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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Six Words

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

Parshat Va'etchanan continues to review the actions of the Israelites in the desert and the many transgressions that prevented Moshe from entering the Promised Land are highlighted. In addition, Moshe recounts how close God is to the Israelites and the many ways that God has shown favor to the nation. The Parsha contains much wisdom, including the ten commandments.

The Shema is included in Parshat Vaetchanan. I do not know if this poem does justice to a statement of belief. In my mind, as I wrote this piece, was the memory of saying the Shema as our parents lay dying. The words of the Shema, which follow us through our lives, are anchors to our belief. Whether recited Al Kiddush HaShem, by martyrs such as Rabbi Akiva, or in a first grade classroom, or as a goodnight prayer, these six words link us to God and to each other.

I can only hope that these words can do some small bit of justice to this statement which defies all descriptions.

Six Words

And once there was a word

expanding to six

Like the six days of creation

each word a spark

an enigma

a mystery



A command

From a mountaintop hidden in clouds







The words

formed in fire,

etched in stone.

And from that fiery beginning

from the force known as God,

to the lips of Moses,

our teacher,

came the words

that cemented

a people.

And once they were uttered

in a whisper or a shout

it was a beginning

and they have been


again and again,

pronounced as many times

as the stars in the firmament

as the waves in the tide,

as the sands of the sea.

From then until now,

From now until



not of war or peace,

not of sadness or happiness

not of life or death.



HaShem is your God

HaShem is one


From perceiving

to hearing

to recognizing

to affirmation

to obeying

We say it

We sing it

We call it out

We expand it

We cry it out

We argue it

We beseech it

sometimes said with no thought

and sometimes with the very strength

of our being

We whisper it to ourselves

when we

are frightened.

We teach it



to our children.

When we say it together

it is a power that is magnified.

When we whisper it alone

it gives us comfort and strength.

We say the words and we remember

We say the words and we are.

We are.

The words,

the one, the six

They travel with us through our lives

our moves,

our transitions.

Through good and the bad.

Through the sad and the happy

From morning until night.

The words are our challenge,

our comfort.

They are our honor,

our privilege,

our inheritance.

Six words which define us.

They are,

from generation to generation

our connection.

They are Your hope for us.

They are our commitment.

They are the ring upon our finger.

Binding us forever,

One to each other.

Six words

a marriage of forever

in sickness and in health.

They are our constant,

our north star

our guide

as the world swirls around us.

Shema Yisrael HaShem Elokeinu HaShem Echad

Words that have escaped from

lips bloodied and cracked.

The words are there at our beginning.

They are there with us

as we take our last breaths.

*****. ** ***** **

From the top of a mountain

the words came.

Sis words

branded in fire.

Once there was one word

that expanded to six.

Your words

Our words

Ringing from the mountain

or whispered

softly in our hearts

so only our souls can hear.

Shema Yisrael HaShem Elokeinu

HaShem Echad

May we merit always to recite these words.

שְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יְהֹוָ֥ה ׀ אֶחָֽד:

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. Deuteronomy 6:4 (Translation from Sefaria)

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