Shema, Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad!
Hear, O Israel, the Eternal is our God, the Eternal is One!
When I served Temple Beth Solomon of the Deaf in Southern California, I worked to learn how to say my prayers in ASL, American Sign Language. As is always the case with translation, there were some tricky bits about making the words of the prayers truly available to the congregation. The first word of the Shema, the central prayer of Judaism, is usually translated “hear.” The problem is that to say that word to a group of Deaf people would lose the very essence of the prayer, because it immediately exclude them.
This dilemma is handled in various ways in various Deaf Jewish communities, but at TBS, they use the sign for “understand” to translate “Shema.”
This led me to think about other ways to translate the Shema into English. “Hear, O Israel” always seems formal and, well, rather passive, and the passage itself, (Deuteronomy 6:4) is emphatic, not passive. Here are my thoughts:
Listen, O Israel, Adonai is our God, Adonai is One.
LISTEN UP! Israel: Adonai is our God, Adonai is One!
Get it straight, Israel: Adonai is our God, Adonai is One.
Or perhaps the best translation I can imagine would be:
(((SHOFAR BLAST))) – Israel! Adonai is our God! Adonai is One!
How would you translate that word?
One thought on “Hear, O Israel!”
The Jewish law bars the deaf from fulfilling the mitzvah of hearing the sound of the shofar.
In the 21st century, with the accommodations for people with disabilities, you can make a cogent case for the hard of hearing that they indeed can “feel” the vibrations of the shofar note. Indeed, if they touch the shofar they can maximize the feel.
Indeed, why should those with disabilities be denied a mitzvah when it can easily be accommodated?
Arthur L. Finkle
For full explanation of Shofar, its influence on prayer and its historical antecedents going back to the Temple sacrifices,