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Peninei Halakha > Prayer > 15 - Keriat Shema > 04 – The Second and Third Paragraphs

04 – The Second and Third Paragraphs

In the second paragraph, “V’hayah Im Shamo’a” (Deuteronomy 11:13-21), we learn about the value of the mitzvot, the reward for those who fulfill them, and the punishment for those who transgress them. If we love Hashem, serve Him with all our hearts, and fulfill all His mitzvot, we will be worthy of His blessing. The land will bring forth its crops, and we will live long lives, we and our children, on the land that Hashem promised to give to our ancestors and to us. However, if we, God forbid, stray from the path, Hashem will be angry with us, the ground will not yield its produce, and we will be exiled from upon the good land. We are then told to put tefillin on our arms and heads, and to post mezuzot on the entrances to our houses, thereby commanding us to deeply internalize these fundamentals of our faith not only by reciting Shema but by fulfilling other mitzvot as well. In the first paragraph, the emphasis is on our appeal towards the heavens, by dedicating all our powers to serving Him. In the second paragraph, the emphasis is on revealing Hashem’s autonomous rule in the world. The fulfillment of the mitzvot is an expression of the revelation of Hashem’s will in this world. Reward and punishment also confirm His supervision over this world.

In the third paragraph, “Vayomer” (Numbers 15:37-41), the mitzvah of tzitzit is elucidated. This commandment possesses special merit, for tzitzit have the power to remind us of all the mitzvot and to inspire us to fulfill them, as it says, “And you shall remember all of Hashem’s mitzvot and you shall perform them.” As an indication of that, the mitzvah of tzitzit can only be performed during the day and not at night because the day reminds us of the clear revelation of Hashem’s word in the world. By revealing the light of the mitzvot and remembering them, we have the strength to overcome our evil inclination, as it says, “And you shall not seek after your heart and your eyes after which you go astray.” The conclusion of the paragraph tells of the Exodus from Egypt, which we are commanded to remember both day and night. Just like tzitzit, which reveal the light of all the mitzvot, so too, the Exodus proved to us that there is a Leader in this world, and that the nation of Israel was chosen to reveal His word.

Thus, each of the three paragraphs is a continuation of and an expansion on the foundation of faith introduced by the verse “Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad.” In the first paragraph, we learn the fundamental significance of belief, which is the one and only foundation of our lives. This is an extension of the words “Hashem Echad,” (“Hashem is One”). From that, we accept upon ourselves the yoke of all the mitzvot in the second paragraph, which parallels the words “Hashem Elokeinu,” (“Hashem our God”). In the third paragraph, the mitzvah of tzitzit appears and proclaims to us all the mitzvot and reminds us of them. At the end of the paragraph, the Exodus from Egypt, which showed the world that Hashem chose Israel and that He is the overseer and ruler of His world, is an expression of the words, “Shema Yisrael,” (“Hear O Israel”). Thus the meaning of the Shema is capsulated in the very first verse, and explained in the paragraphs which follow. In the laws of Birkot Keriat Shema 16:1, we will learn that the berachot that the Chachamim instituted are also a continuation of and a supplement to the Shema prayer.

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Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

The Laws of Shabbat (1+2) - Yocheved Cohen
The Laws of Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman