Shema Explained

Shema ExplainedI’ve been wanting to write about the first paragraph of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:5-9) which is pictured above.  I’m going to take it a phrase at a time, a phrase each day.  Okay, maybe I’ll start that the day after tomorrow.  First, it occurs to me, that it might be helpful to give you some background.

The Shema is a liturgical prayer that is included in every liturgical service.  I can’t think of any liturgical service where it is missing.  It is the prayer that is rolled up and placed inside every mezuzah.

Rabbi Trail:  A mezuzah (the Hebrew word for “doorpost”) is a small box (or container that is attached to the doorpost of a Jewish home with a hollowed out place for the Shema to be placed.  It is how we honor God’s command to write His word (from Deuteronomy 6:9) “…on the doorpost of your house and on your gates.”  End RT.

Another Rabbi Trail:  I heard once that a Messianic rabbi (who shall remain nameless because he may read this someday – but I heard this from him directly) was forbidden from teaching anything Jewish in his Messianic congregation.  He was viewed as trying to make the congregation too Jewish.

My comment:  Our Jewish practice is not something we put on and take off (like a talit); our Jewish practice is who we are.  The fact that we have to teach it is made necessary by the non-Jewish people who connect to Messianic Judaism.  And to be straightforward about it, it is frequently true that the Jewish people who connect to Messianic Judaism don’t come having had good Jewish educations, so it is necessary to teach them as well.

Further comment:  More on this… If you’re Jewish, unless you come from an orthodox background, there is a very good chance your Jewish education is spotty at best.  I’ll add to that… even the best of us need a refresher on our Jewish education.

One last comment:  Many Jewish people practice Judaism from rote, habit, or even as a form of ancestor worship.  In many Jewish minds there is a separation between practice and belief.  However; there is a problem when we act without faith (see Hebrews 4:2).  The Scripture specifically warns us against vain repetition (Matthew 6:7 KJV).  All Hebrew liturgy is written and structured to take the place of the Temple (Moses’, David’s or Solomon’s) service in the heart of the supplicant.

Oops, this is the last comment, really:  Picture the 3 tabernacles mentioned above.  Moses’ and Solomon’s are similar with similar furniture and priestly ministry among many blood sacrifices.  David’s Tabernacle is different.  The service in David’s Tabernacle was made without blood, with a sacrifice of praise.  David’s Tabernacle is in the middle and also (along with the other 2) is identified with Yeshua’s ministry.  In Amos 9:11 God promises to restore David’s Tabernacle.  More on this Tomorrow.  End ART.

Well, I’ve frittered away today’s reflection.  Please don’t be irritated with me, I’ll write more if we are granted another opportunity to visit tomorrow, although this is technically impossible.  Are you aware that tomorrow never comes?  Therefore; I can’t truthfully write, “I’ll write more tomorrow.”  And I certainly can’t write, “I’ll more about tomorrow, tomorrow.”  And so it goes.  (I’m still laughing.)

The complete Shema is really made up of 3 sections of Scripture:

  1. Deuteronomy 6:4-9
  2. Deuteronomy 11:13-21
  3. Numbers 15:37-41
For now, we are only going to focus on the first section.  Let’s presume that you are able to master the six words of Deut 6:4 on your own.  The first phrase of Deut 6:5 is “V’Ohavta Et Adonai(YHVH) Elohecha.”  Those 4 words are all we are going to study today.

The first word has a Shoresh of “Aleph-Hay-Bet” meaning love. The verb is in the past tense, second person, singular (you have loved).  The Vav is a converse that changes the tense into a future.  The future tense, second person singular is always the command form, “You shall….”  In this first word of Deut 6:5, “You shall love.”

Before we go on, we must define this command.  What does it mean to love God?  Love has to be more than an emotion or feeling.  Our modern society actually throws this word around a lot.  “I love my new i-phone” might be heard today.

Try this.  It’s my effort, but I can tell you already it can be improved.  Love is  having a heartfelt desire to foster the God-given destiny of another, in a preeminent manner that exceeds desire for self.  It might even be defined as desiring the God-given destiny of another to a degree that IS rewarding at a high level to self.  Therefore, there is an intermingling of destiny.  When we think of loving God, we connect to advancing His kingdom.

The Hebrew word “Et” (aleph-tav) is made up of the first and last letters.  The word itself has no meaning but is a grammatical convention to identify the direct object of the sentence which always immediately follows “Et.”

What follows is “Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay,” the name of God usually translated as “Lord” but in Hebrew the unspoken name of God, Yehovah.  This is the one who is the object of our love.

The last word, “Elohecha” is another name for God, “Elohai.”  The “Cha” at the end is a contraction of “L’cha” that means “to you.”  Therefore, “Elohecha” means “your God.”

So the first phrase commands us, “You shall love the Lord, your God.”  What follows tomorrow is an explanation of degree.  How much shall we love God?

Oops!  Did I fail to mention we are studying what Yeshua calls the greatest commandment? (Matthew 22:36,37) the second part of the verse (pasuk in Hebrew).

Rabbi Trail:  Time for a short Hebrew lesson.  I may use these terms from time to time.  A book is a”Safer.”  The “Safer Torah” is how we refer to the Torah in Hebrew.  A chapter is a “Perek.”  This would be followed by a Hebrew letter(s) to indicate which chapter.  Perek Aleph would be chapter 1.  Lastly, as I mentioned above, a “Pasuk” is a verse.  This may also be followed by the number of the verse using the Hebrew letters as numbers.  Now you know as much Hebrew as I do.  (I can’t teach you more Hebrew because I don’t know more Hebrew.). Just kidding.  End RT.

Yesterday we covered “You shall love the Lord, your God.”  Today we learn to what degree the Lord commands us to love Him.  “B’chol Levavcha, U’V’Chol Nafshecha, U’V’Chol M’odecha.”  Let’s break it down into its obvious 3 components.

Kol (when spelled with a Kaf) means “all.”  (When spelled with a Kuf it means “voice.”)  The Kuf changes from a letter “K” sound to the guttural “Ch” sound that closely matches the sound of the “Chet.”

Rabbi Trail:  There are differences between the sounds of the Chaf and the Chet, but for our American accents and ears they can be treated alike without consequences.  Should you be fortunate enough to learn the difference, you will have an easier time with spelling and consequently understanding as spelling changes meanings.  End RT.

A “Lev” is a heart (Lamed – Bet).  There is a sound alike Lamed-Vav which means “host” (as in Lord of hosts).  The “Cha” is contracted on meaning “to you” or “your” (same as yesterday).  Given this quantifier to love God with “all your heart,” what does that mean?

It means we set our heart on God.

Rabbi Trail:  Our heart is representative of our free will.  Asher Intrater taught us last night how the heart of man made a mess of God’s perfect creation, and how we need the power of God put our lives back in right order.  End RT.

“With all your heart” also means that everything else cascades from that single truth.  All means put God first.  All does not means to ignore all else, but to give all else meaning out of our love for God.  This is how this verse becomes the greatest commandment, because it is the “top button.”

A “Nefesh” is a soul.  It is our intellect, our character.  It is first used to describe Adam who is created, after God breathed on him, as a “L’Nefesh chaya,” a living soul.  It’s where we think to ourselves.  Our Nefesh is where we decide we do when no one is looking.  This is God’s way of telling us to turn our attention to Him.

The last of our qualifiers is based on the Hebrew word “Me’od.”  Me’od means “very much” or “more” or “add to it.”  We usually translate it as “very.”  So this qualifier means “what ever makes you very much of anything, that should love God too.”  In case anything was left out of the previous two qualifiers, then there is this.

This is why we have the phrase in Colossians 3:11b but Messiah is all, and in all.  He is the reality of all things and all our desire should be for Him and His kingdom.  Yeshua didn’t hesitate to pray “Thy kingdom come” and neither should we.



From the beginning of Deutermonomy 6:6… “V’Ha’yu Ha’D’varim Ha’Ayleh”

The first word is.a form of the verb “to be” in a past tense form (Hayu – they were) but with the “Vav Consecutive.”  The Vav Consecutive (I think I misspelled it before) is the convention in Biblical Hebrew that changes the tense of a verb both ways, from future to past, or like this one, from past to future.  Therefore; the best translation here is “And (it) shall be.”

There is no such thing as “it” in Hebrew (only masculine and feminine).  We have to fill in the blank from the next word, Ha’D’varim; literally, “the words.”  (Quickly, “HaAyleh” means “these.”  “These words” are what we are talking about.  What are they?  The words of the previous sentence, “To love God.”

The Hebrew word for “Word” is “Davar.”  That same word also means “Thing” as in “Something.”  A “Thing” is a qualifier for a noun (person, place or thing).  In the Hebrew (Jewish) mind words are powerful.  Words have substance and weight.  They exist in the same realm as tangible things.

Tomorrow we’ll get some further instruction from God on how to deal with or treat these words of His commandment.


On the third line, the last 3 words (in light blue) plus the first two words on line 4 (in orange).  The next six words, “Asher Anochi M’tzav’cha HaYom Al L’vavecha” are explained below.  Summarily, they are translated into English as “which I am commanding you today (are to be) on your heart.”

Asher – This “Asher” is not that “Asher.”  There is an Asher spelled with an Ayen (similar sounding) that means riches.  This word, spelled with an aleph has many possible meanings.

Words that are spelled the same and pronounced the same but have different meanings.  Whoever heard of that?  Well, us!  They are called “homographs.”  They are homonyms that sound alike.

Asher can mean joy and happiness, (the tribe of Asher comes from this meaning), or it can mean which or that (as in “asher kid’shanu”).  It can also mean “guide,” or “blessed” (as in “Ashre”).

Anochi – means “I AM.”  It is a biblical Hebrew word that is usually used when God is referring to Himself.  This is the first word of the 10 commandments in both Exodus and in Deuteronomy. (Ex 20:2 and Deut 5:6).

M’tzav’cha –  This one is a pure homophone (words spelled differently but sound alike).  There is Tzav (Tzadi-Bet), meaning “host” or “army” (as in “Lord of hosts”) and there is Tzav (Tzadi-Vav) meaning “command” as it is used here.  The “Mem” in front makes it a noun.  The “cha” at the end makes it “to you.”  So it becomes a gerund (verb that takes on the form and function of a noun), “commanding to you.”

HaYom – Some letters (like this “Y”) are capitalized to show there is a prefix.  HaYom literally means “the day,” but idiomatically it means “today.”  God is telling us when He is commanding us.  And guess what?  It is always today.  So God’s command is eternal (new every morning).

Al – means “on.”  It is the second part of the airline El-Al’s name.  It also has a homophone (Aleph-Lamed) which means “don’t” and is the first word of many of the 10 Commandments.  This word is spelled “Ayen-Lamed.”  It is a preposition.  Like many of the prepositions it can have many translations into English; on, to, for, about, and many more.

L’vav’cha – A “Lev” (Lamed-Bet) is a heart, usually with a second “Bet” as in “Levav.”  The “cha” at the end is a contraction of “L’cha” meaning “to you.”  This is also a word that can mean “cakes” (5 times) and it is used 7 times to mean “mind,” but it is used more than 260 times to mean heart.  We have the Hebrew idiom “Simu Lev” which literally means “y’all put (your) heart” but translates “pay attention.”

What do we do with God’s command to love Him?  Many of us have made this commitment to God.  “Tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”  Then we wait.  God is saying, “What are you waiting for?”  Okay, God speaks proper English, “For what are you waiting?”

He tells us right here to stop waiting and start doing.  Yes, God is saying right here in the Bible to, “Take this command to love Me and put it on/in your heart (this is written in the singular so it is a command for each of us individually).”

Remember that loving God is what this is all about.  Until we have a change of heart, this is foreign to us.  Our body is designed to reject a foreign object or substance.  Yeshua provides that transfusion we need to enable us to love Him the way we were created to love Him.  May His name be blessed forever.  Amen.

We’ll get more instruction tomorrow with the next 4 words.


Line 4, 3rd word in grey (V’Shinantam) plus the next word in yellow (L’Vantecha), and finally, the next two words in purple (V’Dibarta Bam).

V’Shinantam – (all of the “a”s in these words are pronounced “ahhhh” as if settling into a hot (but not too hot) bath.  Yes, the soothing “ahhhh.”  Are. You feeling tired?  Ready for a hot bath?  Well forget it, you’ve got a RR to read.

This word is translated “teach” but it doesn’t really mean teach.  “Then what does it mean,” you ask.  As with all Hebrew words, all we have to do is look at the shoresh.  “Shanan” means “sharpen.  Starting to see the connection to teaching?

“Shinayim” are “teeth.” The Hebrew letter “shin” is the only letter with 3 tops (like the teeth of a saw).  Picture a barber sharpening his razor using a strap.  He repeatedly swipes the blade to sharpen it.  This is sharpening (teaching) through repetition.

There is a reason some things are on the calendar once (like circumcision) and others are on the calendar every year (some even every month or every week).  God wants all of us to learn through repetition.

L’Vanecha – These are children (the “cha” at the end means they are your children).  This is instruction of parental responsibility to “teach your children through repetition.”

A “ben” is a son.  A “bat” is a daughter.  Any time we have a mixed gender group, the masculine plural is used.  Although “L’Vanecha” is masculine, it does not mean that only the boys should be sharpened.

V’Dibarta Bam – I’m putting these words together because I’m writing this and I want to.  “Bam” means “in them.”  “V’Dibarta” uses the Vav Conversive (we’ve studied this twice before) to take a past tense word and change it to future (which is how we express commands, “thou shalt”).

“Daber” is to “speak.”  Remember, two days ago (on Wednesday) I wrote about 3 words and the middle word was “Ha’D’varim?”  Same root, “davar” meaning “word.”  “L’Daber” means “to speak.”

In these two words we have a command to “speak them,” or idiomatically to “speak about them.”  Who is “them?”  Why it’s “them” words you have just been commanded to put on your heart.  We are getting additional instruction on how to teach them to our children; “speak about them.”

We’ll pick this up again on Monday.  God will go on to tell us when to speak about them.


Today we will learn the next 4 words (all in yellow) beginning with the last word on line 4 (remember Hebrew is right to left), followed by the first 3 words on line 5.

“B’Shivt’cha B’Vaytecha U’V’Lech’t’cha VaDerech”  These 4 words are in two couplets (the cantillation marks show this, but I have not taught you much about cantillation marks).  Therefore; let’s study them as couplets.

B’Shivt’cha B’Vaytecha:  Literally “in dwelling in your house,” which is the actual meaning.  To “shev” is to sit or dwell.  You already know what the “cha” at the end means, but I’ll tell you one last time.  It means “yours” as a contraction of L’cha meaning “to you,” or perhaps Shel’cha meaning “for you.”   A “bayit” is a house.

U’V’Lech’t’cha VaDerech:  To “lech” means to “walk around” (from “holech”).  The “U” in front means “and” while the “V” in front means “in.”  So then this word U’V’Lech’t’cha means “and in your walking around.”

A “derech” is a road.  VaDerech means “in the road.”  The leading “V” means in and the “a” is a contraction of “Ha” meaning “the.”

You do know that every word in Scripture is put there intentionally by God for a purpose (usually more than one purpose).  These two couplets are no exception.

This paragraph started with God declaring His oneness.  Then He tells us how to love him (with all our…).  That is followed by His command to put His instruction in our hearts and to teach them to our children through repetition.

Now we are told “to speak about them,” when?  We are to speak about His words when we are either in the house or in the road.  In other words, when we are home or when we are away.  The is God’s way of saying “all the time” because you are either in your house or you are out of your house.

Tomorrow we will see how God goes even further, telling us we are always up or down, one or the other.


Only 2 words today.  In the colored image above, line 5, the two words in orange.  U’V’Shach’b’cha U’V’Qumecha.

U’V’Shach’b’cha:  (When you) lie down to sleep.  This is found over 200 times in the Hebrew scriptures.

U’V’Qumecha:  (When you) rise up.  Kum is the Hebrew word for rise.  We find it at the beginning of Isaiah 60 “Kumi Ori” Arise, shine, for your light has come! The glory of Adonai has risen on you.

When are we to speak of the words of God?  Yesterday we learned to speak of God when we are in the house and out of the house.  Today it’s whether we are up or down.  In or out, up or down, it doesn’t matter, God wants us to speak about Him in every situation.


Today four Hebrew words in purple near the bottom; (looks like 3 because the last 2 are hyphenated) U’Q’shar’tam L’ot Al-Yadecha.  “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand.”

U’Q’shar’tam: The root Qashar (Kuf-Shin-Resh) means a strong bond (like a band of brothers) found among those working toward a common goal.  It goes way beyond acquaintance to intimacy.

Rabbi Trail:  (Next 3 paragraphs) It’s been a while since we had a good RT.  I think this will be a good one.  Our society places intimacy squarely in the physical realm. (physical intimacy) But, for every physical reality there is a greater spiritual reality, and we are no exception.  In fact, we are the gold standard.

We see, feel and touch what is physical, but what is spiritual in us is just as real, even more so.  To have emotional intimacy (generally) we have to be willing to be open and vulnerable.  You may have heard it described as “let your guard down” or “take off the mask.”

Here, God is calling us to that level of relationship.  Just think, would God created the world so He could have a relationship with you.  Would He ever be satisfied with a superficial acquaintance?  He uses ever word in the Bible on purpose.  God is calling us here to Kesher, ( a deep connection with Himself. End RT

Another Rabbi Trail:  The principle of first use is important in any Scripture study.  Simply put, we learn a lot from the way a word is first used in the Bible.  Every other use of that word going forward must conform to that use.  We can’t just arbitrarily assign new meanings to words as we go along.  End ART.

The first use of this Hebrew root is in Genesis 30:41 where we learn how strong the bond of Jacobs flocks was in bearing healthy livestock for Jacob (and conversely Laban’s were sickly).  By using this word, God is using this word to call us to be a part of Jacob’s flock.  Aren’t you glad?

Rabbi Trail:  To those of you who are Hebrew scholars (or even just Hebrew knowledgable), is this explanation consistent with Scripture and word use?  For the rest of you, you’ll have to take my word for it (or do your own research).  I believe I’m telling the truth, but I am correctable.  (Oh, and I have made mistakes before, but you knew that.)

L’ot: (pronounced L’oat, like you feed horses) An “Ot” is a “sign.”  It carries a connotation of “miraculous sign,” like a sign from heaven.  The first use is when God calls the seasons a sign in Genesis 1 as God created day and night and seasons. (More on this below.)

Al-Yadecha:  Meaning “on your hand.”

God is saying in these 3 words that we are to treat the intimate binding up with Him as a miraculous sign on our hand.  Is is simply coincidental that we swear by raising our hand?  Or that we wear a wedding (sign of the marriage covenant) on our hand?

The rabbis saw these words and came up with tefillin (phylacteries).  These are the black leather straps put on every weekday morning by observant Jewish men.

This paragraph of Scripture is building.  It starts with declaring the oneness of God.  From there is tells us how completely to love Him.  Then, how to meditate and speak of “these words (things).”  And now, to swear by this covenant of intimacy.  Wow!  When we thank God for His Torah (the paragraph we are studying is in the Torah and is called the “greatest commandment” by Yeshua), we are saying a lot.


The four words in orange near the bottom.  V’ha’yu L’totafot Bayne Aynecha.

V’ha’yu:  Simply, this is a form of the verb “to be.”  Not so simply, it is using the “Vav Conversive” to change from past tense to future tense.  Because it is now second person plural future, it is now a command form “you all will ______.”  (Fill in the blank)

L’totafot:  How do we fill in the blank?  With the word “L’totafot” which only appears 3 times in the Bible.  Each time it is in connection with this same teaching (which is repeated), here (Deut 6:8), Deut 11:18, and Exodus 13:16.

Rabbi Trail:  It is unclear to me exactly what L’totafot means.  The word is translated “frontlets” in many places.  What are “frontlets?”  Are they “blinders” like some race horses wear?  The next Hebrew words seem to disavow that thought.

Bayne:  Means “between.”

Aynecha:  Means “your eyes.”

Here God is speaking to us about our eyes.  Why do horses wear blinders?  So they keep focused on what is in front of them.  Blinders keep horses from being “spooked” from things not in front of them.  (Is this speaking to you like it’s speaking to me?)

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. Therefore if your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.

What does it mean to have a good eye?  We are being instructed to keep our eyes on the goodness of God.  This same verse appears in many places throughout the Scriptures…

1 Chronicles 16:34 Give thanks to Adonai for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.


This is the last lesson.  Today we will complete the first paragraph of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).  If your memory is good, you may recall in the first lesson I explained that there are 3 sections of Scripture included in the full Shema prayer.

Rabbi Trail:  If your memory is not so good, go back to May 31st.  The teaching really began on May 30th and has continued off and on until it is concluded today.  You could also just keep reading here. (1. Deuteronomy 6:4-9.  2. Deuteronomy 11:13-21.  3. Numbers 15:37-41). Some of you started your subscription to RR since May 30th, so we are going to build a page for all 10* teachings.

*Sub-Rabbi Trail:  Many of you will get lost here.  There were two introductory lessons on the Shema, plus 10 lessons making 12 all together.   All 12 will be on a page added to our website (, Facebook page (, and a special edition “collector’s item” RR.  Give us a couple of days and we we will conquer the technology.

PS – I know shomair.yisreal (Facebook) is spelled wrong.  The page was set up by my granddaughter who at the time couldn’t spell it correctly.  She is much smarter now.  End RT.

There are 5 words left (beginning with the word in light blue): U’K’tav’tem Al M’zuzot Baytecha U’Visharecha.  “And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gate.”

U’K’tav’tem: Uses the Vav conversive to become future tense.  The “tem” (or perhaps just the “em”) at the end is a contraction of “hem” (which is Hebrew for “them.”  Katav means “he wrote.”

Rabbi Trail:  In ancient times all reproduction was written.  There were no printing presses and certainly no other electronic means of reproduction.  (Actually, there was no such thing as electronic.)

Al M’zuzot:  Meaning on (the) doorposts.  Mezuzot is plural for mezuzah, doorpost.  I’ve taught you about this before.

Baytecha:  Meaning “your house.”

U’Visharecha:  Meaning “and your gates.”

Why does God command that we write His words on our doorpost and gates?  So whether we are coming or going we will meditate on His love for us and His command that we love Him back.

This is the ultimate mutual blessing.  God loves us so much that He sends His own Son to save us from a horrible situation we made for ourselves.  We even abuse the Son, but God redeems even that (it pleased God to bruise Him – Isaiah 53:10) for our benefit.

God redeems our abuse of His Son through Yeshua’s resurrection.  His love for us is complete.  Eternal life is available to those who love Him.  Our love back to Him completes the circle of love and fulfills His eternal purpose for creating the world.

The Shema declares God’s oneness.  Our love for Him is commanded; even to exceed our love for ourselves.  May each of us sanctify (set apart) His name in our hearts forever.