Sunday, October 8, 2017

Shema Yisrael - Hear O Israel

Often times when entering the home of a Jewish family one can see an interesting
memento tacked to the right door jamb when entering the house. This is called a Mezuzah literally meaning “doorpost.” It contains a small parchment scroll upon which the Hebrew words of the Shema are handwritten by a scribe. Mezuzah scrolls are rolled up and affixed inside the mezuzah to the doorposts of Jewish homes, designating the home as Jewish and reminding those who live there of their connection to God and of their heritage.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
“And when the Lord your God brings you into the land which he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you, with great and goodly cities, which you did not build, and houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, and cisterns hewn out, which you did not hew, and vineyards and olive trees, which you did not plant, and when you eat and are full, then take heed lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve him, and swear by his name. You shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the peoples who are round about you; for the Lord your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth. (Deuteronomy 6: 4 -15)

The Shema Yisrael meaning “Hear O Israel” are the first two words of a section of the Torah that is the centerpiece of Jewish morning and evening prayers. This is a reminder of how God delivered the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage and servitude having marked the doorposts of their dwellings with the blood of a sacrificial lamb and brought them into the Promised Land. It speaks of God’s expectations for them and how they are to revere Him and behave toward their fellow human beings. There should be nothing strange about this to Christians and Messianic Jews who have been delivered from the eternal penalty of sin and death, having the doorposts of their hearts marked with the blood of God’s own Lamb by faith in Yeshua “Jesus”.

One of the scribes asked Jesus “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12: 28-31)

In light of Jesus’s response to the scribe we then must realize by nature of who He is that there is a greater and more eternal meaning to the Shema as we read the words in Deuteronomy. God delivered the Hebrews from physical bondage and led them to a new land which was but a foreshadowing of an even greater spiritual deliverance and a new future life in an eternal place not built by human hands. This is the promise to Jews who continue to put their faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and to Christians having been grafted into the tree of life by the shed blood of the Lord and in their continued trust in Him. 

The times we live in are becoming continually more stressful for both Jews and Christians because we share fellowship in the same great Promise. And because of that there exists enmity between believers and the God hating world around us as there is a great division in progress. Therefore it is not at all unreasonable to have a mezuzah or some similar meaningful piece of scripture adorning the doorpost of one’s house, one that declares; “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24)