This past year I taught in the Hebrew school at Or Hadash
, a Reconstructionist synagogue in the Philadelphia area. One day, for the regular tefilahLit. Prayer
portion of the afternoon, education director Lori Rubin introduced an activity in which the kids would work together to compose a prayer that expressed the main ideas of the ShemaThe most central prayer in Jewish liturgy, the Shema states: "Hear O Israel, the Lord Our God, the Lord is One." These words are written inside mezuzot and t'fillin. It is traditionally said during all major services and when waking and going to sleep.
in the style of Doctor Seuss. Hearing the kids working on their prayer sparked my imagination, and when I got home that evening I composed this translation.
One thing a lot of us whose first language is English don’t notice about biblical poetry is its rhythmic quality. While ancient Hebrew poetry doesn’t adhere to a strict metrical structure like classical Greek or English poems do, poems found in the Tanakh often do have a much looser rhythmic structure based on patterns of stressed syllables. This rhythm doesn’t often come out in English translations of biblical poems, which often read more like blank verse. That’s why it was interesting to try doing a fairly direct translation in a poetical style (that of Doctor Seuss) with a very rigid meter. It also turned out fairly catchy!
I think this would be a great version to teach children for the bedtime Shema.