It is customary after saying the last words of the section of Deuteronomy that contains the shema to continue into the first word of the next prayer, emet, “truth.” So these three words are:
adonai eloheyhem emet yud hey vav hey, your G*d is truth.
Many religious seekers are looking for “the truth,” and many religions claim to offer “the truth.” Of what value could it be to say that G*d is truth? Emet, the Hebrew word for truth, is composed of precisely the first, middle, and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. There is a Jewish mystical tradition that aleph represents your past, mem your present, and taf your future. So truth is the combination of what was, what is, and what will be. In this prayer the name for G*d is the tetragrammaton, the four letters of the most sacred name, which is made up of all forms of the verb “to be,” for “what was, what is, and what will be.” So G*d is not a fixity in Judaism: G*d is a process, life is a process, and truth is a process composed of your past, present, and future.
Why is this prayer located right here? You are at the rung of prayers for preparing yourself for the highest level of the service, finding and expressing the prayer of your heart. Letting go of attachments to what the truth is and opening your heart to new awareness is crucial to achieving a beneficial prayer state. Here is a movement meditation to help this section of morning prayer take hold more fully in your consciousness.
- Take the form of the letter aleph (א) by lifting your hands above your head and opening your stance slightly wider than normal. In some way connect with the sweep of your past in your imagination.
- Allow your fingers to touch and lower your arms so they are in front of you. Now you are a letter mem (ם), containing this moment, the present, what is.
- Bend down and become a taf (ת) by gracefully opening your arms outward. Give birth, yield, release into your future.
As this becomes a familiar movement sequence, you might slowly chant eh-mmm-meht, eh-mmmm-meht. A sequence of emotional states may fill you as the expansive power of this approach to G*d and truth so carefully preserved for us by our ancestors continues to reveal itself to you. Should you weep, allow this to happen fully for you; it is a very holy moment. Emet contains two Hebrew words, em, “mother” and met, “death.” Certain illusions die during this meditation, and something feeling much like truth may be born.— Goldie Milgram in Meaning & Mitzvah