Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad (Deuteronomy 6:4).
The Shema is an unusual prayer. While prayers are often directed to God, the Shema is more a theological statement of belief. How the words are translated, contributes to its meaning. After translating the beginning as “Hear, O Israel,” we might translate the second part in one of many ways. For example, “Adonai is our God, Adonai alone;” “Adonai our God is a unique Adonai; or even, the more familiar “Adonai is our God, Adonai is One.” Each is slightly different. The first states that we have no other god but Adonai. The second stresses Adonai’s extraordinary existence and the third Adonai’s singular existence. Even without a precise meaning, the phrase has become a “watchword” of our faith and its liturgical importance is unmatched.
When written in Torah and in our prayer book in Hebrew, the last letter of the word Shema, ayin, and the last letter of the word echad, dalet, are enlarged. Together ayin and dalet spell the Hebrew word eid, meaning witness. It is said that when we recite the Shema, we bear witness to the Oneness of God. May we always be blessed to have our actions match the offerings of our hearts.