Discover the magic and deep spirituality of the ancient Shema Yisrael prayer, used as a protective amulet and declaration of faith for centuries!
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.
Prayer and Declaration of Faith
The special verses of Shema Yisrael are an integral part of the Jewish prayer book and prayer services. It is traditionally said twice daily, once in the morning and again at night, and we recite it before reading the Torah on shabbats and holidays.
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!
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.
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!)