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    Ending with the Shema

    The fast ends – as does the life of every Jew – with the Shema, “Hear, O Israel, HaShem is our God, the One God.”

    No sentence is more succinct in its statement of Jewish faith, but there was a time when the importance we attach to these words was not yet established.

    Originally it might not have been a statement of theology but an identifying announcement, a preface to the call to love God and keep His commandments wherever we are, when at home or outside, and at all times – at the beginning of the day and the end. It was a practical rule, not a credo.

    In a sense it is like the opening of the Ten Commandments, announcing who God is and proceeding with what He requires of us. It is echoed in Deut. 5:1, “Hear, O Israel, the laws and ordinances which I speak in your hearing this day: learn them and be careful to do them.”

    It seems to be the Mishnah (B’rachot 2:2) which endows the Shema with theological significance as the acceptance of God’s kingship.

    What it does is to say two things – first, know Him and accept Him for Himself, and second, keep His commandments.

    The bridge between the two is the command to love Him, to appreciate Him, to create the right kind of relationship with Him on a theological and mystical level, and thereafter automatically to honour and live by His word.

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