The Shema

Updated: May 27

Article from: Alon HaKodesh Newsletter (1) Tisha BeAv Edition

Whether in Israel or the Galut, secular or religious, most Jews have said the Shema Yisrael prayer (Deuteronomy 6:4) countless times during their lives.  The fortunate ones among us who speak to King of kings daily, follow the Torah commandment of saying the Shema no less than twice per day[1].  Here we figuratively cry out to HaShem “Hear O Yisrael, HaShem our God, HaShem is One”, pleading for Him to bring our salvation—whether nationally or individually.  We then follow up with our reasoning of why He should bring our salvation, by expressing our Love of HaShem.  

וְאָהַבְתָּ, אֵת ה' אֱלהֶיךָ, בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשְׁךָ, וּבְכָל מְאדֶךָ

VeAhavta Et HaShem ElokeiCha BeChol LeVaVeCha, U’beChol NafSheCha, U’beChol MeOdeCha

“And you shall love HaShem your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your resources”   (Deuteronomy 6:5)

So far so good with just one seemingly small issue.  How many of us can honestly say that we really mean what we’re saying? I’m not referring to Kavana or even anything extraordinary. Simply, how many of us are actually doing what we say we do?  After all, this is the basis of our case for, at least, our personal salvation.   While none of us may be at the level of the prophet Job’s famous words “Were He to Kill me, I would still yearn for Him (Job 13:15, Sotah 31A), how many of us actually show that we Love HaShem with all of our heart?  What about some of it? Do we at least love HaShem enough to consider His opinion before our own, or better yet, society’s opinion?  Come to think of it, we’ve been so consumed with the mundane that maybe we forgot to check what HaShem’s opinion actually is. Before we bought the dress, the car, or even the house, did we consult with HaShem for His will or simply ask Him to fulfill ours?


Furthermore, what can we say about our promised love of HaShem with all of our soul?  This is our next promise in the morning Shema, and we haven’t even begun our day.  Are we ready to testify in front of the Beit Din of Shamayim (heavenly court) that we dedicated our lives to fulfilling His will (i.e. His Torah) as if it were our will (Avot 2:4)?  It seems like we’re so busy fulfilling someone else’s will that we just can’t seem to get to His will, even though we promised. 

Alas, we still have one remaining hope—our promised financial investment for the honor of HaShem.  Unlike our heart and soul, the exchange of numbers on our digital screens should be quite easy, since it doesn’t require as many behavioral changes.  Yet, how many of us love HaShem with all of our resources?  Of course this excludes the house, car, business, health, and other living necessities.  But after all of that, did we at least make His Torah the largest investment in our financial portfolio? Are our donations even going towards HaShem’s Torah, or do we find ourselves funding the get together parties at the shul so we can tell everyone some endangered butterfly in the jungles of Africa? 


Rabbi Efraim Kachlon taught me once that almost every person puts money aside for a retirement that they may never live to see in this temporary world, yet few even consider the house they’re going to live in for eternity.  Our sages say “Give Him from His own, for you and your possessions are His” (Avot 3:8) in order to teach us that although we may “feel” like we’ve donated quite a bit in our lives, we must ask ourselves whether it’s really what we promised or just lip service?

“…with its lips and mouth they honored Me, but its heart was far from Me” (Isaiah 29:13)

Rabbi Efraim Kachlon taught me once that almost every person puts money aside for a retirement that they may never live to see in this temporary world, yet few even consider the house they’re going to live in for eternity.  Our sages say “Give Him from His own, for you and your possessions are His” (Avot 3:8) in order to teach us that although we may “feel” like we’ve donated quite a bit in our lives, we must ask ourselves whether it’s really what we promised or just lip service? 

“Because the matter is very close to you—in your mouth and in your heart to perform it” (Deuteronomy 30:14)


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[1] A third time is supposed to be said before retiring for the night (i.e. Shema al HaMita)

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