Parshas Va’eschanan 2018: The Teacher Within Us
If you had to guess; what is THE MOST well known passage in all of Judaism?
A pretty fair bet is The Shema: “Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad” (Deuteronomy 6:4).
The Shema is the foundation of the Jew and a fundamental prayer in the our everyday lives. We are actually supposed to recite the shema multiple times a day; during Birchas HaShachar at the very beginning of Shacharis (morning services), again during Shacharis right before starting the Shemoneh Esrei (silent Amidah), during Maariv (evening services), and then again at night right before we go to sleep. The shema consists of three paragraphs.
Many commandments are referenced there each particularly important as they maintain our relationship with Hashem. For example, within the shema is the mitzvah to place and wrap tefillin upon one’s arm and head and to post mezuzahs upon each doorway. The tefillin on the arm sits next to the heart and the head tefillin captures the physical, emotional, and intellectual capacities to Hashem’s service. The Mezuzah, consecrates one’s home to Hashem. These mitzvos strengthen our connection to Hashem.
Also, there are several lines that tell us how to properly serve Hashem and maintain our connection with Him.
In Hebrew day school, the Shema is one of, if not THE first thing a child learns. This one line is a staple in the makeup of our Jewish identity. That is why we instill this meaningful concept into the heart of even our youngest children.
In fact, in the Shema Hashem says, ”And these matters that I command you today shall be upon your heart. You shall teach them thoroughly to your children...” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
Interestingly, this is not the only time in Torah or even in our parsha for that matter, that we find an obligation for a father to teach his children Torah. The emphasis lies in the understanding that our heritage is built on our belief in Hashem and the constant maintenance and upkeep of our neshamos by living through the Torah we received at Har Sinai. It's incumbent upon every father to not only teach his children but to teach them “...while you sit in your home, while you walk on your way, when you lie down, and when you arise.” (Deuteronomy 6:7)
Rashi on site adds that “children” actually means students and that every Torah scholar is required to teach students even if they are not his children .
Additionally, at the Pesach seder we also find this nomenclature, “to teach the children”.
Recitation of and concentration on the words of the Shema strengthen us and our connection to Hashem. The shema is so central to the Jews it presents numerous opportunities for growth. I think a unique opportunity that we can zero in on is that of teaching our children and teaching others. It's critically important that we keep the Torah on our minds everyday. When we can do this and teach others to do the same we elevate our entire people.
Have a wonderful Shabbos and weekend!
Maverick V. Peters