A new Shema

The Shalom Centre’s Rabbi Arthur Waskow has come up with an updated version of the Shema. The Original starts like this:

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד.
Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.

He has an interesting intro and new twist on the Shema.

Prayer: What is the point? A Sh’ma for the 21st Century

Labor Day has turned our lives from summer somnolence to the cares and caring of community. We prepare to remember the grief and fear and anger of 9/11/01; we move toward Rosh Hashanah, the time of transformation.

For many of us, a time to wish that we might turn toward prayer. But — to what point?

When we thought of God as King, Lord, Judge, Beyond, then prayer — “Please make me healthy,” “Please bring world peace,” “You dazzle me with Your Majesty” — made sense as a plea, a petition, a praise to the Power beyond us, a petition to the Government of the world.

But for those of us who see God as within us and between us and among us, infused in the warp and woof of all life, all Being, what is the point of prayer?

If the elected Governor of a great State leads thousands in words of prayer to redeem his State from the fires and drought that his own actions have brought upon it — pouring flames of coal and oil into Earth’s air — these words are empty of salvation.

Prayer that is truly by heart, not by rote, can awaken us to the great Intertwining, can awaken our awareness that not only we ourselves but our neighbors, our enemies, our trees and frogs and rivers and Full Moons, are faces of God. Can remind us that we ourselves are the arms and legs of God.

Can remind us that if we use our arms and legs to worship not the Breath of Life but idols of power, wealth, ambition — if we multiply burnt-offerings of coal and oil so as to appease those idols of Big Oil, Big Coal — then no words of prayer can redeem our Earth from drought and fire.

But if we intertwine our breath, our words, with holy actions of our arms and legs, we can truthfully celebrate the Intertwining of all life, the Unity. Here is one way to celebrate that Unity, drawing on an ancient Jewish prayer.

Shalom, salaam, peace– Arthur

Sh’ma: An Interpretation for the 21st Century

Sh’sh’sh’sh’ma Yisra’el —
Listen, You Godwrestlers!
Pause from your wrestling and hush’sh’sh’sh
To hear —- Yahhh.
Hear in the stillness the still silent voice,
The silent breathing that intertwines life:
Yahh elohenu,
Breath of life is our God:
What unites all the varied
forces creating
all worlds into one-ness,
Each breath unique,
And all unified;
Yahh echad!
Yahh is One.

Listen, You Godwrestlers!
No one people alone
this Unify-force;
Yahh is One.

At the gates of your cities,
where your own culture ends,
and another begins,
And you halt there in fear:
“Here we speak the same language
“But out there is barbaric,
“They may kill without speaking.”
Then pause in the gateway to write on its wall
And to chant in its passage:
“Each gate is unique
“In the world that is One.”

If you listen, yes listen
to the teachings of Yahh,
the One Breath of Life,
that the world is One,
all its parts intertwined,
then the rains will fall
Time by time,
Time by time;
The rivers will run,
the heavens will smile,
the good earth will fruitfully feed you.

But —
chop the world into parts
and choose parts to worship —
gods of race or of nation,
gods of wealth and of power,
gods of greed and addiction
If you Do and you Make,
and Produce without pausing;
If you Do without Being —
Then the rain will not fall —
or will turn to sharp acid —
The rivers won’t run —
or flood homes and cities;
The heavens themselves
will take arms against you:
the ozone will fail you,
the oil that you burn
will scorch your whole planet
and from the good earth
that the Breath of Life gives you,
you will vanish;
yes, perish.

So on the edges of your Self,
On the corners of your clothing,
take care to weave fringes,
threads of connection —

So you end not with sharpness,
A fence or a wall,
But with sacred mixing
of cloth and of air —
A fringe that is fuzzy,
part yours and part God’s:

A fringe on the body,
a fringe at the doorway,
fringes in time:
When the world might seem split
between strange and familiar,
between sleep and waking,
between eye and hand —
Pause at those moments to remember:
All is One, all connected.
Train yourself to remember.

Threads of connection
Bind us together,
Make One from our one-ness.
Good fringes/ good neighbors.
Deep mirrors/ true seeing.
Time loving/ right action.
The Infinite/ ONE.

For other reinterpretations of prayer for our generation, click here.


Posted 07/09/2011 by lacithedog in Prayer, Sh'ma, Shema

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