“Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love Adonai your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:4-5
Within this week’s Torah portion, we come across a passage of scripture that is known as the “Shema”. These words have been repeated by our Jewish brothers and sisters every morning and every night for thousands of years, as a prayer of devotion to God. The first word in Hebrew is Shema, In English it means to “hear” or “listen”. But in Hebrew, the context of the word points to paying attention, to focus, to not just listen, but to hear & respond.
When the congregation of Israel were gathered together at Mt Sinai, God said to them, “If you ‘Shema’ me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all the nations you will be my treasured possession.” Exodus 19:4
We see that from God’s perspective, when he asks his people to Shema, what He is really asking is for them to listen and obey. From a biblical account, listening & obeying are two sides of the same coin.
In Mark 12:28-31, one of the scribes who was also a lawyer came to Jesus and asked him, “Which is the greatest commandment of all?” Jesus responded by quoting the Shema. Calling it the first/greatest commandment, “the second is loving your neighbour as yourself, there is no other commandment greater than these.”
When we look at the message behind these passages, we see the focal point is to love God, and to love one another. When we look at Matthew’s account of this story (Matthew 22:34-40), we see that Jesus tells us that all the Law & the Prophets hang on these two commandments. The fullness of law encompasses loving God and loving one another. We see a reflection of that love in the ten commandments, the first four commandments reflect of our relationship on loving God. The remaining six commandments reflect on our relationship with loving others.
There is unity between loving God and loving one another. 1 John 4:21 says, “and this commandment we have from him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”
Let us ‘Shema’, and be obedient to love God and each other. In doing so, let’s also HEAR and RESPOND and practically PRAY & BLESS the Jewish people who gave us God’s word as it is commanded (Isaiah 40:1).
ICEJ Australia National Director