“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” – Deuteronomy 11:18-28
Devout Jews took theses words of the Lord God in Deuteronomy seriously. So seriously, in fact, that they would make small boxes, with straps they could wrap around the forehead and on the arm. And in each box was contained the Shema, the beginning of which is: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.” Many Jews continue this practice today to be reminded constantly of the call to love the Lord God with all our being, and neighbor as self.
It is so common today for people to write phone numbers, names and messages on their hands to remember them that it wouldn’t seem so far-fetched for Christians to do the same with Scripture verses they want to remember—verses that are meaningful to us, or personally relevant at that moment in life. For that matter, why not write the Shema? There really is no “better” verse in the Bible than that, which the Lord God Himself commands us to take to heart and soul and keep before us night and day.
I might just be noticing as I visit our congregations during Lent to see if maybe, just maybe, someone has taken this to heart (or hand!) and inscribed, printed, or even tattooed the Shema on their hand! “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.”
Lord God, you are indeed the one true God. Help us to love you always, and to love our neighbor, not just as ourselves, but as Christ loved us, and gave Himself up for us; through the same, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Taken from Wendel, David, From Ashes to Easter, Ashes Lenten Devotional Booklet, North American Lutheran Church.