After reading the title of this article, you may be wondering what the Shema is and what it has to do with Father’s Day. The Shema is based upon the teaching in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, and it literally means in the Hebrew, “Hear O Israel.” For observant Jews, the Shema is to be recited twice a day as a mitzvah (religious commandment). One common practice for Jews is to say the Shema at bedtime every night, and to teach their children to recite it at bedtime as well. One of the surprising things about the Shema, though, is that it helps to summarize the teaching of the whole Bible. In fact, Jesus even summarized His teaching with the Shema. He also added to it the teaching to love our neighbors as ourselves (c.f. Matt. 22:36-40). So what does all of this have to do with Fathers?
Fathers play in extremely important part in raising of our children. Ephesians 6:4 explains that Fathers should not provoke their children, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. This is based upon the teaching of the Shema, which states, “You shall teach them [God’s commandments] to your children” (Deut. 6:7a). Sadly, though, the role of fathering has become significantly undervalued within today’s context. In fact, some of the statistics around fatherless homes are shocking. For example, in 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau found that “children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor.”[i] In 2002, the Journal of Marriage and Family found that “there is significantly more drug use among children who do not live with their mother and father.”[ii] The US Dept. of Health/Census found that 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes.[iii] The Texas Dept. of Correction found that 85% of all youths in prison are from fatherless homes, which is 20 times the average.[iv] Finally, Dr. Edward Kruk noted, “71% of high school dropouts are fatherless; fatherless children have more trouble academically, scoring poorly on tests of reading, mathematics, and thinking skills.”[v] There are many more stats I could cite to demonstrate the importance of fathers, but I am sure the point has been made with the provided facts. What, then, do these statistics demonstrate? They demonstrate that fathers are extremely important!
In seeking to get back to the task at hand, then, I want to show how the Shema speaks to fatherhood. The first overarching statement in the Shema is that the “Lord our God is one” (Deut. 6:4). In this text, we see the first thing a father ought to teach his child is the reality that there is one God, and that we are to love God with all our hearts, souls, and might. Moreover, it is not enough to simply have a cognitive understanding of this. Rather, it should be imprinted upon our very hearts. For Jews, the heart was understood to be the control center of the person (i.e. mind, will, and emotions). Next, God commanded his people to teach the Shema to their children, to talk about it continually in their households, to live according to these standards in their daily lives, and to meditate upon this command day and night. When children see their fathers living according to the Shema, they will be dramatically impacted by their examples. Furthermore, they will have a much better chance of living a joyful and healthy life.
Fathers, you have an extremely important role to play within the lives of your children. Your children look to you and to the example you set. If you are absent from their lives, they may look to other destructive lifestyles to find a meaning and purpose. If we hope to see the statistics change here in America, then, we must determine to be there for our kids. We must set a godly example for them to follow, and allow the Shema to characterize our lives. We must faithfully love God and love our neighbors as Jesus called His followers to do. So in fact, the Shema and Father’s Day are quite related to one another, in that the Shema has profound implications for fathers everywhere.
— Todd Fletcher, Pastor at Chapel in the Hills
[iii] “Statistics.” The Fatherless Generation. April 6, 2010. Accessed May 19, 2015. https://thefatherlessgeneration.wordpress.com/statistics/.
[v] Edward Kruk, Ph.D., “The Vital Importance of Paternal Presence in Children’s Lives.” May 23, 2012. Accessed May 19, 2015. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/co-parenting-after-divorce/201205/father-absence-father-deficit-father-hunger.