For thousands of years, the Jews have been praying the Shema every morning and evening. It is their expression of devotion to God. But, what really is Shema?
Shema or listen
The Shema prayer basically comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-5. “Hear o Israel; the Lord is our God. The Lord is one. And as for you, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all of your soul, and with all your strength.”
“Shema” literally means “hear” or “listen,” which is the prayer’s first word and where it gets its name.
In the Hebrew language, shema does not only mean the “hearing activity.” But, they also use the word to signify “focus” and “attention.”
Moreover, Hebrews also use shema to “respond to what they hear.” For example, in how the Psalmist asked the Lord to shema in Psalm 27:7, “Shema my voice, when I call O Lord, be merciful and answer me.” Asking God to shema is also asking God to respond and do something.
So, when God asked the Israelites to shema, He wanted them to listen and obey. As in Exodus 19:5, “God says, ‘If you shema Me fully, and keep My covenant, then out of all nations, you will be My treasured possession.'”
In ancient Hebrew, there was no distinct word for “obey.” So, in the Bible, if you want to say, “I will listen and do what you say,” you will use the word shema. Listening and doing go hand in hand.
That is why the prophets warned the Israelites of their disobedience and said, “They have ears, but they are not listening.” They mean to say that they hear fine, but they act differently.
Therefore, when the Bible tells us to ‘shema’ or listen, it means more than hearing. It is giving respect to the one speaking and doing what they said.
Reference: Youtube | Bible Project