The Shema, the central statement of faith and unity in Jewish liturgy, translates as: Hear Oh Israel, The Lord Our God, The Lord is One. It is a declaration of God’s indivisibility and oneness. It is repeated in prayer services and during the dying process, affixed to doorposts and said upon rising and retiring. Even in the most difficult of circumstances, it declares that all of HUMANKIND is ONE.
SHEMA, means “ hear” or “listen”, and has within it the word for name, “shem”. One of the names of God in Hebrew is simply The Name-“Ha Shem”. YISRAEL, or Israel. In Genesis 32: 28-31, Jacob was renamed Yisrael, God wrestler, after he spent the night wrestling with a messenger of God. It is written that he saw God face to face, and prevailed. To see God face to face, as Jacob did, is to dissolve the personal self into the divine self, which is what is implied in the Shema.
YOD, HEY, VAV, HEY – Four letters, which when seen in texts, is read as “Adonay”. Together the letters, called the Tetragrammaton, form the sacred and unpronounced name of God. It is associated with kindness and the right side of the Tree of Life.
ELOHEYNU – Our God. In its plural form, Elohim, it is associated with Judgement and the left side of the Tree of Life.
“Including the left within the right” or subsuming judgment under the power of love is one of the chief Kavvanot (mystical intentions) of mystical kabbalah……therefore, the word Eloheynu, “Our God” is found between two occurrences of YHVH. So are we to overwhelm the forces of judgment with those of love and compassion, surrounding them on all sides, until they are “sweetened” and transformed.”¹
ECHAD – one.
¹ Eheyeh, A Kabbalah for Tomorrow, Arthur Green, p.86
Suggested Kavannah (Intention) For Meditation
Take several deep breaths. Sound out: Shema Yisrael Adonay Eloheynu Adonay Echad, slowly and with deliberate intention. Repeat 3 times. Allow the first and last words, Shema, listen and Echad, One, to linger. Whenever thoughts arise, use the words Echad and Shema to re-focus.