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Home :: Prayer :: The Most Ancient Prayer

The Most Ancient Prayer

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After getting up, washing, but before having a breakfast - the main and the most ancient of known Biblical prayers is recited - "Shema Yisrael" ("Hear, O Israel" - Biblical language translation) (Dvarim 6:4-9; Dvarim 11:13-21; Bemidbar 15:37-41).

HIDA writes about necessity to daily recite this prayer twice a day - after morning awakening and before bedtime - for Bnei Noah. This prayer is symbol of faith into One Creator and unconditional acceptance of His full authority upon oneself.

"Shema Yisrael" consists of three chapters taken from Tora - Dvarim 6:4-9; Dvarim 11:13-21; Bemidbar 15:37-41.

The first chapter (Dvarim 6:4-9) starts with exclamation: "Shema Yisrael, A-donai E-loheinu, A-donai Ehad" ("Hear, O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One" - Biblical language translation). It speaks about love to G-d and full acceptance of His absolute authority upon oneself, coz indeed we're created exactly to devote our life to implementation of His will. The necessity to educate children in the spirit of true faith is mentioned here as well.

The second chapter (Dvarim 11:13-21) reveals the blessings that gets a person who lives according to G-d's will and the suffering and misfortune that is sent as punishment for disregard with it. Besides, the necessity to educate children in the spirit of true faith is mentioned here once again.

The third chapter (Bemidbar 15:37-41) speaks about Tzitzit (tassels at clothes' edges - Biblical language translation) - distinguished Jewish clothes which is the constant reminding about all Tora's commandments. It's once again spoken about verity of Creator of the universe in the end of the chapter.

Thus, reading "Shema Yisrael" twice a day, in the morning and in the evening, we accept Hashem's authority upon ourselves and think about G-d's grandeur, about Him Who is Creator of the universe, Wise, Kind, Gracious and Merciful. It causes the feeling of humility in us and leads to the thought about necessity to love and be afraid of Him.

Biblical words that mean such submission to G-d sound like Kabbalat Ol Malchut Hashamayim (acceptance of yoke of Heavens Kingdom upon oneself - Biblical language translation). In general, yoke is kind of team put onto animal to direct animal right way more successfully. Yoke is put onto animal not to break his back under load of cargo, vice versa, it's done to use animal best way possible for the purpose it was created for.

G-d never gives us load more than that we're able to take. And this is not "cargo" at all, we should be enough with brains to understand what great advantage we get by accepting such yoke upon ourselves. The most unhappy person in the world is he who doesn't know what he has to do and where he has to go. We're lucky, in some sense. G-d gave Seven Laws to all humanity, they are obligatory for observation by all the peoples of the world - they are wonderful laws and rules of life, which teach good and wise only, they ennoble our character when we observe them regularly in our daily life. Coz then it becomes our habit to do good and live correct way, it becomes to be our second nature.

"Shema Yisrael" Reciting Laws

"Shema Yisrael" is recited daily, twice a day - in the morning, after awakening (one should already get up and wash, but should not eat yet) and before bedtime (right before dressing up into night clothes and go to bed or already being in bed).

"Shema Yisrael" can be recited both while sitting and while standing and while walking, however when pronouncing the first verse "Shema Yisrael, A-donai E-loheinu, A-donai Ehad" ("Hear, O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One" - Biblical language translation) (Dvarim 6:4) - one should be still. "Shema Yisrael" can be recited while lying as well, but only lying sidelong.

When pronouncing the words "Shema Yisrael, A-donai E-loheinu, A-donai Ehad" ("Hear, O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One" - Biblical language translation) (Dvarim 6:4) - one should close his eyes and cover his eyelids with palm of right hand to absolutely free his mind from surrounding and concentrate upon pronounced contents, being aware of the sense of each single word. Before pronouncing this very first verse, one should think he performs full Kabbalat Ol Malchut Hashamayim (acceptance of yoke of Heavens Kingdom upon oneself - Biblical language translation) by this. That is by doing so, human as if crowns G-d, declaring Him the Only King over the entire world and himself and fully accepts the authority of Creator of the universe upon himself. One should especially concentrate when pronouncing last "Ehad" word (One - Biblical language translation). This word consists of three letters: אחד. When pronouncing first letter א, which is the first letter of Biblical alphabet and which numerical identity equals 1 - one should think that Creator is One. When pronouncing second letter ח, which is the eighth letter of Biblical alphabet and which numerical identity equals 8 - one should think that G-d's authority is spreaded upon eight spheres: seven heavens and earth. And finally, when pronouncing last letter ד, which is the fourth letter of Biblical alphabet and which numerical identity equals 4 - one should think that His authority is spreaded upon all four sides of the world and He is limited by neither space nor time. Pronouncing this last letter ד should be somehow extended in mind, prolonged, to have enough time to accurately concentrate upon the aspects written above.

Then, one opens his eyes, looks at Biblical text and pronounces without voice, only by moving his lips: "Baruch Shem Kevod Malchuto Leolam Vaed" ("May the great name of His kingdom be blessed everlastingly" - Biblical language translation). This verse is taken not from Bible, its pronunciation is set according to Kabbala - a book explaining world creation secrets. When pronouncing it, one should concentrate upon the thought that G-d is the L-rd of the entire universe and that He is the King Whose authority is spreaded upon all living. These words are pronounced in a whisper coz, according to Kabbala, they are pronounced by angels who stand in front of throne of glory of G-d. Angels are absolutely pure, sinless and evil doesn't have power over them, what is not like that as for human from flesh and blood.

Then one gets down to consecutive recitation of each one of three chapters forming "Shema Yisrael" prayer - Dvarim 6:5-9; Dvarim 11:13-21; Bemidbar 15:37-41. It's very important to pronounce each word correctly and observe all punctuation marks while reciting the prayer. One should pause and think about contents of verses when between two phrases mentioned above and the first chapter of the prayer, and between the second and the third chapters of the prayer. During the first pause one should think about acceptance of obligation to absolutely obey supreme authority of Creator upon himself, during the second pause - about obligation to observe all of His commandments and prohibitions upon himself, that is Seven Laws, obligatory for all humanity, during the third pause - about existence of reward and punishment from above for observation and insubmission to His will correspondingly.

There are 245 words in "Shema Yisrael" text taken from Tora. According to ancient tradition, there's a custom to add three more words to them so that common quantity of words would equal quantity of human body parts - that is 248. That's why, when finishing "Shema Yisrael" recitation, he who prays repeats three last words "Ani A-donai E-loheichem" ("I am the L-rd, your G-d" - Biblical language translation) (Bemidbar 15:41) twice. Right after that he pronounces "Emet" (truth - Biblical language translation) word. As a result, last "Shema Yisrael" words form "Ani A-donai E-loheichem Emet" ("I am the L-rd, your G-d - truth" - Biblical language translation) phrase and it reminds the words from prophet Yirmiyahu's book (Yirmiyahu 10:10): "But the L-rd G-d is true".

Below is full text of "Shema Yisrael" prayer in Biblical language with its English translation and transliteration of original reading.

שמע ישראל יהוה אלהינו יהוה אחד׃

ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד׃

ואהבת את יהוה אלהיך בכל־לבבך ובכל־נפשך ובכל־מאדך׃ והיו הדברים האלה אשר אנכי מצוך היום על־לבבך׃ ושננתם לבניך ודברת בם בשבתך בביתך ובלכתך בדרך ובשכבך ובקומך׃ וקשרתם לאות על־ידך והיו לטטפת בין עיניך׃ וכתבתם על־מזזות ביתך ובשעריך׃

והיה אם־שמע תשמעו אל־מצותי אשר אנכי מצוה אתכם היום לאהבה את־יהוה אלהיכם ולעבדו בכל־לבבכם ובכל־נפשכם׃ ונתתי מטר־ארצכם בעתו יורה ומלקוש ואספת דגנך ותירשך ויצהרך׃ ונתתי עשב בשדך לבהמתך ואכלת ושבעת׃ השמרו לכם פן־יפתה לבבכם וסרתם ועבדתם אלהים אחרים והשתחויתם להם׃ וחרה אף־יהוה בכם ועצר את־השמים ולא יהיה מטר והאדמה לא תתן את־יבולה ואבדתם מהרה מעל הארץ הטבה אשר יהוה נתן לכם׃ ושמתם את־דברי אלה על־לבבכם ועל־נפשכם וקשרתם אתם לאות על־ידכם והיו לטוטפת בין עיניכם׃ ולמדתם אתם את־בניכם לדבר בם בשבתך בביתך ובלכתך בדרך ובשכבך ובקומך׃ וכתבתם על־מזוזות ביתך ובשעריך׃ למען ירבו ימיכם וימי בניכם על האדמה אשר נשבע יהוה לאבתיכם לתת להם כימי השמים על־הארץ׃

ויאמר יהוה אל־משה לאמר׃ דבר אל־בני ישראל ואמרת אלהם ועשו להם ציצת על־כנפי בגדיהם לדרתם ונתנו על־ציצת הכנף פתיל תכלת׃ והיה לכם לציצת וראיתם אתו וזכרתם את־כל־מצות יהוה ועשיתם אתם ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם אשר־אתם זנים אחריהם׃ למען תזכרו ועשיתם את־כל־מצותי והייתם קדשים לאלהיכם׃ אני יהוה אלהיכם אשר הוצאתי אתכם מארץ מצרים להיות לכם לאלהים אני יהוה אלהיכם׃ (יאמר שלושה מילים אחרונים עוד פעם ויצרף אותם ל...) אמת

Sh'ma Yis-ra-el, A-donai E-lo-hei-nu, A-do-nai E-khad.

Ba-ruch shem k'vod mal-chu-to l'o-lam va-ed.

V'a-hav-ta et A-do-nai E-lo-he-cha, b'chawl l'va-v'cha, u-v'chawl naf-sh'cha, u-v'chawl m'o-de-cha. V'ha-yu ha-d'va-rim ha-e-leh, a-sher a-no-chi m'tsa-v'cha ha-yom, al l'va-ve-cha. V'shi-nan-tam l'-va-ne-cha, v'di-bar-ta bam, b'shiv-t'cha b'vei-te-cha, uv-lech-t'cha va-de-rech, u-v'shawch-b'cha uv-ku-me-cha. Uk-shar-tam l'ot al ya-de-cha, v'ha-yu l'to-ta-fot bein ei-ne-cha. Uch-tav-tam, al m'zu-zot bei-te-cha, u-vish-a-re-cha.

V'ha-ya, im sha-mo-a tish-m'u el mits-vo-tai, a-sher a-no-chi m'tsa-ve et-chem ha-yom, l'a-ha-va et A-do-nai E-lo-hei-chem, ul-awv-do b'chawl l'vav-chem, u-v'chawl naf-sh'chem. V'na-ta-ti m'tar ar-ts'chem b'i-to, yo-reh u-mal-kosh, v'a-saf-ta d'ga-ne-cha v'ti-ro-sh'cha v'yits-ha-re-cha. V'na-ta-ti ei-sev b'sa-d'cha liv-hem-te-cha, v'a-chal-ta v'sa-va-'ta. Hi-sha-m'ru la-chem pen yif-te l'vav-chem, v'sar-tem, va-a-vad-tem E-lo-him a-khe-rim, v'hish-ta-kha-vi-tem la-hem. V'cha-rah, af A-do-nai ba-chem, v'a-tsar et ha-sha-ma-yim, v'lo yi-h'yeh ma-tar, v'ha-a-da-ma lo ti-ten et y'vu-la, va-a-vad-tem m'he-ra me-al ha-a-rets ha-to-va, a-sher A-do-nai no-ten la-chem. V'sam-tem et d'varai e-leh al l'vav-chem v'al naf-sh'chem, uk-shar-tem o-tam l'ot al yed-chem, v'ha-yu l'to-ta-fot bein ei-nei-chem. V'li-mad-tem o-tam et b'nei-chem, l'da-beir bam, b'shiv-t'cha b'vei-te-cha, uv-lech-t'cha va-de-rech, u-v'shawch-b'cha uv-ku-me-cha. Uch-tav-tam al m'zu-zot bei-te-cha, u-vish-a-re-cha. L'ma-an yir-bu y'mei-chem vi-mei v'nei-chem al ha-a-da-ma, a-sher nish-ba A-do-nai la-a-vo-tei-chem la-tet la-hem ki-mei ha-sha-ma-yim al ha-a-rets.

Va-yo-mer A-do-nai el Mo-she le-mor. Da-ber el b'nei Yis-ra-el, v'a-mar-ta a-le-hem, v'a-su la-hem tsi-tsit al kan-fei vig-dei-hem l'do-ro-tam, v'na-t'nu al tsi-tsit ha-ka-naf p'til t'che-let. V'ha-ya la-chem l'tsi-tsit, ur-i-tem o-to uz-char-tem et kawl mits-vot A-do-nai, va-a-si-tem o-tam, v'lo ta-tu-ru a-cha-rei l'vav-chem v'a-cha-rei ei-nei-chem, a-sher a-tem zo-nim a-cha-rei-hem. L'ma-an tiz-k'ru va-a-si-tem et kawl mits-vo-tai, vi-h'yi-tem k'do-shim lE-lo-hei-chem. A-ni A-do-nai E-lo-hei-chem, a-sher ho-tse-ti et-chem me-e-rets Mits-ra-yim, li-h'yot la-chem lE-lo-him. A-ni A-do-nai E-lo-hei-chem. (Repeat last three words once again and join them to...) Emet

Hear, O Israel: the L-rd is our G-d; the L-rd is One.

May the great name of His kingdom be blessed everlastingly.

And you shall love the L-rd, your G-d, with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your means. And these words, which I command you this day, shall be upon your heart. And you shall teach them to your sons and speak of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk on the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for ornaments between your eyes. And you shall inscribe them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.

And it will be, if you hearken to My commandments that I command you this day to love the L-rd, your G-d, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, I will give the rain of your land at its time, the early rain and the latter rain, and you will gather in your grain, your wine, and your oil. And I will give grass in your field for your livestock, and you will eat and be sated. Beware, lest your heart be misled, and you turn away and worship strange gods and prostrate yourselves before them. And the wrath of the L-rd will be kindled against you, and He will close off the heavens, and there will be no rain, and the ground will not give its produce, and you will perish quickly from upon the good land that the L-rd gives you. And you shall set these words of Mine upon your heart and upon your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand and they shall be for ornaments between your eyes. And you shall teach them to your sons to speak with them, when you sit in your house and when you walk on the way and when you lie down and when you rise. And you shall inscribe them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates, in order that your days may increase and the days of your children, on the land which the L-rd swore to your forefathers to give them, as the days of heaven above the earth.

The L-rd spoke to Moses, saying: speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them that they shall make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments, throughout their generations, and they shall affix a thread of sky blue wool on the fringe of each corner. This shall be fringes for you, and when you see it, you will remember all the commandments of the L-rd to perform them, and you shall not wander after your hearts and after your eyes after which you are going astray. So that you shall remember and perform all My commandments and you shall be holy to your G-d. I am the L-rd, your G-d, Who took you out of the land of Egypt to be your G-d; I am the L-rd, your G-d. (Repeat last three words once again and join them to...) Truth

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