Deuteronomy Jewish Art & Scripture Gifts Resource


The Foundation of our Relationship with God

What is the Book of Deuteronomy?

Deuteronomy is the final book of the Five Books of Moses. In Hebrew, the book is called Devarim, or words. The word “deuteronomy” derives from Greek and means a repetition, or a copy. Many of the laws that Moses gave over to the Israelites are reviewed, repeated, or expanded upon in the book of Deuteronomy. In the 40 days before the Jewish nation entered the Promised Land, Moses reiterated the lessons and experiences of the past 40 years spent wandering in the desert wilderness.  

What are the main themes of Deuteronomy?

The main messages of Deuteronomy are to listen to God, obey His laws, and love Him, heart and soul. Wherever we go, we seek out God’s presence and live out His commandments. Our loving worship of God is what guides our thoughts, our actions, and our relationships.

The Shema

What is the Shema prayer?

One of the cornerstones of the Book of Deuteronomy is the Shema prayer. Shema is an imperative command meaning to hear or listen. The Shema is one of the most essential prayers in Judaism and is recited both morning and evening. The Shema is also recited in the concluding prayers of Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. The words of the Shema are traditionally the final words one should utter before death. Shema is central to daily life, and present at the most significant points in our lives.

By reciting the Shema, we declare aloud that God is the essence of everything. The Shema asserts that despite being one, God is present in all things in the entire universe. When the Shema prayer is said, Jews traditionally cover their eyes with their right hand, allowing them to focus intently on their belief in God without distractions.

The meaning behind the verses

Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is One. 

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 

Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. Impress them upon your children. 

Recite them when you are home and when you are away. When you lie down and when you get up. 

Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead. Inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. 

What is the significance of the Shema?

How fitting that the Shema is part of the Book of Deuteronomy. The principles highlighted in the prayer are precisely those that bear repeating in the Books of Moses as well as aloud in prayer each day. We close our eyes, become present in the stillness of the moment, and state the words aloud. The concepts may seem like a given but they are of vital importance. God is one, and yet He is present in all things. We love God with everything we have. We teach God’s commandments to our children, and they are the guiding edicts that direct all that we do in our lives. 

Deuteronomy 31:6

The meaning behind the verse

Be strong and courageous. Be not in fear or in dread of them; for the Lord your God Himself marches with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. 

What is the significance of Deuteronomy 31:6?

God tells the Jewish nation to show courage and strength. Although life is filled with challenges, we should take comfort in knowing that God walks alongside us and will not let us down even during our darkest moments. We have no reason to be fearful or to lose faith as long as we trust in God. God’s support and guidance shed light on the right way through any hardship. And when things seem hopeless, God is there to comfort us. 

Deuteronomy 31:6 is a poignant reminder from Moses to the Jewish nation before they enter the land of Israel. Moses knows they will face many struggles, just as he knows that he will not be entering the land along with them. They will lack his presence and leadership, and they may falter. In delivering God’s message, Moses gives encouragement to the nation to turn to God with their troubles and challenges. As the aphorism goes, ‘Do not simply tell God how big your problems are. Tell your problems how big God is.’ It is through our connection to God that we learn the true meaning of courage, eliminate doubt and fear from our lives, and know that we are never alone. 

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