Recently, my Bible study included Deuteronomy 6:4-9, which says this:
4 Hear Israel! ADONAI our God, ADONAI is one; 5 and you are to love ADONAI your God with all your heart, all your being and all your resources. 6 These words, which I am ordering you today, are to be on your heart; 7 and you are to teach them carefully to your children. You are to talk about them when you sit at home, when you are traveling on the road, and when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them on your hand as a sign, put them at the front of a headband around your forehead, 9 and write them on the door-frames of your house and on your gates. —Complete Jewish Bible
In Judaism, this is the beginning of the prayer commonly called the Sh’ma, which is often the first prayer that a Jewish child learns. The Hebrew word Sh’ma is usually translated ‘Hear’, and is an imperative command. It can mean ‘listen!’ or ‘pay attention!’. Moses was speaking to the children of Israel, after reviewing the ten commandments with them, and he wanted to strongly emphasise his point.
I found this text very moving when I read it recently in the beautiful language of the Complete Jewish Bible. It really is the essence of religion and faith in God. As Christians, we are the spiritual children of Israel, and these words are no less applicable to us today.
We’re to love God with everything that we are, lead our children in the same path, and live this in every aspect of our daily lives. Following God is not a part-time occupation.
Some Jewish people take the instructions to tie God’s Word to their hands and forehead, and to write then on their door-frames and gates, quite literally. I respect the dedication and sincerity that that implies, but I don’t think Moses intended it literally. I believe these verses mean that God’s Word is to guide our thoughts, and actions, and to be paramount in our homes. Having words on paper tied to our bodies or written on our doorways may serve a good reminder to our wandering minds, but it means very little if they are not written on our hearts, and lived in our lives.