“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might…” (Deut. 6:4,5).
The Shema, or the Great Commandment, serves as the foundation for the relationship between God and His people. It defines what should take precedence above all things within everyday life. If God’s people were able to adhere to the two commands (to hear in verse 4 and to love God in verse 5) found within it, they would also be able to adhere to the Ten Commandments. This explains why Jesus says in Matthew 22:40,
“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
The meaning and purpose of the daily recital of these words went beyond legalistic rituals. It was a reminder of how the people of God were conduct themselves on a daily basis in their interactions with God, others and themselves. It was designed renew their faith in the ONE TRUE GOD Who had entered into a covenant with them and to remind them of this covenant on a daily basis. Therefore, to recite these words meant to reaffirm the covenantal relationship with God and His right to rule over them as their God and King.
This is the lesson which Moses taught to the children of Israel prior to his death and the entering into the Promised Land. What we must take from this lesson (in today’s contemporary context) is that our relationship with God should take precedence above all things in life. It is the foundation for our daily living and interactions with Him, others and ourselves. This relationship with God brings order within our lives, our relationships with our families, within our communities, and within the world around us. It should not be taken lightly.
Perhaps we, too, should practice reciting the Shema on a daily basis to remind us of the importance of these words. They breathe life into our daily interactions within the world around us and defines who we are in relation to the world around us.