Hear O Israel: The Magic of the Shema

Apr 06, 2022  |  By Evelina G
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Hear O Israel: The Magic of the Shema, Judaism’s Ancient Prayer

Discover the magic and deep spirituality of the ancient Shema Yisrael prayer, used as a protective amulet and declaration of faith for centuries!

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The full text of the Shema Yisrael prayer

Shema Yisrael is the quintessential Jewish prayer, taken from the Book of Deuteronomy in the Hebrew Bible. It is usually the first Hebrew verse taught to Jewish children and is meant to be the last one said in our lifetime, marking our connection to the Divine.

The full prayer comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-9, which describes the relationship and special connection that the Jewish people have with God.

However the main part is the opening line, the poignant verse: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord is Our God, the Lord is One.” 

This is considered the classic Jewish declaration of faith, and is believed to be imbued with mystical meaning and protective qualities.

Bracelet with the opening line of Shema Yisrael
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Prayer and Declaration of Faith

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A mezuzah and scroll containing the Shema

The special verses of Shema Yisrael are an integral part of the Jewish prayer book and prayer services. It is said twice daily, once in the morning and again at night, and we recite it before reading the Torah on Sabbaths and festivals. 

The Shema is written in the scrolls placed inside the mezuzahs that we attach to our homes, and in the tefillin that we put on our arm and head. 

Throughout history, the words of the Shema have symbolized the ultimate declaration of faith in the darkest moments of exile.

Hang the special words of the Shema in your own home, beautifully written on a traditional scroll by a professional scribe and placed inside an artistic mezuzah!

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Mystical Meaning

When we say God is “One” as part of the Shema Yisrael verse, we are really declaring that the apparent separation between the Creator and the created physical world is only an illusion. God’s omnipresence is actually hidden within every aspect of the universe. So, practically speaking, the Shema is a declaration that everything that happens has One source above, even if with our limited perception we can’t see it. Similar to light shining through a prism, even though we perceive the separated colors of the spectrum, they really emanate from one white light.

So when a Jew says the Shema, it is really a moment of enlightenment, of expanded consciousness, and so it is customary to cover one’s eyes and focus on the sound and meaning of the words. 

The verse has deep and magical meaning, and has fascinated and inspired mystics, kabbalists, and ordinary Jews for centuries.

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The words "Shema Yisrael" adding special meaning to a Star of David necklace
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Protective Amulet

Given this powerful mystical meaning, it’s no wonder that the words of the Shema have also been traditionally believed to provide protection, health, and success for those who utter or wear them. The Shema has in fact been incorporated into Jewish amulets – special jewelry pieces inscribed with either the opening words or the entire Shema Yisrael prayer, believed to evoke Divine favor and protection – since ancient times.

One of the oldest such amulets, today housed at the Israel Museum, dates to around the 5th or 6th century BCE! (And you can even buy a reproduction of it for yourself here!)

A reproduction by the Israel Museum of an ancient Jewish protective amulet inscribed with the Shema prayer

There is historical evidence for use of the Shema in protective magic all around the Jewish world throughout the centuries, and it continues to the present day.

And you too can get a meaningful and beautiful piece of jewelry featuring the inspiring words of the Shema for yourself or a loved one – see our guide to the top Israeli-made pieces or browse our entire collection!

Wear your Judaism close to your heart and carry on the tradition of the Shema with gorgeous Israeli-made jewelry and amulets!

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