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Shema/Vahavta

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One of the most ancient prayers recited by Jews is called the K'riyat Shema, or the recitation of the Shema, meaning "Hear!" In the Torah, Moses declares, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone" (Deuteronomy 6:4), which has become the quintessential statement of Jewish monotheistic belief. The Rabbis ordained the recitation of the Shema and a series of additional selections from the Torah each morning and evening. A series of berakhot, or blessings, was established to be recited before and after the passages of the Shema. Forming its own mini liturgical unit, the recitation of the Shema and its attendant blessings begins with the Barkhu, the formal call to prayer ("Praise the Lord who is blessed!"), and its antiphonal response by the congregation ("Praised be the Lord, who is blessed, forever and ever."). The two blessings preceding the Shema are extended paeans to God on the twin themes of creation of the world and revelation of the Torah. Following the Shema is a concluding blessing thanking God for redemption of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt and obliquely referring to a future, messianic redemption.

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