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שמע | Sh’ma: An Interpretation for the 21st Century by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Aharon Varady - Shhhmmma (CC BY-SA)

Sh’sh’sh’ma Yisra’el —
Listen, You Godwrestlers!
Pause from your wrestling and hush’sh’sh
To hear —
YHWH/ Yahh

Hear in the stillness the still silent voice,
The silent breathing that intertwines life;

YHWH/ Yahh elohenu
Breath of life is our God,
What unites all the varied
forces creating
all worlds into one-ness,
Each breath unique,
And all unified;

YHWH / Yahh echad!
Yahh is One.
Listen, You Godwrestlers!
No one people alone
owns
this Unify-force;
YHWH / Yahh is One.

So at the gates of your cities,
where your own culture ends,
and another begins,
And you halt there in fear:
“Here we speak the same language
“But out there is barbaric,
“They may kill without speaking.”

Then pause in the gateway to write on its wall
And to chant in its passage:
“Each gate is unique
“In the world that is One.”

If you listen, yes listen
to the teachings of YHWH/ Yahh,
the One Breath of Life,
that the world is One,
all its parts intertwined,
then the rains will fall
Time by time,
Time by time;
The rivers will run,
the heavens will smile,
the good earth will fruitfully feed you.

But —
chop the world into parts
and choose parts to worship —
gods of race or of nation,
gods of wealth and of power,
gods of greed and addiction;

If you Do and you Make,
and Produce without pausing;
If you Do without Being —

Then the rain will not fall —
or will turn to sharp acid —
The rivers won’t run —
or flood homes and cities;
The heavens themselves
will take arms against you:
the ozone will fail you,
the oil that you burn
will scorch your whole planet
and from the good earth
that the Breath of Life gives you,
you will vanish;
yes, perish.

So on edge with your Self
take care to weave fringes,
threads of connection.
So you end not with sharpness,
A fence or a wall,
But with sacred mixing
of cloth and of air —
A fringe that is fuzzy,
part yours and part God’s:
They bind us together,
Make One from our one-ness.

Good fringes/ good neighbors.
Deep mirrors/ true seeing.
Time loving/ right action.
The Infinite/ One.


We are grateful to Rabbi Arthur Waskow for contributing his expansion of and meditation on the Shema, originally composed the 6th of Tishrei, 5764 (October 2nd, 2003).

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