Shema: Responding to God
The recitation of the Shema is preceded by a two blessings, the first of which is quite long, so much so that people assume it is more than one blessing. The first blessing—which begins “Creator of Light”—speaks of the structure of the universe. The second—which begins “With unbounded love You have loved us” and ends Blessed are You, Lord, Who chooses His people Israel with love”—speaks of God’s love for us.
Having reminded ourselves how much God loves us, we then recite the quintessential statement of Judaism: Shema Israel, HaShem Elokeinu, HaShem Echad, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.” After this, we immediately declare our obligation to return God’s love. This declaration, which consists of the first of three paragraphs, makes up the rest of the Shema.