In this week's Torah portion, Parshat V'Etchanan, Moshe says to the Jewish people those epic words we say every morning and evening in prayer, the words we strive to have on our lips when our souls leave this world, the words that have become the slogan of the Jewish people, the Shema.
Here is a short explanation of the ideas that should be present in our mind when we recite these holy words:
Shema - Listen: We close our eyes and focus on listening, not seeing. To really connect with God we must be ready to listen to Him, to contemplate on our lives, to try to hear the deeper messages from God that might not be evident as we go about our daily lives. Just like music has a much deeper emotional effect on us when we close our eyes and just listen, so too the messages of faith are meant to be listened to in the deepest way.
Yisrael - Jewish people: Yisrael refers both to the Jewish people and to our forefather Jacob, who was known as Yisrael. We remind ourselves that the Yisrael in us isn't an adjective describing us, it is who we are, it is our essence. Also, we are quoting the words Jacob's sons told him on his deathbed when he doubted their commitment. They reassured him by saying this verse. Just in case we have any doubts, just in case our faith is waxing and waning, we recite these words of reassurance that our faith is still strong.
Ado-nai Elokeinu - God is the governing power over all the forces in the natural world: Elokeinu is a word that refers to the Divine hand guiding the world in its natural order. Polytheistic religions believed that the forces of nature worked independently from each other, hence the sun gods, moon gods, wind gods, good and bad gods, etc. But we acknowledge that all of nature is the hand of the One God, the work of a Higher, Omnipresent Force Who guides nature with perfect harmony. The Tetragrammeton, Y-H-V-H, which we pronounce Ado-nai, refers to God's specific care and concern with every individual and His trait of compassion that defines His relationship with us.
Ado-nai Echad - God is One: These words remind us that the ultimate purpose of the Jewish people is not to be inwardly focused but to share our message with all the nations of the world. That is our dream as a people, and our job. By living with holiness and purity, we can inspire the rest of the world to live the sweet and pure way of life the Torah prescribes for all humankind. This is the Torah's description of the world in the Messianic Era. These words are also supposed to remind us that we are supposed to perceive the world around us as one big opportunity to connect with the Almighty and that everything we do - our livelihood, building a family, experiencing the world, the good times and the bad - should all be channeled in some way to bringing us closer to our loving Father, thus bringing to fruition God's Oneness.