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שְׁמַע | A Paraliturgical Reflection of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9), by Julia Mossbridge

This is an alternative translation of the long version of the shema. I wrote it for a friend who died — it is dedicated to him — Dr. William S. Levin.

Source (Hebrew)Paraliturgical Interpretation (English)
שְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל
יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ
יְהוָ֥ה ׀ אֶחָֽד׃ (דברים ו:ד)
Shhhh…listen up, God-wrestlers!
Do you know God?
God is unity.
[בלחש] בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד׃ (משנה יומא ג:ח, פסחים נו א, מדרש תנחומא – בובר קדושים ו׳, ועוד)
Take a moment to imagine the day that we understand this and can live in peace.
What would that be like?
וְאָ֣הַבְתָּ֔ אֵ֖ת יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ֥ וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁךָ֖ וּבְכָל־מְאֹדֶֽךָ׃ (דברים ו:ה)
What would it be like to love unconditionally
with all your heart and all your might?
All the time?
וְהָי֞וּ הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֗לֶּה
אֲשֶׁ֨ר אָנֹכִ֧י מְצַוְּךָ֛ הַיּ֖וֹם עַל־לְבָבֶֽךָ׃
וְשִׁנַּנְתָּ֣ם לְבָנֶ֔יךָ
וְדִבַּרְתָּ֖ בָּ֑ם בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ֤ בְּבֵיתֶ֙ךָ֙ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ֣ בַדֶּ֔רֶךְ וּֽבְשָׁכְבְּךָ֖ וּבְקוּמֶֽךָ׃ (דברים ו:ו-ז)
This is what it would be like.
You would carry the oneness of Love in your heart.
You would teach the oneness of Love to your children.
You would speak of the oneness of Love when you are at home,
in the car, at the grocery store,
when you are protesting in the streets,
and when you despair because the protests did not work.
וּקְשַׁרְתָּ֥ם לְא֖וֹת עַל־יָדֶ֑ךָ וְהָי֥וּ לְטֹטָפֹ֖ת בֵּ֥ין עֵינֶֽיךָ׃וּכְתַבְתָּ֛ם עַל־מְזוּזֹ֥ת בֵּיתֶ֖ךָ וּבִשְׁעָרֶֽיךָ׃ (דברים ו:ח-ט)
You are going to forget all this because life is hard.
To snap yourself out of this divine hypnosis,
why not wear a piece of jewelry or a special hat?
Or put these words on your doorway?
Seriously, this is only the most important thing that you can ever know.
And even if you do all the things,
the jewelry and the hat and the doorway,
you will still forget.
You are designed to forget and then to remember.

But guess what? We are lucky.
God is still one. And God is still Love.



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