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What Does the Shema Mean to Me
What Does the Shema Mean to Me
Roy Blizzard III © 2013
This is “The Shema”;
Deuteronomy 6:4-9, King James Version (KJV)
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:
5 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
These passages are the central profession of faith in Judaism and, by extension, Christianity. In Judaism, this prayer serves as the focal point of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services emphasizing the essence of Jewish monotheistic observance. Jews recite the Shema, twice-daily, as a religious commandment or mitzvah, and for many Jews, it is their last words. Many parents teach their children to say it before they go to sleep at night.
The term, "Shema," is used by identification to refer to the whole of the Jews daily prayers that begin with “Shema Yisrael,” and comprise Deuteronomy 6:4–9, 11:13–21, and Numbers 15:37– 41.
An underlying problem is that almost no Christians and only very observant Jews really understand the true hidden meanings of this quintessential passage. The manner in which they have been transmitted to us causes us to keep God at a distance. Tragically, many regard the Almighty as one who sits atop Mt. Hermon or Mt. Moriah causing us to be in constant fear of being judged, as if there were a great gulf fixed between God and man.
In fact, Kehot’s Chumash Devarim comments reinforce this concept. (Chumash here simply refers to a collection of the five books of the Torah and Devarim is Deuteronomy. Often, a chumash contains the entire first five books, divided up by the weekly parshiyot or readings, with the haftarah – or books of the prophets reading portion inserted after each week's parshah)
Here is their comments:
“G-d is one: According to the Sages, this phrase enjoins us to declare G-d king "above, below, and in all four directions." This idea is in fact embedded in the significance of the letters that spell the word for "one" (אחד): The numerical value of the first letter, alef, is 1, alluding to the one G-d; the numerical value of the second letter, chet, is 8, alluding to the seven heavens and earth; and the numerical value of the final letter, dalet, is 4, alluding to the four directions of the compass. Additionally, the word alef means "leader" or "ruler," alluding to G-d, ruler of the world; the arch over the scribal form of the chet (ח) alludes to G-d's presence in heaven; and the numerical value of the dalet alludes to His presence in the four directions of earth. Specifically, the sequence of alef-chet-dalet indicates how G-d (indicated by the alef) creates the world through the sefirot, the first of which is chochmah (indicated by the chet, its initial letter), as expressed through speech (dibur Hebrew, indicated by the dalet, its initial letter). The dalet in this case is written larger than usual in order to indicate how, in the world of Atzilut (the realm of consciousness of the "upper unity"), G-d's speech is not a diminution of intensity or content vis-à-vis His thought, as is human speech is vis-à-vis human thought, but rather a perfect expression of it.”
God is seen as One, Up in the Heavens, Down below, on the earth, somewhere, and around the four corners of the Earth. But somewhere, God is missing!
I’ve been studying Biblical Texts for decades, and it was quite a personal revelation to finally understand this passage and its true meaning.
I’ve been a believer all my life, and I was raised in the Church. I attended the University of Texas, as well as continuous study in Israel. Growing up around Judaism, I am friends with many Jews. In retrospect, not one of any of the thousands of people I have associated with is able to communicate with me the meaning of the Shema and its utmost importance to all mankind.
I believe the crucial issue for most religious people of all faiths is a desire to validate scripture and / or ordinances, traditions and doctrine over a validation of the ONE who inspired the scriptures. Today, one could produce the PERFECT translation of the Bible and there would still be dissension and conflicting opinions over many of the passages because of these very problems. However, if everyone were to arrive at a true personal relationship with God, YHWH, the differences would be just that, differences, not doctrinal, but where they are in their own personal relationship with the Creator.
One has to understand that God requires no validation on our part; He is who He is, and He desires an intimate relationship with us which is accomplished when we validate Him. So, how do we process the validation of God in our own lives? It seems that both Judaism and Christianity have broken down and failed to properly translate a passage and, by doing so, have relegated us to a secondary status in our own eyes and thereby we have failed to validate God. Consequently, this scenario has preserved us in bondage through religious error, as well as living ineffectual lives, by being removed from what God yearns for us.
The simple error is just one word, really, but by extrapolation, it effects the entire passage and then every other passage in the Biblical text overarching message from God to man. This one simple word is echad – אחד – or “ONE”.
In Hebrew, echad is normally used to mean ‘one’ only when counting in a series like one, two, three, four, etc, etc. But, we know that there is only one God, not two or three or four. So when one uses echad in a non-counting manner, such as found in Deuteronomy 4, its meaning is altered and it should ONLY mean “Unified”, in purpose, person, and deed, and should not represent a number to be counted in a sequence.
If you try to push a “One” translation upon echad, as has been done for millennia, then one immediately falls into the pagan concept of dualism (two Gods warring) and thereby automatically implying that there must exist more than one God! This is not a Biblical truth, but a lie perpetrated all the way back to the Garden of Eden, directly from the nachash, or deceiver. (often translated erroneously as serpent)
Since this Hebrew grammatical and linguistic rule for echad is true, then one must address the logical question; “unified for what?” God is unified in Purpose. So what is God’s purpose for us? We need to look no further than the first word of the passage, reading the word, “Shema.” Typically this word is translated as Hear. The problem for us is that in Hebrew, much is implied or contextualized; it’s not just to hear God, He must be obeyed or there are consequences for our lives.
Here in this crucial and pertinent passage, God tells us to Hear what He is about to say, agreeing with it or to be in harmony with what He tells us. In other words, we are to be in unison with God in heart, mind, soul and spirit; what God speaks to us we are to speak, what God thinks we are to think, what God does we are to do. Truly, it is life transforming when we unify with God in the way as He speaks to us in the Shema; we will love YHWH (God’s personal name) our creator with all our hearts – or our WILL, and with all our soul – our DESIRES and PASSION, and with all thy might – with our ABUNDANCE! And what is this abundance? It is the creative, life giving spiritual power, the power to help change people from death to life, bringing people from the darkness of this present world to the light and power in a unified existence with God.
Here is how it should read:
“Hear all of creation, YHWH, (The God who made a covenant with you), Eloheynu, (The God who created you), YHWH (Whose name embodies both the covenantal and creative nature in this name) is unified in Purpose. And these words of life, which I, God, your creator, ordained as a promise for you this day will be in your innermost being, transforming your will. And you will teach these life changing concepts diligently unto your children so they will become as God, unified with him in mind and spirit. You will discuss these miraculous precepts when you sit in your houses in private, and when you walk out in public, when you lie down to sleep, and when you rise up in the morning, in other words, continuously. And you should grasp them with your hands as you create the world around you, keeping them ever present in the fore front of your minds, and by doing so, you will tell the world of the greatness of God.”
In this verse it appears it is implying that Elohim, being a plural form, is a unified entity. This then would be our example for unity, we are to be in covenant and be creative. It would be in line with all Jesus said about His relationship with the Father and then our relationship with them through the Holy Spirit. The Father within Him did the work yet the Father is greater and mightier than Jesus.
Found within this example is the image and likeness we are created in, meaning we are made of the same stuff with the same nature and characteristics as our Creators.
Verse 25 actually tells us that if we do this it will be salvation for us! Only by understanding this concept of unification with our God can we hope to have salvation! Why, might one ask, is unification required for salvation? Salvation isn’t just a one time action, but it allows us to live in power and authority with God upon the Earth, in a Kingdom relationship with the eternal ruler, YHWH, our God continuously.
The power to transform is not found in doctrines, tenets or beliefs, but is discovered within the existence of God Himself. Only by recognizing this point can we see a need to validate God in our own lives. If someone doesn’t acknowledge God, and His unifying desires, then there is no hope for a true relationship with God.
We can know volumes about God, like Madilyn Murry O’Hare did, but never know God in an intimate unified state so that the two spirits become as one. Take David for ex: Why does the Bible say that he is a man after God’s own heart? If David was a man after God's own heart, what would one expect to find within the heart of God?
Mercy: Deuteronomy 4:31, Psalm 136:1
Righteousness: Exodus 9:23-27
Forgiveness: Numbers 14:19-21
Love, loving kindness, mercy, truth, grace, compassion: Exodus 15:13, 34:5-7
Hospitality: Leviticus 19:34
Care for Widows and Orphans: Deuteronomy 10:18
Faithfulness: Deuteronomy 7:9
Holiness: Leviticus 11:44, 19:2
Deliverance: Exodus 3:8, 6:6, 8:10
Meekness: Numbers 12:3
Peace: Numbers 6:24-26
Healing: Exodus 23:25
These qualities were familiar with David not just because he was well versed in the Torah, but he put these things into practice by living them, and therefore, he came into contact with the very heart of The Almighty. The Psalms, which he authored, are filled with the "Heart of God" because they are what David practiced daily. Because David was faithful to practice them, God reciprocated the very same. What was it about his nature that continually drew him to God and God to him? I would say it was a desire for a mutual relationship one with the other.
If one will notice, the qualities within the heart of God are also those very same qualities laid out in the New Testament as the “Fruit of the Spirit”. In essence, David was filled with the Spirit, or nature of God, and became unified with Him in spirit and truth.
One can know about God, but unless a person melds with the very Heart of God, (the above mentioned criteria), into His very existence, they will not experience the presence of Him or His power. It's like the composer Maurice Ravel. One can know about the life of Ravel and his many compositions, but unless one truly experiences Ravel's mastery in orchestration such as found in Daphnis et Chloe, the manner in which he combined instruments in texture and timbre, one cannot be one with or unified into Ravel's heart and music, into his existence.
Once I understood this passage about unification, what it entails and that God wanted me to exist within Him, within everything that God is through His existence, it became easier to relate to God. I didn’t need to regard God from under a rock or from behind a tree, to worry about some horrific retribution, but simply walk and talk with my God as a friend. As a result, I became more comfortable in the knowledge that God is transforming me into his best for me as He created me to be used for His purposes.
This concept also led to an understanding that one does not believe on Jesus, one has to believe INTO him. This is a major translation error and one that also prevents unification with our creator and our savior. We can just sit in our easy chair and exclaim, “Yeah, I believe Jesus,” and then promptly DO Nothing. One has not really believed anything as they have not experienced anything flowing out from them that would indicate a reciprocal relationship with their creator. Blindly, it just becomes wishful thinking.
As I become more aware of my life and seek every day to exist within God’s existence, I become more aware of the difference between life and death, more like Adam and Eve were experiencing when they become aware of the “difference between the life of Good and the life of evil”.
The “Law” then became not a terrible edict to scare me into submission to its precepts or thereby face an eternity in Hell, but rather it became a blueprint for the direction to find my God existing within the world that I live in. The “Law” became the foundation upon which I found myself validating my God who was existing in my walk in His spiritual world.
It is within this existence that salvation occurs, because salvation indicates to save, to cause deliverance, to liberate, place in freedom, with a corresponding sense of wholeness, rest, wellness, prosperity and victory. It is within these ideals that God wishes for us to experience an existence where He exists.
My God is God over all. He isn’t a God that loves evil, filth, depression, poverty, ignorance, etc, etc. My God dwells in the realm of Victory over the evils, and He isn’t subject to them and we shouldn’t be either. I’m not saying that some evils will not touch us in our fleshly form, but just as the realm of righteousness doesn’t dwell in the realm of evil, our spirit should not dwell in the earthly realm as well. We overcome evil by acting as God acts, speaking as God speaks and being as God is. This is the way Jesus overcame evil and He told us how to exist in the Gospel of John. Jesus told us to unify as He and God are unified. Unfortunately, this too was translated as “one,” and few of us have been unified since these words were spoken.
At the same time as God unifies with us, God expects us to unify one to another in purpose. This is especially important in a marriage. Most divorces occur when neither partner desires to unify with the other, or with God, and simply runs amok and separates themselves to their own purposes and selfish desires.
This separation inevitably causes a loss of inheritance for the future generations and cuts off the blessings that God has created for us and our families. Untold families have been directly affected by this one failure to seek unification instead of oneness or aloneness.
As we look to see how Echad has been translated, one can often see it as God, alone. In our human mind this concept of aloneness is rampant. If God is alone then we must be alone as well, for we are to emulate God in all of his aspects, so we are to be God of our own domain. We rule alone and aren’t unified. We make the rules and everyone obeys, in theory, only.
What oftentimes regulates and negates our ability to exist with God, is fear. We tend to fear everything; fear of relationships, fear of loss on many levels, fear of losing “control”, fear of being labeled crazy etc, etc, etc. Only by mastering the fear that crouches at our door can we begin to exist within God, as well as His blessing. Our job is not to worry or be afraid, but to trust in God, that He will perform what He said He will perform while we go and do what He wants us to do. That requires faith, not ours, since we really don’t have any, but it requires the Faith of God within us, Emmanuel!
This is a revealing of what and who He is, the Great and Holy God over all who really desires an intimate relationship with his creation!
Remember what God told Moses when asked about WHO was sending Moses to Pharaoh. He didn't say Elohim was sending him, it was YHWH.
All these years I acted much like the children of Israel, in unbelief and it was because I related more to Him as “a God”, what He is, rather than Who He IS, my beloved Father and covenantal Lord. The totality of what I see in the “YHWH, our Creators” is One YHWH, exactly what it says; these Creators are One personality unified in Who They are and who they want us to be! A perfect melding of unification for a purpose.