Notes on the Shema, Daily D’var

I have an email service known as the Daily D’var with notes on the daily Torah (Chumash) readings and readings from the Gospels and Acts. A community of about 120 people receive them at present. If we pass 200, I’ll have to use some type of email service and quit using Apple Mail.

But I believe very much in the value of reading daily. Chumash (the five books of Moses, Torah) is the obvious choice from the Hebrew Bible. It is the foundation of the Bible (all biblical ideas are tied to something in the Chumash), of Judaism, and in ways that few recognize, of Christianity. The Gospels and Acts are the logical choice from the New Testament. Paul’s letters have gotten inordinate attention to the detriment of the gospel. The apostles used the term besorah or the Greek evangelion (good news, later English coined the term gospel from “God spell”) for the life of Yeshua. The stories of his life are good news, light, and life for us.

Today’s Chumash notes are about the central text of the Chumash, Judaism, and Christianity: the Shema and V’Ahavta (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). If you’d like to sign up to receive the Daily D’var by email, contact me at

Shema (4), V’Ahavta (5), teach these (6-7), bind them on your person and your dwelling (8-9), do not forget in the time of blessing (10-13), revere only the Lord (14-15), keep covenant so your enemies will be driven out (16-19), a haggadah for the children (20-25).

NOTES: Vs. 4 is, of course, the central verse of Judaism. It epitomizes the ambiguity and difficulty, however, of translating ancient concepts from ancient languages into modern contexts. There are two main translation possibilities and several possible meanings for the Shema. Should it be rendered “the Lord is one” or “the Lord alone”? Tigay points out that Zechariah 14:9 plays on the Shema with the relational understanding (“the Lord alone”) speaking of a day when all idols will be discredited and the worship of the Lord will be unified. But this does not indicate that Zechariah was limiting the interpretation of the Shema to the relational aspect. It is likely that the meaning of the Shema encompasses all of these: relational (to be Israel’s sole deity), uniqueness (the Lord is incomparable), singular (the only deity), and unity (all goodness and power are unified in his being). The Shema is pivotally placed, being the beginning of an exposition of the first commandment. Its importance within Deuteronomy stands out, along with its following verse about loving God. Vss. 4-5 make up the heart of Judaism: profound reflection and daily devotion to the concepts of the Lord’s uniqueness, incomparability, relation to his children, and loveliness.


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christian, Gospel, Judaism, messianic, Messianic Jewish, Messianic Judaism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Notes on the Shema, Daily D’var

  1. We were talking about just this subject in our Hebrew class last week. Thank you for once again verifying some of my own conclusions.

    As a side note, my understanding of the Hebrew is that you can’t separate out v. 4 from v. 5, that they’re one sentence with the equivalent of a comma rather than a period in between (the “v” in “v’havta,” as opposed to having a “vay”). Is that your reading of it too?


  2. My weekly bracha and your Daily D’var. Ha, I love it. Sign me up, you have my email.

  3. Return of Benjamin:

    Rather detailed grammatical point you are asking about. A quick peek at Waltke-O’Connor suggests that with a suffix form (Perfect), the Vav and Shewa (Vuh-) is normal and not VAH or VEY.

    So, it can be a conjunction (“and”) but all conjunctions in Hebrew are soft and ambiguous anyway.

    All that to say, I think the “and” belongs there and there is no strong evidence that this is a comma.

    But, if you have a grammar that suggests otherwise, I’d be interested and maybe I have something to learn here.


    • I can’t say that I do. I’m still learning my Hebrew grammar and looking for confirmation and/or denial of what I think I’m seeing as I go along.

      “All that to say, I think the “and” belongs there and there is no strong evidence that this is a comma.”

      I think I misstated my question: I’m asking if rendering the passages, “. . . is One, and you shall love . . .” is a better reading than, “. . . is One. And you shall love . . .” Basically, whether we should understand it as a continuing sentence and a continued thought rather than a hard stop with a period.


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