This week, a woman who became a great-grandmother for the first time, told me that she would be heading out of town to visit the baby and that during her stay she would whisper the Shema Yisroel prayer into the baby’s ear. This is something that the child’s parents would not be doing because of their lack of knowledge and background. The great-grandmother told me, “Although she is so young, it will leave an impression on her and may in the future awaken in her an interest in her Jewish roots.”
Another person, who was experiencing a health challenge, was encouraged by her young granddaughter to recite the Shema Yisroel each night so it would serve as a protection for her. She was so determined that this would heal and protect her grandmother that she calls each night to remind her to say the Shema.
Our declaration of G-d’s Sovereignty over the world through the Shema prayer has been handed down from generation to generation throughout our history.
The Shema Yisroel statement is recorded in this week’s Parsha. The paragraph that follows the Shema states that it is to be recited in the morning and at night. That is why the Shema is incorporated in our set morning and nightly prayers.
The Shema is also recited when one is retiring to go to sleep as protection.
The Shema is also inscribed on the parchment of Mezzuzos and Tefilin.
The Shema prayer is, “Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokainu Hashem Echad – Hear O Yisroel, Hashem is our G-d Hashem is One and Only.” This is the Jews declaration of belief in G-d’s Dominion over the world and its functions. The six words of Shema represent that G-d Rules over all six directions of the universe.
If you look at the Shema verse as it written on the parchment of a Torah scroll, Mezuza or Tefilin, you will notice that the last letter Ayin of the first word Shema is written in a bold larger font, and the letter Daled of the last word of the verse, Echad, is also written in a bold larger font. Why? These letters are highlighted because when you combine the letters Ayin and Daled, you come up with the word Aiyd – witness, which means, when one recites the Shema, he is in effect stating testimony to G-d’s unity and existence.
Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch o.b.m. says that another reason why these letters are written bold is to protect the veracity of the statement and to ensure that we make no mistake. The word Shema written with an Ayin at the end– means listen, however, the word Shema could be written with the letter Aleph which is pronounced the same as an Ayin, and it would change the meaning to – maybe – which means doubt. In order to protect our clear iron clad belief in G-d, the letter Ayin is highlighted.
The same idea pertains to the last letter Daled of the word Echad. Echad means one, which means that G-d is the One and Only. The letters Daled and Raish in the Alphabet are very similar – the Raish’s corner is rounded while the Daled has a small protrusion. Because of this the Daled is highlighted. For if one would confuse it with a Reish, the word would turn into Achair – other – an alien god, which would be an utter distortion of our Omnipotent all knowing G-d. The bold Daled makes it clear how to pronounce the word.
Shema affords a person protection. The Baal Haturim points out that the first letter of Shema begins with the letter Shin and the last letter of the verse is a Daled. These two letters form the word Shaid ― a demon. The two letters of the word Shaid are separated by the statement of the Shema to convey that reciting the Shema with proper intent eliminates all types of demons from our lives.
Similar to prayers, Shema is an effective prescription with no costs, no hassles with insurances or health providers. All it takes is our expression to communicate with G-d.