Learning the Sh'ma #3

(Previously on "31 Days of Encountering Judaism" ... I talked about wanting to learn the Sh'ma and started sharing why I could pray this prayer and mean it." I am not an expert on this. Also, you can find an index of all the 31 Days of Encountering Judaism here)

The next part, though, is trickier. (BTW, the translation I'm using is initially from the Reform Mishkan T'filah siddur/prayerbook but then I used my Bible app and I don't remember which translation I used. Oops.)

"Take to heart these instructions which I charge you this day. Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead: inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

Let's start with the first line: "Take to heart these instructions which I charge you this day."

If we constrain the context to the prayer itself, I am comfortable with it, as described yesterday. However, that might well be proof-texting.

Within the context of Deuteronomy, Moses has just delivered the commandments in the chapter before (Deut. 10), and there are 600+ rules that are to follow the words that are in the Sh'ma. Rules that include not being able to eat shellfish or wearing mixed fibres. Huh.

Both Jesus and Hillel say that all the laws boil down to loving God with all our heart, all our soul and all our might, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. (Yes, Hillel said it first, sorry fellow Christians.) This is even said in Deuteronomy 11, before Moses repeats the part about telling your children and writing them on doorposts.

"So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today -- to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all of your heart and with all of your soul -- then I will send rain...." (Deut. 11:13-14a)

and again in Deut. 11:22: "If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow -- to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him and to hold fast to him --"

Moses, Hillel and Jesus all agree, these are the most important instructions/commands and are the purpose of all the Law. So I can agree to keep to the purpose of the Law. No worries.

Um, writing this out turned longer than anticipated, so tune in tomorrow for my reflection on if I can pray: "Impress them upon your children .... doorposts of your house and your gates."


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