Did you know that when you breathe you are connecting to God? Or you could be if you were aware of what you were doing. Really.
As part of our experimental Jewish Spiritual Journey Facebook Group, one participant asked me, “Does the word SHEMA have something to do with our breath?” I love the question. Here’s how I answered him:
Shema absolutely has to do with the breathe because it twice invokes the name we call God, the four letter name Yud Hey Vav Hey which we often pronounce as Adonai. Adonai is just a euphemism for Yud Hey Vav Hey, meaning “my Lord”. My Lord was once considered a very high honorific in human society, thus that’s what we used to call God (today we would choose something like “Celestial CEO”).
But this four letter name of God Yud Hey Vav Hey is really unpronounceable, as it consists of four expulsions of breath from the mouth or throat. Yud occurs back where the hanging thing in the back of your throat is. There is no sound unless combined with a vowel. Try making a “y” sound without a vowel attached. Hey, twice appearing is just the expulsion of breath through the open throat. Unless accompanied by a vowel, it just is the unsounding sound of breath release. Finally, Vav stands for the “O” or “OO”, neither of which really make a sound beyond the stop and start of the breath in the mouth.
So when we twice say Yud Hey Vav Hey during the Shema, we are saying that the Breathe that makes no sound IS God, or at least where God resides. God resides in the breathe. God is the breath.
That breath is echad, one, the oneness or unity that unites all life and all creation.
So I ask all of you: Do you connect spirituality and/or breathing with Shema? Do you find yourself more spiritual when you are connected to your breath or breathing?
BTW: Our Jewish Spirituality Journey Facebook group is a closed group (meaning the answers do not appear in the Facebook pages of non-participants). Anyone can join the discussion. Just email Rabbi Paul Kipnes and ask for me to add you to the group. Of course, you have to Facebook Friend me first. Join in. We have already had some great discussions.