Sh’ma Yisrael; Hebrew: שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל; “Hear, [O] Israel”) are the first two words of a section of the Torah, and is the title of a prayer that serves as a centrepiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services.
The first verse encapsulates the monotheistic essence of Judaism: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one”, found in Deuteronomy 6:4. Observant Jews consider the Sh’ma to be the most important part of the prayer service in Judaism, and its twice-daily recitation as a mitzvah (religious commandment).
It is traditional for Jews to say the Sh’ma as their last words prior to death. and for parents to teach their children to say it before they go to sleep at night.
Sh’ma Yisreal, Adonai Eloheinu,
Baruch Sheym K’vod Malchuso L’olam Va-ed.
Hebrew can be variously translated but, essentially, the words translate as:
Hear, O Israel, the Name is our God,
The Name is One.
Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever.
As well as Leo frank, there are other famous users of the Sh’ma at life’s end:
- Rabbi Akiva patiently endured while his flesh was being torn with iron combs, and died reciting the Sh’ma. He pronounced the last word of the sentence, Eḥad (“one”) with his last breath (Talmud Berachot 61b). Since then, it has been traditional for Jews to say the Sh’ma as their last dying words.
- Roi Klein (d. 2006), a major in the Isreal Defense Forces, said the Sh’ma before jumping on a live grenade to save his fellow soldiers.