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    Shema: The polemical prayer – Va’et’channan

    By the time of the Second Temple it was the accepted practice to say the Shema twice daily, evening and morning.

    Special importance was attached to the first line, with its affirmation of God and His Oneness. This line occurred and recurred on its own in many places, which, according to Jacob Mann, was motivated by polemical reasons.

    In Babylon it was almost surreptitiously inserted in the early morning passage, L’olam yehei adam, because Zoroastrianism objected to the unity of God. It was quietly inserted in the Kedushah for Shabbat and festivals because the full Shema was considered too blatant.

    When the Torah was taken out of the Ark on Shabbat and festivals, the Shema was a proud Jewish answer to Christianity.

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