The self-repetition of the Shema - Ekev

Thursday, 6 August, 2020 - 9:39 am

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Try to imagine a world without the word “because”.

We get a salary because we went to work every day. We leave the shop with our bags full because we paid. We are loved because we love, we are treated well because we treat others well.

Can we get past having a “because” for everything?

The Maimonides speaks about the person who “does the truth because it is the truth”, not only “because” of this or that… There are people who do good actions because this is the right thing to do, not as a means for something else.

We sometimes see it in our everyday lives. A parent loves and cares for his/her child “because it is my child”, not as a means to something else. But this rarely happens in other circumstances. Outside of our children, what we do is usually “because” of something.

The Shema Israel is one of the most important prayers. It accompanies us from our birth until our last breath, and we recite it twice daily, in the morning and in the evening.

The Shema is composed of 3 parts. The first two speak about G-d’s unity and various commandments: to love G-d, to study His Torah and teach it to our children, to wear Tefillin and fix Mezuzot on our doors. The third part speaks about the Mitzvah of Tzitzit and the remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt.

When looking closely at the Shema, we will notice that the first and second parts are almost identical. There is a basic difference: in the first part, the commandments are simply stated, while in the second part, they are accompanied by the promise of the reward we will receive if we follow them, and the punishment we will get if we don’t. Besides for this difference, these are the same exact commandments, with only small syntax changes.

If G-d was expecting us not to have any selfish motivations, then He would have told us only the first part of the Shema.

If G-d wanted us to stay as we are, motivated only by what will benefit us, He would have told us only the second part of the Shema.

But G-d wanted both. He accepts us as we are in this world, but He encourages us to rise above our natural state and try to approach the description of Maimonides, that is the person “who does the truth because it is the truth”.

Let us decide this week to say the Shema Israel every day, morning (for men while wearing Tefillin), or in the evening. As we recite it, let us think of G-d, who wants us to advance and do the right thing not only when or because we benefit from it. Let us try to rise to His expectations.  

May we merit to see the coming of Mashiach even before we fulfill our good decision!

Shabbat Shalom!


Based on an article of Rabbi Yanky Tauber

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