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Shema v’Ahavta (Hear O Israel)

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Originally, the Shema consisted only of one verse: Deuteronomy 6:4 (see Talmud Sukkot 42a and Berachot 13b). The recitation of the Shema in the liturgy, however, consists of three portions: Deuteronomy 6:4–9, 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37–41. The three portions relate to central issues of Jewish belief.

Additionally, the Talmud points out that subtle references to the Ten Commandments can be found in the three portions. As the Ten Commandments were removed from daily prayer in the Mishnaic period (70-200 CE), the Shema is seen as an opportunity to commemorate the Ten Commandments.

There are two larger-print letters in the first sentence ('ayin ע and daleth ד) which, when combined, spell "עד". In Hebrew this means "witness". The idea thus conveyed is that through the recitation or proclamation of the Shema one is a living witness testifying to the truth of its message. Modern Kabbalistic schools, namely that of the Ari, teach that when one recites the last letter of the word "'eḥad'" (אחד), meaning "one", he or she is to intend that he is ready to "die into God".

The Seham v'Ahavta is said in the morning Shacharit service, and in the evening Maarive service. The first part only is also part of the "bedtime Shema."

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 6:4-9

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Devarim (Deuteronomy) 11:13-21

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Bamidbar (Numbers) 15:37–41

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