד), meaning "one", he is to intend that he is ready to "die into God".[citation needed]


Shema Yisrael

The first paragraph of the Shema seen in a Tefillin scroll

The first, pivotal, words of the Shema are:

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָֽד׃
Sh'ma Yisra'el, YHWH 'eloheinu, YHWH 'eḥad:

Rabbinic Judaism teaches that the Tetragrammaton (י-ה-ו-ה), YHWH, is the ineffable and actual name of God, and as such is not read aloud in the Shema but is traditionally replaced with אדני, Adonai ("LORD"). For that reason, the Shema is recited aloud as Sh'ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Eḥad ("Hear, O Israel: the LORD is our God, the LORD is One.")

The literal word meanings are roughly as follows:[citation needed]

Sh'ma: literally means listenheed, or hear and do (according to the Targumaccept)
Yisrael: Israel, in the sense of the people or congregation of Israel
Adonai: often translated as "LORD", it is read in place of the YHWH written in the Hebrew text; Samaritans say Shema, which is Aramaic for "the [Divine] Name" and is the exact equivalent of the Hebrew ha-Shem, which Rabbinic Jews substitute for Adonai in a non-liturgical context such as everyday speech.
Eloheinu: the plural 1st person possessive of אֱלֹהִים‎ Elohim, meaning "our God".
Echad: the unified and cardinal number One אֶחָד

This first verse of the Shema relates to the kingship of God. The first verse, "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is One LORD", has always been regarded as the confession of belief in the One God. Due to the ambiguity of the possible ways to translate the Hebrew passage, there are several possible renderings:

"Hear, O Israel! Adonai is our God! Adonai is One!", and
"Hear, O Israel! Adonai is our God – Adonai alone."

Many commentaries have been written about the subtle differences between the translations. There is an emphasis on the oneness of God and on the sole worship of God by Israel. There are other translations, though most retain one or the other emphases.

Baruch Shem

בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד

Baruch shem kevod malchuto le'olam va'ed

"Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever"

The second line is a rabbinic addition and is recited silently during congregational worship (except on Yom Kippur, when it is recited aloud). In Reform and Conservative Judaism, it is recited aloud, but in a quieter voice than the rest of the prayer. It was originally a liturgical response in use in the Temple when the name of God was pronounced and took the form of Baruch shem k’vod l’olam, "Blessed be his glorious name forever" (Psalm 72:19). However, in time the words malchuto ("His kingdom") and va’ed ("for ever and ever") were added. Malchuto was introduced by the rabbis during Roman rule as a counter to the claim of divine honors by Roman emperors. Va’ed was introduced at the time of the Second Temple to contrast the view of the minim (heretics) that there is no life after death.[4]


The following verses are commonly referred to as the V'ahavta according to the first word of the verse immediately following the Shema, or in Classical Hebrew V'ahav'ta meaning "and you shall love...". They contain the command to love God with all one's heart, soul, and might (Deuteronomy 6:5). The Talmud emphasizes that you will, at some point, whether you choose to or not, and therefore uses "shall" – future tense – love God.[5]

Then verse 7 goes on to remind the community to remember all the commandments and to "teach them diligently to your children and speak of them when you sit down and when you walk, when you lie down and when you rise",[5] to recite the words of God when retiring or rising; to bind those words "on thy arm and thy head" (classically Jewish oral tradition interprets as tefillin), and to "inscribe them on the door-posts of your house and on your gates" (referring to mezuzah).

V'haya im shamoa

The passage following the Shema and V'ahavta relates to the issue of reward and punishment. It contains the promise of reward for serving God with all one's heart, soul, and might (Deut 11:13) and for the fulfillment of the laws. It also contains punishment for transgression. It also contains a repetition of the contents of the first portion - but this time spoken to the second person plural, (Whereas the first portion is directed to the individual Jew, this time it is directed to the whole community, all the Jews).


The third portion relates to the issue of redemption. Specifically, it contains the law concerning the tzitzit (Numbers 15:37-41) as a reminder that all laws of God are obeyed, as a warning against following evil inclinations and in remembrance of the exodus from Egypt. For the prophets and rabbis, the exodus from Egypt is paradigmatic of Jewish faith that God redeems from all forms of foreign domination. It can be found in the portion "Shlach Lecha" in the book of Numbers.


In summary, the content flows from the assertion of the oneness of God's kingship. Thus, in the first portion, there is a command to love God with all one's heart, soul, and might, and to remember and teach these very important words to the children throughout the day. Obeying these commands, says the second portion, will lead to rewards, and disobeying them will lead to punishment. To ensure fulfillment of these key commands, God also commands in the third portion a practical reminder, wearing the tzitzit, "that ye may remember and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God."

The full content verse by verse, in Hebrew, English transliteration, and English translation, can be found on the jewfaq.org website.[6]

The second line quoted, "Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever", was originally a congregational response to the declaration of the Oneness of God; it is therefore often printed in small font and recited in an undertone, as recognition that it is not, itself, a part of the cited biblical verses. The third section of the Shema ends with Numbers 15:41, but traditional Jews end the recitation of the Shema by reciting the first word of the following blessing, Emet, or "Truth" without interruption.

Jewish women and the Shema

In Orthodox Judaism, women are not required to daily recite the Shema (as a command from the Torah),[7] as with other time-bound requirements which might impinge on their traditional familial obligations, although they are obligated to pray at least once daily without a specific liturgy requirement, and many fulfill that obligation through prayers like the Shema.

Conservative Judaism generally regards Jewish women as being obligated to recite the Shema at the same times as men.

Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism do not regard gender-related traditional Jewish ritual requirements as necessary in modern circumstances, including obligations for men, but not women, to pray specific prayers at specific times. Instead, both genders may fulfill all requirements.

Accompanying blessings

The blessings preceding and following the Shema are traditionally credited to the members of the Great Assembly. They were first instituted in the liturgy of the Temple in Jerusalem.

According to the Talmud, the reading of the Shema morning and evening fulfills the commandment "You shall meditate therein day and night". As soon as a child begins to speak, his father is directed to teach him the verse "Moses commanded us a law, even the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob",[8] and teach him to read the Shema.[9] The reciting of the first verse of the Shema is called "the acceptance of the yoke of the kingship of God" (kabalat ol malchut shamayim).[10] Judah ha-Nasi, who spent all day involved with his studies and teaching, said just the first verse of the Shema in the morning "as he passed his hands over his eyes",[11] which appears to be the origin of the custom to cover the eyes with the right hand while reciting the first verse.

The first verse of the Shema is recited aloud, simultaneously by the hazzan and the congregation, which responds with the rabbinically instituted Baruch Shem ("Blessed be the Name") in silence before continuing the rest of Shema. Only on Yom Kippur is this response said aloud. The remainder of the Shema is read in silence. Sephardim recite the whole of the Shema aloud, except the Baruch ShemReform Jews also recite the whole of the first paragraph of the Shema aloud.


During Shacharit, two blessings are recited before the Shema and one after the Shema.[12] There is a question in Jewish law as to whether these blessings are on the Shema, or surrounding the Shema. The conclusion that has been drawn is that they are surrounding the Shema, because the structure is similar to that of blessings of the Torah, and there is doubt as to whether such blessings would actually enhance the Shema.[13] The two blessings that are recited before the Shema are Yotzer ohr and Ahava Rabbah/Ahavat Olam. The blessing after is known as Emet Vayatziv.

During Maariv, there are two blessings before the Shema and two after.[12] The two before are HaMaariv Aravim and Ahavat Olam. The two after are Emet V'Emunah and HashkiveinuAshkenazim add Baruch Hashem L'Olam outside of Israel on weekdays.

Overall, the three blessings in the morning and four in the evening which accompany the Shema sum to seven, in accordance with the verse in Psalms: "I praise You seven times each day for Your just rules."[14]

Bedtime Shema

Before going to sleep, the first paragraph of the Shema is recited. This is not only a commandment directly given in the Bible (in Deuteronomy 6:6–7), but is also alluded to from verses such as "Commune with your own heart upon your bed" (Psalms 4:4).

Some also have the custom to read all three paragraphs, along with a whole list of sections from PsalmsTachanun, and other prayers. Altogether this is known as the K'riat Shema she-al ha-mitah. According to Arizal, reading this prayer with great concentration is also effective in cleansing one from sin. This is discussed in the Tanya.[15]

Other instances

The exhortation by the Kohen in calling Israel to arms against an enemy (which does not apply when the Temple in Jerusalem is not standing) also includes Shema Yisrael.[16]

According to the Talmud, Rabbi Akiva patiently endured while his flesh was being torn with iron combs, and died reciting the Shema. He pronounced the last word of the sentence, Eḥad ("one") with his last breath.[17] Since then, it has been traditional for Jews to say the Shema as their last words. In 2006 Roi Klein, a major in the Israel Defense Forces, said the Shema before jumping on a live grenade and dying to save his fellow soldiers.[18]

Other religious literature

Reformulations of the Shema appear in later Jewish Scripture, Second Temple literature, and New Testament texts.[19][20][21] In these texts, sometimes new features are added to the Shema (e.g. 2 Kings 19:19; Zech. 14:9), in others, it is abbreviated to “God is One” (Philo, Spec. 1.30), “one God” (Josephus, C. Ap. 2.193), or “God alone” (2 Maccabees 7:37).[22] The following is a selection of significant occurrences.[23]

In later Jewish scripture:

  • 2 Kings 19:19: "And now, O Lord our God, please deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God alone."[24]
  • Zechariah 14:9: "And the Lord shall become King over all the earth; on that day shall the Lord be one, and His name one."[25]
  • Malachi 2:10: "Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why should we betray, each one his brother, to profane the covenant of our forefathers?"[26]

In Second Temple literature:

  • Letter of Aristeas 132: "But first of all he taught that God is one, and that his power is made manifest in all things, and that every place is filled with his sovereignty, and that nothing done by men on earth secretly escapes his notice, but that all that anyone does and all that is to be is manifest to him."[27]
  • 2 Maccabees 7:37-38: "I, like my brothers, give up body and life for the laws of our fathers, appealing to God to show mercy soon to our nation and by afflictions and plagues to make you confess that he alone is God, and through me and my brothers to bring to an end the wrath of the Almighty which has justly fallen on our whole nation."[28]
  • PhiloOn Special Laws 1.30: "This lesson he continually repeats, sometimes saying that God is one and the Framer and Maker of all things, sometimes that He is Lord of created beings, because stability and fixity and lordship are by nature vested in Him alone."
  • JosephusAntiquities of the Jews 4.199: "And let there be neither an altar nor a temple in any other city; for God is but one, and the nation of the Hebrews is but one."[29]
  • Josephus, Against Apion 2.193: "There ought also to be but one temple for one God; for likeness is the constant foundation of agreement. This temple ought to be common to all men, because he is the common God of all men."[30]

In the New Testament:

  • Mark 12:28-29 (NASB): One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord.'"
  • Romans 3:29-30 (NASB): "Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one."
  • James 2:19 (NASB): "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder."

Music and film

  • Arnold Schoenberg used it as part of the story to his narrative orchestral work A Survivor from Warsaw (1947).
  • In Parade, a musical based on true events, the main character Leo Frank, wrongly accused of the murder of a child worker at the pencil factory he manages, recites the Shema Yisrael as a vigilante gang kidnap and hang him in the final scenes of the work.
  • Pop versions have been published by Mordechai ben David and Sarit Hadad.
  • In Pi, Max Cohen and Lenny Meyer can be seen reciting the first three verses of the Shema.
  • In The Shoes of the FishermanAnthony Quinn, as the fictional Pope Kiril, explores the back streets of Rome disguised as a simple priest, and recites the Shema at the bedside of a dying Roman Jew.
  • Reggae singer Matisyahu recites the Shema in his songs "Got No water" and "Tel Aviv'n".
  • Yaakov Shwekey, in his "Shema Yisrael", used the story of Rabbi Eliezer Silver's saving Jewish children hidden in Christian monasteries following the Holocaust by reciting the first line of the Shema.
  • Singer Justin Bieber says the Shema before each public performance with his manager Scooter Braun, who is Jewish.[31]
  • Italian parody band Nanowar of Steel paraphrased it as "Shema Yggdrasil" in their 2019 single Valhallelujah.[32]


In episode 9 of season 3 of the television series The Man in the High Castle, the character Frank Frink recites the Shema just before he is executed.

In the Northern Exposure episode "Kaddish for Uncle Manny", Joel Fleischman doubts the sincerity of a burly itinerant lumberjack who arrives in response to Maurice Minnifield's offer of free food and lodging to participate in a minyan; he asks the man to recite the Shema, which he does.

In episode 4 of season 2 of the television series Shtisel (2015), Rebetzen Erblich asks her friend Bube Malka to recite the Shema with her as she is preparing to die.

In episode of season 1 of the television series The Sandman, Death comes from an old Jewish man, Harry who recites the Shema before dying.[33]

Divine unity of the Shema in Hasidic philosophy

Schneur Zalman of Liadi articulated Divine Unity in Hasidic philosophy.

The second section of the Tanya brings the mystical panentheism of the founder of Hasidic Judaism, the Baal Shem Tov, into philosophical explanation. It outlines the Hasidic interpretation of God's Unity in the first two lines of the Shema, based upon their interpretation in Kabbalah. The emphasis on Divine Omnipresence and immanence lies behind Hasidic joy and devekut, and its stress on transforming the material into spiritual worship. In this internalisation of Kabbalistic ideas, the Hasidic follower seeks to reveal the Unity and hidden holiness in all activities of life.

Medieval, rationalist Jewish philosophers (exponents of Hakirah–rational "investigation" from first principles in support of Judaism), such as Maimonides, describe Biblical monotheism to mean that there is only one God, and his essence is a unique, simple, infinite Unity. Jewish mysticism provides a philosophic paradox, by dividing God's Unity into God's essence and emanation.

In Kabbalah and especially Hasidism, God's Unity means that there is nothing independent of his essence. The new doctrine in Lurianic Kabbalah of God's tzimtzum ("withdrawal") received different interpretations after Isaac Luria, from the literal to the metaphorical. To Hasidism and Schneur Zalman, it is unthinkable for the "withdrawal" of God that "makes possible" Creation, to be taken literally. The paradox of Tzimtzum only relates to the Ohr Ein Sof ("Infinite Light"), not the Ein Sof (Divine essence) itself. God's infinity is revealed in both complementary infinitude (infinite light) and finitude (finite light). The "withdrawal" was only a concealment of the Infinite Light into the essence of God, to allow the latent potentially finite light to emerge after the God limiting tzimtzum. God himself remains unaffected ("For I, the Lord, I have not changed" Malachi 3:6). His essence was One, alone, before Creation, and still One, alone, after Creation, without any change. As the tzimtzum only limits God to a concealment, therefore God's Unity remains Omnipresent. In the Baal Shem Tov's interpretation, Divine providence affects every detail of Creation. The "movement of a leaf in the wind" is part of the unfolding Divine presence, and is a necessary part of the complete Tikkun (Rectification in Kabbalah). This awareness of the loving Divine purpose and significance of each individual and his free will, awakens mystical love and awe of God.

Schneur Zalman explains that God's divided Unity has two levels, an unlimited level and a limited one, that are both paradoxically true. The main text of medieval Kabbalah, the Zohar, describes the first verse of the Shema ("Hear O Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord is One") as the "Upper level Unity", and the second line ("Blessed be the Name of the Glory of His Kingdom forever") as the limited "Lower level Unity". Schneur Zalman gives the Chabad explanation of this. In his Kabbalah philosophy, all Creation is dependent on the limited, immanent, potentially finite, "Light that Fills all Worlds", that each Creation receives continually. All is bittul–nullified to the light, even though in our realm this complete dependence is hidden. From this perspective, of God knowing the Creation on its own terms, Creation exists, but the true essence of anything is only the Divine spark that continuously recreates it from nothing. God is One, as nothing has any independent existence without this continual flow of Divine Will to Create. This is the pantheistic Lower Level Unity.

In relation to God's essence, Creation affects no change or withdrawal. All Creation takes place "within" God. "There is nothing but God". The ability to create can only come from the infinite Divine essence, represented by the Tetragrammaton name of God. However, "It is not the essence of the Divine, to create Worlds and sustain them", as this ability is only external to the Infinite essence "outside" God. Creation only derives from God's revelatory antropomorphic "speech" (as in Genesis 1), and even this is unlike the external speech of Man, as it too remains "within" God. From this upper perspective of God knowing himself on his own terms, the created existence of Creation does not exist, as it is as nothing in relation to Zalman's philosophically constructed concept of God's essence. This monistic acosmism is the "Upper Level Unity", as from this perspective, only God exists.[34]

In Islam

The words used in the Shema prayer are similar to the words of verse 1 of Sura 112 (Al-Tawhid or Monotheism) in the Quran. The word أَحَدٌ in Arabic is similar to the word אֶחָד‎ in Hebrew.[citation needed]

Arabicقُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ - Qul Hu Allāh ʾAḥad ("Say, He is Allah the One")

In Christianity

The Shema is one of the Old Testament sentences quoted in the New Testament. The Gospel of Mark 12:29–31 mentions that Jesus of Nazareth considered the opening exhortation of the Shema to be the first of his two greatest commandments and linked with a second (based on Leviticus 19:18b): "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. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." In Luke 10:25–27 the Shema is also linked with Leviticus 19:18. The verses Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18b both begin with ve'ahavta, "and you shall love". In Luke's Gospel, it appears that this connection between the two verses was already part of cultural discussion or practice.

Theologians Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch noted that "the heart is mentioned first (in Deuteronomy 6:5), as the seat of the emotions generally and of love in particular; then follows the soul (nephesh) as the centre of personality in man, to depict the love as pervading the entire self-consciousness; and to this is added, "with all the strength", i.e. of body and soul.[35]

The Shema has also been incorporated into Christian liturgy, and is discussed in terms of the Trinity.[36] In the Latin Catholic Liturgy of the Hours, the Shema is read during the Night Prayer or Compline every Saturday, thereby concluding the day's prayers.[37] The Anglican Book of Common Prayer in use in Canada since 1962 has included the Shema in its Summary of the Law.[38] Since 2012, when the Anglican Use version of the BCP, the Book of Divine Worship, was adapted for use in Canada, it has been recited by Roman Catholics as well.

The Anglican (and Orthodox Celtic) Church officially utilizes the Shema in the Daily Services. Namely with the decalogue.[39]

See also


  1. ^ Moberly, R. W. L. (1990). ""Yahweh is One": The Translation of the Shema". In Emerton, J. A. (ed.). Studies in the PentateuchVetus Testamentum, Supplements. Vol. 41. LeidenBrill Publishers. pp. 209–215. doi:10.1163/9789004275645_012ISBN 978-90-04-27564-5.
  2. ^ "Bedtime Shema". MyJewishLearning.com.
  3. ^ "Why Say Shema at Bedtime? - Didn't we just say it in Maariv". Chabad.org.
  4. ^ "OzTorah » Blog Archive » Baruch Shem: The 2nd line of the Shema – Ask the Rabbi". www.oztorah.com.
  5. Jump up to:a b The Complete Hebrew Bible (Tanach) based on JPS 1917 Hebrew-English translation Deuteronomy 6, accessed 29 November 2015
  6. ^ "Judaism 101: Shema"www.jewfaq.org.
  7. ^ Mishnah Berurah, O.C. 106:1 §7
  8. ^ Deuteronomy 33:4
  9. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 42a
  10. ^ Mishnah Berachot 2:5
  11. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 13b
  12. Jump up to:a b Mishnah, Berachot 1:4
  13. ^ With all your heart: the Shema in Jewish worship, practice and life By Meir Levin, ISBN 1-56871-215-4, page 207-212
  14. ^ Psalms 119:164
  15. ^ "[Otzar770 - Book page view]"otzar770.com.
  16. ^ Deuteronomy 20:3Babylonian Talmud Sotah 42a
  17. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 61b
  18. ^ Lubotzky, Asael (2016). From the Wilderness and LebanonKoren Publishers Jerusalem. pp. 56–57. ISBN 978-1-59264-417-9.
  19. ^ Bruno, Christopher (2014). 'God Is One': The Function of 'Eis Ho Theos' as a Ground for Gentile Inclusion in Paul's Letters. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 24–113, 199–206.
  20. ^ Richard Bauckham. “The Shema and 1 Corinthians 8:6 Again.” In One God, One People, One Future: Essays in Honor of N.T. Wright, edited by John Anthony Dunne and Eric Lewellen, 86-111. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2018.
  21. ^ Mark D. Nanos. “Paul and the Jewish Tradition: The Ideology of the Shema.” In Celebrating Paul: Festchrift in Honor of Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, O.P., and Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., edited by Peter Spitaler, 62–80. Washington, DC: The Catholic Biblical Association of America, 2011.
  22. ^ Bauckham, "The Shema and 1 Corinthians 8:6 again," 90.
  23. ^ For a comprehensive list, see Bauckham, "The Shema and 1 Corinthians 8:6 Again," 103-108.
  24. ^ "Melachim II - II Kings - Chapter 19"www.chabad.org. Retrieved 2020-05-01.
  25. ^ "Zechariah - Chapter 14"www.chabad.org. Retrieved 2020-05-01.
  26. ^ "Malachi - Chapter 2"www.chabad.org. Retrieved 2020-05-01.
  27. ^ Outside the Bible : ancient Jewish writings related to Scripture. Feldman, Louis H., Kugel, James L., Schiffman, Lawrence H. Philadelphia. p. 2738. ISBN 978-0-8276-0933-4OCLC 839395969.
  28. ^ "Bible Gateway passage: 2 Maccabees 7:37-39 - Revised Standard Version"Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2020-05-01.
  29. ^ "PACE - The Judean Antiquities"pace.webhosting.rug.nl. Retrieved 2020-05-01.
  30. ^ "PACE - Against Apion"pace.webhosting.rug.nl. Retrieved 2020-05-01.
  31. ^ "Justin Bieber: Tween Evangelist?"Huff Post. 9 February 2011.
  32. ^ "Valhalleluja - Nanowar Of Steel"Letras.mus.br (in Brazilian Portuguese). Retrieved 2020-01-20.
  33. ^ Fox, Mira (2022-08-05). "How Judaism, Scientology, Christianity, mythology and God knows what else haunt the dreams of Netflix's 'Sandman'"Forward. Retrieved 2022-09-17.
  34. ^ English translation and commentary on the second section of Tanya: Shaar Hayichud Vehaemunah-Gate of Unity and Faith from Chabad.org. Retrieved Oct. 2009
  35. ^ Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament on Deuteronomy 6, accessed 6 November 2015
  36. ^ See Brian J. Wright, "Deuteronomy 6:4 and the Trinity: How Can Jews and Christians Both Embrace the 'Echad' of the Shema?" https://www.academia.edu/12230043/Deuteronomy_6_4_and_the_Trinity_How_Can_Jews_and_Christians_Both_Embrace_the_Echad_of_the_Shema
  37. ^ "Divine Office – Liturgy of the Hours of the Roman Catholic Church (Breviary) » Welcome to the Divine Office Community!"divineoffice.org. Retrieved 2018-11-21.
  38. ^ "The Order for the Administration of The Lord's Supper or Holy Communion". 7 December 2013.
  39. ^ "Liturgical BCP Prayer, "The Shama": A Prayer of Christendom and of the Culdees". Christ's Assembly. Orthodox Church of the Culdees (Celtic).

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