Sh'ma and its Blessings


This section includes the introductory Bar'chu, the blessings before and after the Sh'ma, as well as the Sh'ma and its three paragraphs.
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Please put your contributions under the name of the blessing (add any that might yet be on this page - try and keep these in order of the service), quote a source if appropriate, and add your name. As we got this process started, ideas for Avot V'Imahot were uploaded - see the Amidah page of this wiki for a sample format.No points off for spelling or transliteration issues! ;-)

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BAR'CHU
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MA'ARIV ARAVIM/YOTZER OHR
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AHAVAT OLAM/AHAVAH RABBAH
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SH'MA

Praying with our Bodies: Different Prayer Positions (using the Sh'ma)

This is one of several different activities I lead to help families "pray with our bodies."

First I introduce the activity by reminding the families that when we pray, we don't just use our words, our minds, and our hearts, but we also use our bodies. I ask them to give me examples of ways in which we use our bodies in prayer (I call on people, and they invariably say things like "stand up", "close our eyes," "bow," etc.) Then I wonder aloud if it feels different or leads to a different experience of prayer when we are doing different things with our bodies. "Let's do a prayer experiment," I say. I tell them we're going to do the Sh'ma in many different positions. First I ask them to stand up straight, arms at side, eyes open. (I demonstrate what they should do, as I will for all the prayer positions to come) We chant the Sh'ma (just the one line). Then I ask everyone to close their eyes (while standing), and we chant the prayer again. Then we do the prayer while sitting, eyes open. Then sitting, eyes closed. Then I ask them to lie down on the floor (assuming there's enough space), looking up at the ceiling (or sky, if we're outside). We say the Sh'ma again. Then I ask them to go on their knees, with bodies erect and eyes open. We chant the Sh'ma that way. Finally, I ask them to stay on their knees, and crouch down so their heads touch the ground, eyes closed. We chant the Sh'ma again. The last 2-3 positions often evoke laughter... I want them to have fun, but I also try to keep it somewhat focused, since I want them to take the activity seriously and really give it a try. Finally, we go back to our chairs and I ask everyone to turn to someone sitting next to them and say one thing that surprised them about this experience. What was it like to say the same prayer while doing different things with our bodies? After a minute or two, I ask for everyone's attention and have a few people share their reactions. How is it different to pray standing up? Sitting down? Bowing to the ground? Looking up at the sky? Which position felt the most "prayerful" to you?

There are at least two things I do to follow up on this activity... one is to occasionally bring it back later in the year, this time giving everyone the chance to pick their own positions. We'll do the prayer twice, and they have to pick two different positions to pray in. It gives them choice in the prayer experience. The other thing I do (especially in the last week of the school year) is to do this activity and remind everyone that we can pray in many different positions and many different times/places. Sometimes we just feel like praying, and the Sh'ma is an easy prayer to do on your own, wherever you happen to be. You can say the Sh'ma at a swim meet, just before getting into the pool. You can say the Sh'ma while lying in your bed before you go to sleep. You can say the Sh'ma while sitting at the table eating breakfast. It's a helpful reminder (for adults as well as kids!) that although we typically pray as a community, Jewish prayers can in fact be said anytime, anywhere - not just at synagogue.
Posted by Rabbi Nicki Greninger

SH'MA
During services, before you say the Sh’ma, quietly say “Sh’ma [insert-name-of-student]”. Do this with each student’s name in turn, looking at each one when you say his or her name. When you have said everyone’s name, including your own, say “Sh’ma Yisrael” (use a gesture that indicates you're referring to everyone in the room) and begin the Sh’ma. When t’filah is over, ask the students how they felt hearing their names after the word Sh’ma, which means “hear” or “listen.” Stress that we are all part of the people Israel. Just as the Sh’ma puts into words our faith in the oneness of God, the Sh’ma also voices the unity of the people Israel. From a JECC Sh'ma curriculum (in progress).
Posted by Nachama Skolnik Moskowitz.
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Before saying Sh'ma, quietly make the sound of a shin, saying "shhhh" quietly. Then, hold up three of your fingers on one hand (thumb, forefinger and middle finger), creating the shape of a ש. Ask participants to do what you are doing (i.e., holding up three fingers and saying "shhhhhh," softly). Put your hand/fingers over your eyes so your eyes are covered - then, say the Sh'ma.
Based on teachings in the video, "Shema by Rabbi Korngold,"http://youtu.be/r8uy-PqtyxA
Posted by Nachama Skolnik Moskowitz