The Rabbi of my shul, Rabbi Gershon Schaffel, decided to create a fantastic program which I think everyone could vastly benefit from. Since there are 21 days in this month, he has decided to study the 21 pesukim of Shema through a podcast. Each podcast will take A MERE FIVE MINUTES. Everyone can spare five minutes a day for Torah! The way the podcast is structured is like so: First, my father reads the pasuk with correct Ashkenazi pronounciation, then R' Schaffel speaks about the pasuk, then Steve Goldfarb reads the pasuk with correct Sephardi pronounciation.
I am going to link the podcast episodes here, and, if possible, write down what R' Schaffel said so that we can all learn together. As usual, any and all mistakes are mine.
This will be linked on my sidebar for easy access.
1. Day 1
The simple translation of the pasuk is 'Hear O' Israel, Hashem is Our God. Hashem is One.' Let us now endeavor to try and understand the deeper meaning of this pasuk. The term 'Shema' doesn't merely refer to the act of hearing. The term also includes an understanding of the concepts that are presented. R' Shimon Schwab in his commentary to the siddur takes it one step further and explains that it is not sufficient for a person to hear and understand the message of Shema, but one must make sure that the upcoming message is never forgotten. The declaration of Hashem's unity is preceded with the phrase 'Shema Yisrael.' R' Yehuda Leib Chasman wonders why it is necessary to address the Jewish nation as an introduction to Shema. Seemingly, emunah in Hashem is a personal matter! It has nothing to do with the rest of the nation. He answers by noting that the Torah was given to the nation, not to the individual. This means that every member of Kelal Yisrael is responsible for every other member's belief in Hashem! Therefore, emunah's not the personal matter as we initially thought; it is one that is important to the entire nation, a collective responsibility. As an expression of that understanding, we preface our statement of belief with a call to the entire nation of Israel.
'Hashem Elokeinu.' The term 'Elokim' always refers to Hashem as the one who is in control of the world and nature. The nations of the world have an angel that is directly responsible to oversee their wellbeing. The phrase 'Hashem Elokeinu,' 'Hashem, Our God,' explains the Netziv, indicates that unlikes other nations, Hashem Our God is the one who personally oversees the wellbeing of Kelal Yisrael and does not assign an angel for that task. The Sifri looks at the phrase 'Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad' and finds a redundancy. Why is the phrase 'Hashem Elokeinu' necessary if we are going to declare 'Hashem Echad?' The Medrish answers that His name is called on us more than the other nations. R' Moshe Nezhara offers two beautiful explanations on the intent of this Medrish. He explains that although Divine Providence reaches the other nations, as expressed with the phrase 'Hashem Echad,' 'Hashem is One,' nonetheless Divine Providence reaches Bnei Yisrael in a more concentrated, direct fashion. And that is the additional emphasis of the phrase Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem is our God. Alternatively, although 'Bayom Hahu,' on that day in the future when Mashiach comes, all the nations will recognize Hashem Echad, Hashem is One, in the present it is only Bnei Yisrael who recognizes His authority and His dominion and thus we emphasize Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem is our God today, even though in the future it will be Hashem Echad and Hashem's unity will be universally recognized.
R' Yisrael Salanter is famous for reminding people that when they declare 'Hashem Echad,' 'Hashem is One,' and they meditate on the fact that Hashem's unity encompasses the entire universe, including the seven heavens and the four corners of the world, they should not overlook declaring Hashem's unity over the most important part of the universe- themselves. The gematria, numerical value, of the word 'echad,' alef, ches, daled, is 13. Rabbeinu Bachya points out in Parsha Breishis the term 'gan' for garden appears 13 times and similarly in Parshas Ve'eschanan, in the description of Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah, the word 'eish' also appears 13 times. This teaches us that one who has proper intent in declaring Hashem's unity will be saved from the fire of Gehennim and will merit the 13 levels of Gan Eden. Lastly, the ayin of the word Shema and the daled of the word Echad are written with larger letters. Those letters spell the word 'eid,' witness, to indicate that we are to be witnesses to the two principles expressed in the pasuk, 1) Hashem's unity and 2) His unique and close relationship with Bnei Yisrael.
2. Day 2
The simple translation of today's phrase is 'Blessed is the name of His honorable kingdom for all eternity.' Let us delve deeper into the meaning of this phrase. The word 'sheim' as in the phrase 'blessed is the name' is the way in which we capture something in a word. The Biblical name of anything is a spiritual description of that item. The term malchus, kingdom, refers to the way in which Hashem's kingdom is perceived. If the presence of the kingdom is not felt in the land, it is worthless. The strength and power of a kingdom is measured by the degree it is felt by the citizens of the land. Thus, the meaning of the phrase is 'Blessed is the name,' meaning we bless our perception of Hashem, of His honorable kingdom, referring to the closeness we feel to His kingdom, for all eternity.
This phrase is not a pasuk in Tanakh. And the Avudraham quotes two different accounts in Chazal for the origin of this declaration. According to the Medrish, when Moshe Rabbeinu ascended to the Heavens, he heard the angels recite this praise of Hashem and he stole it from them and taught it to Bnei Yisrael. Since it was stolen, he instructed them not to recite the declaration out loud so as to not draw attention to the stolen phrase. This is why, throughout the year, when we recite Kriyas Shema, we say the phrase 'Baruch Shem Kevod' quietly. On Yom Kippur however, we make the declaration out loud since on that day we are like Melachim, like the angels themselves. The second account of this phrase is found in the Gemara in Pesachim. The Gemara relates that when Yaakov was on his deathbed he wanted to share with his children what would happen to them at the End of Days. At that precise moment, the Shechina, the Divine Presence, left him and he was suspicious that this was an indication that one of his children would not remain loyal to Hashem. When he verbalized this concern to his children, the twelve tribes, they put his mind at ease by making the declaration: Shema Yisrael, Hear, our father Israel, Hashem Echad, Hashem is our God and he is One and we are going to remain as loyal to Hashem as you were throughout your lifetime. As an expression of apprecation to Hashem that his children would remain loyal, Yaakov made the declaration 'Baruch Shem Kevod Malchuso L'Olam Va'ed' - blessed is the name of his honorable kingdom for all eternity.
R' Chaim Soloveitchik is quoted as citing the pasuk 'ki shem hashem ekra, havu godel elokeinu'- 'when I call Hashem's name, ascribe greatness to Hashem,' as the reason to say Baruch Shem Kevod after the pasuk of Shema. Meaning, after they make the declaration and call his name with the phrase 'Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad,' 'Hashem is Our God, Hashem is One,' at that moment, we have the obligation to ascribe greatness to His name and we do that with the declaration 'Baruch Shem Kvod.' Accordingly, the explanation offered by the Gemara in Pesachim regarding the origin of this pasuk is really addressing a different question than where the pasuk came from. What the Gemara is answering is why the phrase 'Baruch Shem Kevod Malchuso' appears immediately after Shema rather than putting it at the end of the paragraph 'V'ahavta.' That, the Gemara says, is the connection between Shema and Baruch Sheim. I think the significance of this can be explained in light of a comment by R' Shimshon David Pincus. He discusses the clarity of truth that a person achieves when he contemplates the words of Shema. When the impact of those concepts becomes clear, we are overwhelmed by the fact that the rest of the world has not yet been privileged to see these truths. Therefore we daven 'Baruch Shem Kevod Malchuso' for all of the other nations to also achieve a clarity of belief in Hashem, recognizing His Malchus, His Kingdom, l'olam va'ed, for all of eternity. In this regard, the declaration of 'Baruch Shem Kevod' is more dear than even the declaration 'Shema Yisrael.' Shema Yisrael is a declaration of absolute truth of Hashem's existence but that is not the intended goal of Keriyas Shema. The intent is that we should incorporate these principles into our lives. R' Pincus compares this to a parent who asks his/her child for a cup of water and the child prepares a cup of tea. With this action, the child demonstrates the love he/she has for the parent. So too, our obligation is only to recite Shema Yisrael. But the extra declaration of Baruch Shem is something that we become inspired to do on our own, and that is why it is so precious to Hashem.
3. Day 3
Simple translation of today's pasuk is: And you should love Hashem, Your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all of your posessions. Let us delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk. Rashi explains that the command of the pasuk, V'ahavta, and you should love, means and you should perform mitzvos lovingly. The Gemara in Yuma writes that the pasuk instructs us to behave in a way that leads people to love Hashem. We are to be so honest, so just and so upright in our behavior that people will wonder our motivation for behaving in such an honest fashion. And when they find out that it is the instruction and guidelines of the Torah, this will lead them to also become ones who love Hashem. Many commentators wonder how the Torah could command us to feel the emotion of love to Hashem. Either I love Hashem, or I don't! But the command seems to be completely out of place. The Sfas Emes responds that the question is itself the answer. The Torah is informing us that the nature of a Jew is to love Hashem just as a child naturally loves a parent. It's true that there are times when this is difficult and that love might be buried deep beneath the surface, but it is always there and it is our job to figure out how to uncover and feel that love. In response to the same question, R' Akiva Eiger suggests that the answer is found in the bracha in Shema. That bracha concludes with the words 'ha-bocher b'amo Yisrael b'ahava.' Hashem who chose His nation of Israel with love. When a Jew realizes that Hashem loves him, it is only natural to love Hashem back. Like the pasuk says, 'K'mayim panim el panim, kein leiv ha'Adam.' Just like water reflects a person's image, so too a person's heart reflects the love that s/he is shown. This love, the Torah says, must be b'chol levavcha- with all your heart. The gemara in Brachos explains this to refer to "shnei yitzrecha"- both inclinations. The good inclination, the yetzer hatov and the bad inclination, the yetzer hara. Talmidim of Rabbeinu Yonah explain that the yetzer hatov relates to the performance of mitzvos whereas the yetzer ha'ra refers to overcoming the urge to sin. Employing both traits is the ideal. R' Yisrael Salanter elaborates on this and explains that one who serves Hashem with the yetzer ha-tov may still possess character traits that require attention and improvement. At this level, one uses his intellect and broad perspective of life to refrain from acting out those sinful impulses. Loving Hashem with one's yetzer ha-ra is a higher level where one is capable of redirecting and channelling the negative traits into positive ones that serve to further enhance one's service of Hashem. The pasuk further explains that one's love of Hashem must also be b'chol nafshecha u'bchol m'odecha: with all one's soul and with all one's resources. The gemara in Brachos explains that b'chol nafshecha obligates a person to be willing to give up their life out of love of Hashem. This reminds us of the story in Chazal of Rabbi Akiva, who at the moment that he was being tortured to death was seen by his students accepting upon himself Hashem's kingdom. His students were aghast. !Even now, at your moment of death?" In a great of display of calm and presence of mind, in the midst of the horror of his own death, he replied that this was what I always thought about when I recited this pasuk- a willingness to even give up my life out of love of Hashem. And now, I shouldn't fulfill it?
B'chol meodecha, the Gemara says, refers to the necessity to give up one's posessions in service of Hashem. Maharal points out that the Torah expects us to display our love of Hashem in 3 ways-
1. B'chol levavcha: With our bodies
2. B'chol nafshecha: With our souls
3. B'chol meodecha: With all of our posessions
encompassing our entire being.
4. Day 4
The simple translation of today's pasuk is: And these matters which I command you today should be on your heart. Let us delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk. Rashi quotes the Midrash which connects this pasuk to the previous pasuk which says 'V'ahavta es Hashem elokecha,' and you should love Hashem your God. How does a person develop ahavas Hashem, love of Hashem? The answer, the Midrash says, is today's pasuk: vehayu ha'devarim ha'eila. When we take Hashem's Torah and put it into our hearts, we develop a love of Hashem.
R' Chaim HaKadosh explains: That love is not something that one could force another to feel or sense. Therefore, one who does not yet feel love of Hashem or someone who seeks to deepen and strengthen their love of Hashem has but one thing to do. Vehayu ha'devarim ha'eilah: pursue the study of Torah. Allow the words of Torah to penetrate your heart and that will lead to ahavas Hashem, love of Hashem.
R' Elazar from Kozhnitz points out an interesting choice of words in the pasuk. The pasuk says that the words of Hashem should be 'al levavecha' which literally means 'on your heart.' Contrast this with the pasuk we say in Aleinu- 'v'yadata hayom v'ha'shevoisa el levavecha'- 'you should know today and take to your heart.' El Levavecha, the pasuk from Aleinu, sounds like something taken into your heart, whereas al levavecha sounds as though the message is to remain superficial- on the heart but not to enter into the heart! R' Elazar from Kozhnitz answers that there are difficult times in our lives where we are incapable of transferring spiritual, ethereal concepts into our hearts. That does not mean that our attempts to put things into our hearts is gone; during difficult times, we can put things on to our hearts. When the time comes for Hashem's mercy to open our hearts, all the Torah that has been waiting on the outside will finally be able to penetrate and have its desired effect.
The Alshich connects today's pasuk to the next pasuk which states 'V'shinantam l'vanecha,' and you should teach them to your children. Every Jewish parent dreams that their children should be connected to and have a love of Torah. The question we ask is: how do we succeed at teaching our children this lesson? The Torah itself tells us 'v'hayu hadevarim ha'eila'-take the words of Torah and place them on your heart. Once you, the parent, have succeeded in putting a love of Torah into your own heart, you are then prepared for 'v'shinantem l'vanecha,' teaching them to your children.
R' Shimon Schwab in his commentary to the Siddur emphasized the simple meaning of this pasuk. V'hayu ha'devarim ha'eila- take these words, the words of Torah- that I, Hashem, or that Hashem, b'chvodo v'atzmo, that Hashem personally, with all of His honor and glory, commands to you. The word is not in the plural speaking to the nation. It is in the singular form- metzvecha to emphasize that Hashem addresses each and every one of us personally hayom- today. Each and every day Hashem addresses us directly and gives us the message of loving Hashem and studying His Torah. R' Schwab goes on to relate the conversation he had with someone who was not Orthodox who claimed he had followed the tradition of Judaism the same as those who are Orthodox. R' Schwab gave an astounding response. He told his friend that he does not do mitzvos because his ancestors performed the mitzvos. "It's true," R' Schwab said, "that I take great pride in the fact that my ancestors going back to Har Sinai fulfilled the Torah but that is not the reason why I fulfill mitzvos. The reason why I fulfill mitzvos," R' Schwab taught his astonished friends, "is because Hashem commanded me personally today to observe the Torah." That is the significance of the phrase, 'asher anochi metzavecha hayom' - that which I command today.
5. Day 5
The simple translation of today's pasuk is: And you should teach them, referring to the Torah, diligently to your children. And you should speak of them while you sit in your house, and as you walk on the way, and as you lay down and as you rise. Let us now delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk.
The phrase 'v'shinantem l'vanecha,' and you should teach them diligently to your children, the gemara in Kiddushin explains, means that the words of Torah should be sharp in one's mouth. Meaning, one should be fluent in the words of Torah that one studies. The etymology of the word is from the word 'shana' which means repetition. The word is also used to refer to the sharpness of an arrow or a knife. These are not two separate explanations; rather, an arrow or knife is sharpened by the repeated action of rubbing an arrow on a whetstone. Similarly, fluency in Torah is achieved when one reviews the material many times. Review of one's Torah studies has a second benefit, namely, it allows the words, ideas and inspiration to remain fresh in one's mind rather than become faint and fall into the unconscious part of one's mind. The gemara in Yuma presents two explanations of the phrase v'dibarta bam, and you should speak in them. One explanation is: bam yesh lecha reshus l'daber v'lo b'torah acheirim. One has permission to speak in Torah but not in other matters. This strict interpretation indicates that one may not talk about matters that are not Torah-related. The second explanation of the phrase is 'asei osam teva v'al ta'asei osam arai.' Make them fixed and primary in your life rather than a temporary, secondary activity or a mere hobby. This implies that other conversations are permitted but one must be certain that the Torah conversations are primary. Is it permitted to discuss other matters or not? The Sefer Maalos HaTorah answers that both are correct and it depends on one's activity. While studying Torah, one should strive to fulfill the first interpretation, to limit oneself to only Torah conversation. This is similar to the mishna in Pirkei Avos that criticizes one who interrupts his learning to comment on a beautiful tree. The second interpretation applies when one is involved in other activities. B'shivtecha b'veisecha u'velechtecha baderech u'bshantecha u'vkumecha. When one is sitting in their home, walking on their way, going down to sleep or rising in the morning, even when one is engaged in other activities, one must mantain the perspective that Torah is still primary.
The Vilna Gaon is cited as noting that the word 'bam' of the phrase 'vedibarta bam' is written with a beis in the mem. The beis alludes to Torah She'Bksav, the Written Torah, which begins with the letter Beis - the phrase 'Bereishis Barah.' The mem refers to the Oral Law, Torah She'Baal Peh, which begins with the letter mem in the first mishna in Shaas- me'amaisai karim l'shma? The phrase u'vishevtecha b'veisecha u'velechtecha baderech, when you sit in your house and walk on your way, represents the obligation to study Torah in the two extreme circumstances. Sitting in one's house represents a place of serenity, removed from the business of the world. Traveling on the way is when one is besieged with distractions. Both circumstances can lead a person away from the study of Torah. Therefore, the Torah emphasizes the necessity to study even in those circumstances and obviously at every point in between. Some of the Baalei Mussar, Teachers of Ethics, write that the word 'b'veisecha' -in your house, does not refer to the physical structure of one's house, the bricks and mortar; rather, it refers to the way one runs his/her household. A person should strive to include Torah in all of one's regular and mundane activities. Finally, the words b'shachbecha u'vekumecha, when you lay down and when you rise, also represent the obligation to study at two ends of the spectrum. When a person lays down to go to sleep, s/he is tired and weary from a long, exhausting day. When a person rises, s/he is filled with energy and excitement for the new day. In both circumstances, in both conditions, one must think about and discuss Torah-related matters.
6. Day 6
The simple translation of today's pasuk is: And you should bind them on your hands and they should be 'totafos' between your eyes. The term 'totafos' is a word that refers to Tefillin but is difficult to translate. Let us delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk.
The Alshich explains that the paragraph of V'ahavta has already emphasized the importance of thinking about and speaking words of Torah, and in this pasuk there is an additional emphasis on the importance of maaseh, action. The verb of the pasuk, 'u'keshartem,' and you should bind them, is a symbolic act of putting theory into practice. In this regard, the mitzvah of Tefillin is a model that reminds us of our obligation to take all the Torah that we study and translate it into our behavior. One reason Tefilin is placed on the arm and between the eyes is explained by R' Menachem ben Aaron ben Zaruch, a fourteenth-century scholar, who lived in France and Spain. In his work on the siddur, called Tzeida L'Derech, he explains that Tefillin are placed on the arm because the hand represents a person's actions. The command of Tefillin is that we should place a reminder of Yetzias Mitzrayim, the Exodus from Egypt, on our hand to be reminded that all one's activities should be l'sheim Shamayim, for the sake of heaven. The second part of one's Tefillin are placed on the head between the eyes to serve as a reminder that one must be careful not to follow all that glitters is gold and be led to sin by one's eyes. He also mentions that the Tefillin on the arm which are near the heart and on one's head, which are near the eyes, represent the two sources of sin. The Tefillin on the arm are placed near the heart to serve to protect from sins related to emunah, belief in Hashem, which is housed in one heart. The Tefillin worn near one's eyes represent the sins that involve some sort of physical pleasure and the combination of the two is to protect us from all categories of sin.
The Vizhnitzer Rebbe of Monsey makes an interesting observation concerning the order of the pasuk. Regarding the Tefillin that one wears on one's head, we are told: V'ro kol amei ha'aretz ki shem Hashem nikra alecha. And the nations of the land will see that Hashem's name is called upon you. Regarding Tefillin worn on the hand, we are taught that it serves to subjugate our physical desires. The fact that the Torah instructs us regarding the hand Tefillin before the head Tefillin teaches that before we go out to improve, elevate and uplift the nations of the world as a light unto the nations, we must first become masters over ourselves. Furthermore, one who tries to reverse the order is certainly doomed to failure.
The word 'Totafos' as mentioned, is difficult to explain. Some commentators understand it to be related to the word 'netifos' found in Sefer Yeshayahu which refers to a type of adornment. In other words, Tefillin are a badge of distinction in addition to serving as an 'os,' reminder of the earlier-mentioned concepts as a tangible sign of the connection between the Jewish people and Hashem. This idea that Tefillin binds us and establishes a connection between us and Hashem explains the halakhic requirement to have a clean body when wearing Tefillin which does not apply to the same degree by other mitzvos. Since Tefillin have the unique capacity to bind us to Hashem, we are held to a higher standard. It is specifically the bind between us and Hashem represented by the Tefillin that the other nations will notice and cause them to realize that Hashem's name is called upon us.
7. Day 7
The simple translation of today's pasuk is: And you should write them on the doorposts of your house and of your gates. This is the mitzvah to write the first two paragraphs of Shema onto parchment and affix them to one's doorpost. Let us delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk.
The simple thought behind the mitzvah of Mezuzah is offered by the commentary to the siddur Tzeida L'Derech where he writes the purpose of the mitzvah is to remind the person, when he leaves and when he returns of 1) the yoke of Heaven as expressed in the first paragraph of Shema and 2) the yoke of mitzvos as expressed in the second paragraph of Shema. Another thought related to Mezuza is found in the Alshich. He observes that when a person is alone it is more difficult for that person to succeed over his yetzer hara and resist the temptations that come his/her way. This was the concern of R' Yochanan ben Zakkai, who when asked by his students to bless them, said, "Yehi ratzon she'tihiyeh moreh yiras shamayim aleichem k'mayim basar v'dam." May it be the will of Hashem that your fear of Heaven should be like your fear of mankind. When asked by his students to elaborate, he explained that when people sin their concern is that a friend or perhaps a loved one will see them and do they not express concern that Hashem will see them. Therefore, R' Yochanan ben Zakkai blessed his students to fear heaven to the same degree that they fear their fellow man. Out of concern for this tendency, Hashem commanded us to put a mezuzah on our doorposts so that when we go in and out, but primarily derech biascha- when we go in- we should remain cognizant of the fact that we are not alone and that awareness can serve to protect us from the temptation of sin.
In the commentary Iyun Tefilah, found in the Otzer HaTefilos siddur, he writes that the mezuzah is a siman, a reminder that all of a person's posessions are Hashem's and it is out of His kindness that He shares them with us. Moreover, like food, it is prohibited to benefit from Hashem's property without first giving thanks to Hashem. The reason the reminder is affixed to a person's home is because one's real estate is the most enduring of a person's possessions and this best serves as the vehicle of this reminder. He also emphasizes that a person should not mistakenly believe that the purpose of the mezuzah is to protect one's home from harmful spirits. He describes this belief as a 'ta'us gedolah,' a great error. The mezuzah is not an amulet of sorts that has supernatural powers. It is one of the mitzvos of Hashem, whose purpose is to remind the person that he should be cautious of committing a sin. It is not a homeowner's insurance policy to protect one's home from harm. Although it is true that the mezuzah does protect one's home, it does so not due to something special about this particular mitzvah, but rather it has the same power as any other mitzvah which protects those who fulfill that mitzvah from harm.
As we conclude now the first parsha of Shema, it is important to point out that many commentators take note that the first paragraph of Shema, which begins with the pasuk of Shema and V'ahavta is written in the singular form whereas the second paragraph of Shema that we begin to study tomorrow, im yirtzeh Hashem, begins with the words v'haya im tishmoa yishmeu begins in the plural form. The reason for this is that the first parsha addresses a person's belief in Hashem and those beliefs reside in a person's heart. Consequently, just as it is known that there are no two people that look exactly the same, so too it is impossible to find two people who have exactly the same views, perspectives and thoughts. Therefore, the first parsha of Shema is written in the singular form so that it could speak to each person according to his level of understanding, belief and emotional connection to Hashem.
8. Day 8
The simple translation of today's pasuk is: And it shall be, if you listen to the mitzvos that I command you today, to love your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul. Let us delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk.
The term 'vehaya,' explains the Sefas Emes, always connotes simcha, or joy. Accordingly, in our pasuk, the meaning is that in proportion to the amount of simcha one has in fulfilling a mitzvah, the degree one merits to understand the depth of that mitzva. The phrase 'im shamoa tishmeu l'mitzvosei' is a curious phrase. The emphasis is not on the performance of mitzvos but on hearing the mitzvos. A person does not have control over circumstances and whether the mitzvos will be fulfilled but a person does have control over the ability to listen well. The double expression 'shamoa tishmeu' stresses the importance of hearing and understanding the mitzvah as well. Some commentators take note of the choice of term 'anochi' rather than 'ani.' They explain that the term 'anochi' is a stronger term and it is reminiscent of the most famous 'anochi' of all, that of 'Anochi Hashem Elokecha,' the word that begins the Aseres HaDibros. The pasuk teaches that the purpose in doing mitzvos is: l'ahava es hashem elokeichem, to love Hashem your God and u'lavdo, to serve Him. This expresses two different dimensions of the relationship with Hashem. One dimension is a love we are to have for Hashem. The love that we refer to is love that emanates from our appreciation of the relationship we have with him as Hashem Elokeichem, Hashem Your God. The second dimension of the relationship is that we are slaves to Hashem, obligated to serve Him as expressed in the phrase u'lavdo b'kol levavechem u'vchol nafshechem. This dimension instills in us a humility, a necessary trait to speak to Hashem in prayer. Many commentators wonder what this pasuk which instructs us to love Hashem adds that it did not know from the previous paragraph, which also instructs, 'v'ahavta es Hashem elokecha,' and you should love Hashem, Your God. Based on the gemara in Taanis, R' Chaim Volozhin explains that the previous paragraph of Shema emphasizes love of Hashem in genearl whereas our paragraph emphasizes specifically avodah she'beleiv, service of the heart, which is Tefillah. This leads to an interesting observation from R' Shimon Schwab. The concept of davening is not just avodah she'beleiv is relatively familiar. What is the meaning of the continuation of the pasuk that demands service of Hashem b'kol nafshechem, all of our souls? He answers that there are in fact two types of prayer: 1) Tefilla B'Leiv- Prayer in one's heart and 2) Tefilla B'Nefesh, prayer with one's soul. What is the difference between these two types of prayer? Tefilla B'Leiv, prayer of the heart, refers to those types of prayers that look to our physical or spiritual needs. These are the types of requests found in the middle section of Shemonah Esrei. The second type of prayer, Tefilla B'Nefesh, prayer of the soul. In this category we do not daven for our needs but for Hashem. We yearn that the desecration of Hashem's name that exists should cease, that His name should be glorified and sanctified. It is called Tefilla B'Nefesh since we put aside our needs and focus on Hashem's interests.
The last point related to this idea is that our pasuk, addressing specifically prayer, is written in the plural as opposed to the previous paragraph written in the singular. The reason is that when it comes to prayer, it is important for us to realize that we do not have the merit to stand before Hashem and place before Him our requests. If Avraham Avinu was afer v'efer, nothing more than dirt and ashes, certainly we are even lower. The merit that we have to stand before him is to invoke the power of Tzibur. As a member of the Tzibur, one does not have to rely on his/ her merit but has the support of the whole entire Tzibur.
9. Day 9
The simple translation of today's pasuk is: And I shall give the rain of your land in its time, the early yoreh rain and the later malkosh rain; you should gather your grain, your wine and your oil. Let us delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk.
Commentators note that the pasuk does not say 'v'nasati metar' and I will give rain- and stop- rather, it says, 'v'nasati metar artzechem'- and I will give the rain of your land. Your land obviously refers to Eretz Yisrael. Interestingly, the pasuk before this paragraph states, 'aretz asher Hashem elokecha doresh osa tamid, m'Hashem elokecha ba'- the land which Hashem your God always seeks; the eyes of Hashem your God are always upon it. This emphasizes that rainfall upon Eretz Yisrael is not the result of nature; it is a result of divine decree as befitting the holy land. This principle is further accentuated when the pasuk goes on to say 'b'ito yoreh u'malkosh,' in its time the early yoreh rain and the later malkosh rain. The emphasis that the rain will fall in its time indicates that the rain won't fall randomly, as it does in other places; rather, it will fall at appropriate times. This means, according to Chazal, that the rain will fall at night rather than during the day, it will be disruptive to daily life. Furthermore, the needs of the ground at the beginning of the rainy season is different from the needs of the ground at the end of the rainy season, into the spring. The pasuk is telling us when we do the mitzvos, each rainfall will be appropriate and beneficial to its time.
We mentioned yesterday that the paragraph of 'v'haya im shamoa' is in the plural addressing the nation. What's interesting is that in today's pasuk the Torah switches from plural to singular. The pasuk begins with the phrase, 'v'nasati metar artzechen,' and I shall give the rain of your land- the term artzechem, your land- is in the plural. It then continues to state 'v'asafta degancha tiroshecha' - and you shall gather your grain, your wine and your oil. All the words in this phrase are singular. Furthermore, in the other pesukim, the paragraph returns to plural. Why? Alshich suggests that the Torah does its wording carefully to convey important principles. When addressing the issue of hearing about the mitzvos and its fulfillment, the Torah uses plural language based on the principle 'b'rov am hadrus melech,' in the multitudes of the nation is the glory of the King. When discussing the reward in store for those who listen to the mitzvos, the Torah utilizes the singular form because individuals do not receive the same reward. Each individual is reward l'fum tzara agra, in proportion to the effort and difficulty that he/she faced when doing a mitzvah and although the pasuk says 'v'nasati metar artzechem,' and I will give the rain of your land (in the plural), nonetheless, the same rain will be more beneficial for some and less beneficial for others. Therefore, the pasuk says, 'v'asafta deganecha,' and you will gather your grain to highlight the fact that whatever each individual gathers from his field is a portion designated for him by divine decree.
The philosophical difficulty with this pasuk is that the gemara in Kiddushin states, 'sechar mitzvah v'hay alma lekin,'- there is no reward for mitzvos in this world. The reward for mitzvos is infinite. It is not possible to give an infinite reward in this finite world. How then are we supposed to understand our pasuk that promises rain for the performance of mitzvos? Rambam answers that the promise of reward in our pasuk does not represent the infinite reward for mitzvos; rather it is a reward that is given as encouragement to the individual to continue in his avodas Hashem. This is also the meaning of the mishna in Pirkei Avos that states 'mitzvah goreres mitzvah'- one mitzvah leads to another, and 'sechar mitzvah, mitzvah,' the reward for one mitzvah is another. Success serves to faciliate the individual's progress in service of Hashem.
10. Day 10
The simple translation of today's pasuk is: And I shall give grass in your field for your animals and you shall eat and be satisfied. Let us delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk. The pasuk doesn't merely assure that when compliant with the Torah we will be blessed to su ch a degree that 'venasati eisev,' we will have an abundance of grass to share with our animals. Rather, the pasuk also promises that 'venasati eisev b'sadecha' - the grass will be available in your field. Rashi explains that the blessing that there will be unecessary to go into the wilderness to obtain food for one's animals; it will be available nearby in your very own field.
The next word of the pasuk, livhemtecha, to your animals, adds an additional dimension to the bracha. The grass that Hashem promises to provide will be designated exclusively for your animals. And other animals, whether wild or owned by others, will not come to pasture on your property and take away the food that is designated for your animals.
The words 'v'achalta v'savata'- and you shall eat and be satisfied- also emphasizes another aspect of the bracha Hashem is promising for devout commitment to Torah. The words indicate that as soon as one eats, he'll be satisfied meaning the food will be endowed with the special capacity to make a person full so it's unecessary to eat in excess. Commentators note that this last phrase of the pasuk is seemingly out of order. In the previous pasuk, the Torah promised us the brachos of rain that will bring an abundance of grain, wine and oil. The end of that pasuk should have concluded with the words 'v'achalta v'savata'- you will eat and be satisfied. Instead, the Torah interrupts the discussion of the blessing that provides for our abundance and tells us of the blessing that provides for our animals. Why does the Torah present these thoughts in this fashion?
One explanation is offered in the Eitz Yosef commentary to the Otzer HaTefilos siddur. He suggests that both pesukim are focused on the bracha that is coming to Bnei Yisrael. The reason the pasuk mentions animals is because animals play an integral part in the production of grain, wine and oil. There are many steps in the agricultural process that rely heavily upon the strength of animals. therefore, the Torah tells us that since it is necessary to have healthy, well-fed animals to do all of that difficult work, Hashem will provide plentiful supply of grass for the an imals so that they can assist in making the field productive. When Chazal looked at the unusual presentation of concepts, they saw a hint to the halakha that requires a person to feed his animals before feeding himself.
An interesting contrast between this pasuk and the previous pasuk is that in our pasuk, the emphasis is that Hashem is the one who puts the grass in the field for the animals. 'Venasati eisev b'sadcha'- as opposed to the previous pasuk wh ich tells us that Hashem will provide rain- 'venasati metar artzechem' - but does not mention anything about Hashem providing the grain, wine and oil. The reason relates back to the sin of Gan Eden where Adam and Chava ate from teh forbidden tree. One of the curses that resulted from that sin was 'b'zeis apecha to'chalecha' - by the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread. The design of the world was that man's needs would be provided not only in abundance, but without effort, as we see the animals experience. Animals do not have to work the land in order to eat. Each species has food and nourishment that is available. Not only is it available but Hashem designed the grass of the field in such a way that it spreads by itself- so the animal can move from one pasture to another and then back again. Mankind, however, suffers from the sin of Adam HaRishon and as a result Hashem provides the rain but it is our job to do the work to make the land productive so that our nutritional needs are fulfilled.
11. Day 11
The simple translation of today's pasuk is: Guard yourselves, lest your heart become foolish and you will turn away and you will serve other gods and you will bow down to them. Let us delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk. Rashi sees a connection with today's pasuk that turns against turning away from Hashem to other gods and the end of yesterday's pasuk. Yesterday's pasuk concludes with the words 'v'achalta v'savata,' - you shall eat and be satisfied. The concern of the Torah is that 'keivan tihiyu ochlim u'sevayim, hishamru lachem'- once you will be eating and full, 'hishamru lachem,' guard yourselves, because at that exact moment a person is at risk at moving away from Hashem, 'she'ain adam moreid neged Hakadosh Baruch Hu, ela mi'toch seviya,'- a person doesn't rebel against Hashem except as a result of being sated. Some commentators understand the word 'yifteh' to mean 'to be seduced.' In other words, one should not be seduced away from Hashem towards other gods. Others understand the term to be related to 'pesi,' meaning fool, like in the pasuk 'Toras Hashem Temimah' which concludes with the phrase, 'machkimas pesi'- it makes the foolish wise. In other words, one must not be foolish and allow his/her material success to believe their material success is due to their own wisdom, acumen or skill. One must believe it is a blessing from Hashem to provide encouragement in one's service of Hashem.
The term 'vesartem' and you will turn away, indicates a step away from Hashem, but not quite far enough that one is worshipping other gods, which is mentioned in the next phrase, 'v'avadetem elohim acheirim.' Rashi explains that the first step away from Hashem and towards worship of idols occurs when one separates from the Torah. The inevitable result of one who separates from Torah is that he is led to idolatry. 'She'keivan she'adam poreish me'Torah'- once a person separates himself from Torah, says Rashi, 'holech u'medabek b'avodah zarah,' he will go and attach himself to idolatry. Although the person's arrogance should have only taken him away from Hashem, he becomes foolish enough to adopt the ways of idolaters that he knows has no merit. This idea is expressed later in Parshas Re'eh, where the Torah tells us that people led astray will declare: Eicha ya'avdu hagoyim ha'eila- how do these nations serve their gods- v'eseh kein gam ani- and even I will do the same?
Some commentators understand the pasuk as referring to a person who believes in Hashem and is willing to perform the mitzvos and avoid transgressing them. The person in this pasuk is one who foolishly believes that worship of Hashem can be performed without Torah study as part of their commitment. It is specifically the commitment to Torah study which makes Judaism unique. Torah study is not just for the scholars; it is our belief that everyone must engage in Torah since it is through the study of Hashem's Torah that you have the opportunity to interact with Divine wisdom. True Judaism cannot exist without a commitment, however large or small, a podcast to Torah study.
R' Elchanan Wasserman, in the name of his rebbe the Chafetz Chaim, explained a pasuk with the following mashal, parable: If two people of two nations are fighting with one another and one side seems to be overpowering the other, we have no assurance that that side will win the battle. It could happen that the next time the two sides engage, the other side will prove stronger or more skilled at war. The only way to be certain of victory is if one side takes away the weapons and armor of the other. When that occurs there is no hope for the losing side to emerge victorious, since they don't have the resources for victory. So too, as long as we are committed to Torah, we can emerge victorious against our battle with the yetzer hara, no matter how badly we failed. But once we lose our connection to Torah, we lose the invaluable resource necessary for victory.
12. Day 12
The simple translation of today's pasuk is: And Hashem's anger will flare up against you and he will shut the heavens and there will be no rain and the ground will not give its produce and you will speedily go lost from the good land which Hashem is giving to you. Let us delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk. In the Torah's description of Hashem's anger, the Torah says 'vechara af hashem'- and Hashem's anger will be flared up. This name of Hashem, spelled yud-hey-vav-hey, usually signifies the name of Hashem associated with rachamim, mercy, and yet when we turn away from Hashem and follow idolaters' practices, even that name of Hashem, the merciful name, could be kindled into anger. The result of Hashem's anger is that the heavens are shut and there will be no rain. The purpose of Hashem's anger is to lead us back to the point where we began to turn away from Hashem so we could recalibrate our perspectives and realign ourselves with Hashem and His Torah. Therefore, since it was the rain and dthe subsequent bounty that led us to the arrogant belief that it was our wisdom and skill that led us to our prosperity, Hashem shuts the sky and withholds the rain so that we should be reminded of his role in our lives and should not become the fools who think that they will be the cause of their success.
Despite the fact that the Torah says there will be no rain, it is necessary to state that the ground will not give its produce. The reason is because it is possible to irrigate one's field and by doing so one is no longer relying upon the rain to make the ground give its produce. Therefore the Torah assures us that during the time of Hashem's anger, even if we attempt to short-circuit his plans, the ground will not give its produce. Commentators take note of the fact that when Hashem is angry with the Jewish people he uses the heavens and earth to express that anger. It is the very Heaven and Earth that Moshe Rabbeinu calls upon to serve as witnesses to the message that he shares with them at the beginning of Parshas Haazinu that are now called upon to be the agents that lead the people to repent. In addition to the shutting of the heavens and earth, the Torah makes it clear that it will speedily go lost- meaning, sent into exile and banished from Eretz Israel. The pasuk emphasizes that this exile will happen meheira, quickly. Rashi explains that Hashem will seemingly not demonstrate patience - it will be exiled quickly. The reason Hashem will exile us quickly rather than show patience like He did during the generation of the flood is because during the generation of the Flood, there was no one to teach them so that they should know better. In contrast, we have a Torah and teachers and sefarim and even podcasts, so we don't have any excuse why we turn away from Hashem and worship idolatry.
The last idea that is emphasized in the pasuk is that the exile will be from 'ha'aretz ha'tovah asher Hashem nosein lahem'- the good land Hashem is giving you. We are reminded of the fact that the land is good and capable of providing sufficient produce to provide for the entire nation. Furthermore, this good land was given to us by Hashem. Not only was it promised to our ancestors, but when we entered the land in the time of Yehoshua, Hashem gave us the land with great miracles and defeated the mighty kings who were occupying the land at that time. One would expect gratitude in terms of service of Hashem in return for receiving such a mighty land. When we become ungrateful and turn to other gods, Hashem exiles us from that good land so that we should be inspired to repentance.
13. Day 13
The simple translation of today's pasuk is: And you should put these words of mine upon your heart and upon your soul, you should bind them as a sign on your hands and as a totafot between your eyes. Let us delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk. According to some commentators, the pasuk is referring back a couple of pesukim. The Torah warned, Hishamru lachem pen yifteh levavchem-guard yourself lest your heart become foolish. How does one guard oneself lest one's hard becomes foolish? 'Vesamtem devarai al levavchem v'al nafshechem'- and you should put these words of mine upon your heart and upon your soul. When a person takes the word of the Torah and places th em upon one's heart, meaning one's mind or thought and onto one's soul, meaning one's free will and emotions, he or she puts up a barrier of protection from going astray. Other commentators understand today's pasuk as addressing what happens after a person has strayed away from Hashem and now seeks to return. This is based on Rashi's comment that the pasuk is addressing our circumstances after we have been exiled after making our foolish choices to abandon Hashem and serve other gods. Therefore, the Torah teaches that the way we repair the damage that was done and repent is 'vesamtem divarai al levavchem v'al nafshechem'- taking the words of Torah and putting them on your heart and soul. Chazal identify specifically the eyes and the heart as the limbs that lead us to sin. 'Ayin roeh v'lev chomed'- the eye sees and the heart desires- 'v'kli ha'maaseh gomrin' - and the rest of the body merely finishes the aveira. Therefore, when we seek to repair the damage, we begin by first atking the words of Torah onto our hearts and soul to restore our drive for mitzvos. Then we put Tefillin upon our eyes and hands to repair our eyes that saw and our arms that represent the rest of the body that completed the transgression. This process recalibrates our minds back to being a loyal servant of Hashem.
The Gemara in Kiddushin breaks down the word 'vesamtem' into two separate words. 'Sam,' spelled with a samech, meaning medicine, and tam, meaning perfect. This leads to the idea that Torah is a life-giving potion. R' Yitzchak Isaac Chaver connects this expostion with a gemara in Megillah that relates that the letters samech and mem stood miraculously in the Luchos. Both letters have an inside that is not connected to something outside itself. So they similarly floated in midair. This occurrence indicates to us that the Torah, which is a sam hachayim, a life-giving potion, spelled with the same samech and mem, is not confined by the laws of nature. One of the main areas of struggle is whether our intellect will guide our heart or whether our heart will guide our intellect. Regarding the wicked, we are told that their emotions guide their behavior. Thus for example, in the Megila we find, 'Vayomer Haman be'libo'- and Haman said in his heart. He didn't consider or think whether his course of action was correct- he just went with what felt right. In contrast, the righteous use their minds to control their hearts. As we find by Chana, about whom it is written, 'V'Chana medaberes al liba'- and Chana spoke to her heart. She told her heart what to do. Similarly, when we strayed away from Hashem, the pasuk says, 'pen yifteh levavchem,'- lest your heart become foolish. It is when we follow our heart that we make mistakes. Therefore, in our pasuk the Torah says, 'samtem as divarai al levavchem'- you should take these words of Torah and put them upon your heart! Take these words of Torah through one's mind and put them on your heart so that our minds are instructing your heart.
The last phrase of the pasuk instructs us to put Tefilin on our hands and on our eyes. This is a tangible instruction saying that we have taken the words of Torah and placed them on our head, near our heart, to signify that we have surrounded ourselves with the words of Torah.
14. Day 14
The simple translation of today's pasuk is: And you should teach your sons to speak in them when you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you lay down and when you rise. Let us delve deeper into the meaning of the pasuk. The pasuk does not merely obligate parents to teach their children Torah- the obligation is to teach them Torah l'daber bam- to speak in them. Merely transmitting knowledge and information to our children is not sufficient. Our job as parents is to inspire a love for Torah so that whatever they may choose to do professionally, they will continue to have Torah a main component of their conversation.
Some commentators connect today's pasuk with yesterday's pasuk. At the end of yesterday's pasuk, the Torah mentions the mitzva of Tefillin and today's pasuk mentions educating our children. This juxtaposition teaches that just like one who wears Tefillin may not allow his mind to wander from the mitzvah of Tefillin, so too one must be constantly focused on their child's Chinuch. One of the ways this is done is through prayer. A person once approached the Steipler Gaon and asked him when one is no longer responsible to daven for their children. His response was that one never stops davening for the success of his/ her children, then related that he continues to daven that his son should be a Talmid Chacham. The son he referred to was none other than the renowned Torah sage R' Chaim Kanievsky, who at the time of the story was already a well-known accomplished author. If the Steipler felt the need to continue to daven for the success of his son, all the more so should all of us never lose sight of the importance and necessity to daven for the spiritual health of all of our children.
The word 'osam', from the phrase 'velimadetem osam es beneichem'- and you should teach them to your sons, is curious. First of all, it is written without a vav, as though the word says 'atem' meaning you rather than them. Secondly, the word is superfluous altogether. The pasuk could have simply said 'velimadetem es beneichem' and you should teach your sons. This curiosity conveys to us one of the most important principles in Chinuch and educating our children.
Rabbi Tarfon, one of the great scholars of the Mishna, related that he would be surprised if there was anyone in his generation capable of properly rebuking others. Why? Because as soon as a person gives a message of rebuke, the listener responds and says, "Before you point out my faults, why don't you look in the mirror and correct your own faults?" This stresses the importance of living the message one wishes to teach. As parents who seek to teach our children about the importance of Torah study, we must realize that we have to look in the mirror first to assure that we are living by those principles we wish to convey to our children. Thus, the Torah adds the word 'osam'- them - but spells it 'atem'- meaning you, to hint that first we must teach ourselves to live a life of Torah before we can properly and fully transmit those ideals to our children.
The pasuk goes on to say 've'shivtecha b'veisecha u'velechtecha ba'derech u'veshachbecha u'vekumecha- when you sit in your home and when you walk on the way and when you lie down and when you rise.' As we have mentioned before, this paragraph of 've'haya im shamoa' is generally in the plural. Therefore, whenever we find the parsha switch to singular, an explanation is necessary. Commentators offer on this change the same principles we suggested earlier- the way we succeed in transmitting Torah principles to our children is living them ourselves. Thus, the pasuk is speaking to us in stressing the importance of spending our time studying Torah when we are at home, on the way, when we lay down and when we rise. It is not written in the plural as though we were discussing the children.