The first, pivotal, words of the Shema are, in the original Hebrew:
שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָֽד׃,
which can be transliterated:
Sh’ma Yisra’el, YHVH ‘eloheinu, YHVH ‘eḥad.
Rabbinic Judaism teaches that the Tetragrammaton (י-ה-ו-ה), YHVH, is the ineffable and actual name of God, and as such is not read aloud in the Shema but is traditionally replaced with אדני, Adonai (“LORD”). For that reason, the Shema is recited aloud as:
Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Ecḥad
“Hear, O Israel: the LORD is our God, the LORD is One.”
The literal word meanings are roughly as follows:
Sh’ma — listen, or hear and do (according to the Targum, accept)
Yisrael — Israel, in the sense of the people or congregation of Israel
Adonai — often translated as “LORD”, it is read in place of the YHVH written in the Hebrew text; Samaritans say Shema, which is Aramaic for “the [Divine] Name” and is the exact equivalent of the Hebrew “ha-Shem”, which Rabbinic Jews substitute for “Adonai” in a non-liturgical context such as everyday speech.
Eloheinu — the plural 1st person possessive of אֱלֹהִים Elohim, meaning “our God”.
Echad — the unified and cardinal number one אֶחָד
בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד
“Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever”
The following verses are commonly referred to as the V’ahavta according to the first word of the verse immediately following the Shema, or in Classical Hebrew V’ahav’ta meaning “and you shall love…”. They contain the command to love God with all one’s heart, soul, and might (Deuteronomy 6:5). The Talmud emphasizes that you will, at some point, whether you choose to or not, and therefore uses “shall” – future tense – love God.
Then verse 7 goes on to remind the community to remember all the commandments and to “teach them diligently to your children and speak of them when you sit down and when you walk, when you lie down and when you rise”, to recite the words of God when retiring or rising; to bind those words “on thy arm and thy head” (classically Jewish oral tradition interprets as tefillin), and to “inscribe them on the door-posts of your house and on your gates” (referring to mezuzah).
V’haya im shamoa
The passage following the Shema and V’ahavta relates to the issue of reward and punishment. It contains the promise of reward for serving God with all one’s heart, soul, and might (Deut 11:13) and for the fulfillment of the laws. It also contains punishment for transgression. It also contains a repetition of the contents of the first portion -but this time spoken to the second person plural, (Whereas the first portion is directed to the individual Jew, this time it is directed to the whole community, all the Jews).
The third portion relates to the issue of redemption. Specifically, it contains the law concerning the tzitzit (Numbers 15:37-41) as a reminder that all laws of God are obeyed, as a warning against following evil inclinations and in remembrance of the exodus from Egypt. For the prophets and rabbis, the exodus from Egypt is paradigmatic of Jewish faith that God redeems from all forms of foreign domination. It can be found in the portion “Shlach Lecha” in the book of Numbers.
Cover your eyes with your right hand and say:
Hear, O Israel, the L-rd is our G‑d, the L-rd is One.
Recite the following verse in an undertone:
Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom forever and ever.
You shall love the L-rd your G‑d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you today shall be upon your heart. You shall teach them thoroughly to your children, and you shall speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.
And it will be, if you will diligently obey My commandments which I enjoin upon you this day, to love the L-rd your G‑d and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, I will give rain for your land at the proper time, the early rain and the late rain, and you will gather in your grain, your wine and your oil. And I will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be sated. Take care lest your heart be lured away, and you turn astray and worship alien gods and bow down to them. For then the L-rd’s wrath will flare up against you, and He will close the heavens so that there will be no rain and the earth will not yield its produce, and you will swiftly perish from the good land which the L-rd gives you. Therefore, place these words of Mine upon your heart and upon your soul, and bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, to speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise. And you shall inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates – so that your days and the days of your children may be prolonged on the land which the L-rd swore to your fathers to give to them for as long as the heavens are above the earth.
The L-rd spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the children of Israel and tell them to make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to attach a thread of blue on the fringe of each corner. They shall be to you as tzizit, and you shall look upon them and remember all the commandments of the L-rd and fulfill them, and you will not follow after your heart and after your eyes by which you go astray – so that you may remember and fulfill all My commandments and be holy to your G‑d. I am the L-rd your G‑d who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your G‑d; I, the L-rd, am your G‑d. True.