Engraving this counterintuitive idea into our psyches is our greatest challenge, but key to developing a true appreciation for, and a relationship with, our Creator. Towards this end, every morning and night we recite the “Shema”, or “Shemah”, consisting of three biblical paragraphs (Deuteronomy 6:4–9; 11:13–21; Numbers 15:37–41). These paragraphs contain Judaism’s defining statement: Hear O Israel, the L‑rd is our G‑d, the L‑rd is One. Shema then discusses some of Judaism’s basics: love of G‑d, Torah study, the principle of divine reward and punishment, and our exodus from Egypt.
Contemplating these words enables us to see beyond the mirage—and live accordingly.
Shema is part of the morning and evening prayers. Say the Shema, though, even if you won’t be reciting the prayers.
“When you lie down and when you rise up”—Deuteronomy 6:7.
Morning: During the first quarter of the day—starting from when there is sufficient light to recognize a casual acquaintance from a short distance.
Night: From when the stars appear until dawn. Preferably, however, before midnight.
If you don’t understand Hebrew, say the Shema in your language.
Ascertain that your environment is clean and modest, and make sure to carefully articulate and enunciate each word. No interruptions for the duration of the prayer.
Cover your eyes with your right hand while you say the first verse—blocking out distracting external stimuli. Recite the verse aloud, for the same reason.
Ideally, men should wear tallit and tefillin—mitzvahs discussed in the Shema—for the morning Shema.
Recite the following verse in a softer undertone: