Shiur #45: The Difference Between the Passage of Shema and the Passage of Vehaya Im Shamoa – Part I

  • Harav Baruch Gigi
I. The difference between the first and second passages of Shema
 
Before we attempt to understand the relationship between the mitzvot of tefillin and mezuza in the first passage of Shema and the mitzva of tzitzit in the third passage, let us consider the relationship between the first two passages, that of Shema and that of Vehaya im Shamoa.
 
At first glance, it appears that the two passages share much of the same content. But precisely for that reason it falls upon us to consider the differences between them.
 
Chazal raised this question directly:
 
What is the difference between the first passage and the second passage? R. Chanina said: Whatever is written in the one is written in the other. If so, should one not recite only one? R. Ila said: The first one is for the individual, whereas the second one is for the community; and the first one is for theoretical study, whereas the second one is for actual practice. (Yerushalmi, Berakhot 2:1)
 
According to the Yerushalmi, the two passages are equivalent. The difference is only that the first is directed at the individual, whereas the second is directed at the community. It seems that the passage of Shema, which is formulated in the singular, is directed at the individual, whereas the passage of Vehaya im Shamoa, which is formulated in the plural, is directed at the community.
 
            In addition, according to the Yerushalmi, the first passage is intended for study, whereas the second is intended for actual practice. All this demands clarification.
 
II. Comparison of the Verses
 
            We will first compare the two passages in the chart that follows, and then note several points that arise from this comparison:
 
Shema
Vehaya im Shamoa
Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
 
 
 
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
And these words, which I command you this day, shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. 
And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house, and upon your gates.
And it shall come to pass, if you shall hearken diligently to My commandments which I command you this day,
 
to love the Lord your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul,
that I will give the rain of your land in its season, the former rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your corn, and your wine, and your oil. 
And I will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you shall eat and be satisfied. 
Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; 
and the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and He shut up the heaven, so that there shall be no rain, and the ground shall not yield her fruit; and you perish quickly from off the good land which the Lord gives you. 
Therefore shall you lay up these My words in your heart and in your soul;
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
and you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes. 
And you shall teach them to your children, talking of them, when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. 
 
And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house, and upon your gates;
that your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, upon the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as the days of the heavens above the earth.
 
 
This comparison raises the following points:
 
1. The uniqueness of Shema Yisrael: All of the content of the passage of Shema appears again in the passage of Vehaya im Shamoa, with the exception of the matter of the existence and unity of God – the greatest principle in that passage, the command to hear: "Hear, O Israel."
 
2. Hearkening to all the mitzvot: In the passage of Vehaya im Shamoa, the command to hear relates to the mitzvot.
 
3. Love of God: The commandment to love God in the passage of Shema stands by itself and is not directed toward any other objective. This is love for its own sake, which encompasses all of your might. The love in the passage of Vehaya im Shamoa is directed fundamentally to service:[1] "and to love Him with all your heart and all your soul." The third requirement, "with all your might," is missing in the passage of Vehaya im Shamoa.
 
4. Reward and punishment: Reward and punishment in the form of rain in your land or the lack thereof stand at the heart of the passage of Vehaya im Shamoa, but are totally absent from the passage of Shema.
 
5. Torah study: The mitzva of Torah study appears in both passages, but with a significant difference between them. Whereas in the first passage the mitzva is le-shanen, to teach diligently, in the second passage the mitzva is le-lamed, to teach.
 
5. Talking of them: In both passages we find "talking of them," but in a slightly different form:  "And you shall talk of them" and "talking of them."
 
6. The order of the mitzvot: In the passage of Shema, the order is: Torah study, tefillin, and mezuza, whereas in the passage of Vehaya im Shamoa, the order is tefillin, Torah study, and mezuza.
 
7. The reward: The passage of Vehaya im Shamoa concludes with a promise of reward, multiplication of one's days upon the land, in exchange for observance of the mitzvot on the part of the fathers and sons. It also includes a noteworthy phrase: "as the days of the heavens above the earth."
 
8. Singular or plural: The passage of Shema is formulated in the singular, whereas the passage of Vehaya im Shamoa is formulated in the plural.
 
III. The Focus of the Passage of Shema
 
As we have emphasized, the purpose of the passage of Shema is to shape man's knowledge of God. This is a personal matter, seeing that one person's knowledge is not the same as his fellow's. Each individual builds his world of knowledge of and cleaving to God in a manner tailored to his own traits. Fundamentally, the duties of the heart belong to the individual's personal realm: each person with his own faith, each person with his own unity of God, each person with his own love of God, each person with his own knowledge of and cleaving to God. This is why this passage was formulated in the singular.
 
One who proclaims the unity of God causes His name to rest in our earthly world, in the sense of: "I will build a sanctuary in my heart to embellish His glory." As the Ramban writes at the beginning of Parashat Teruma, God's revelation at Mount Sinai was not a one-time event. Rather, God wishes to reveal Himself continuously in this world in the Temple:
 
When God spoke face to face to the people of Israel, giving them the Ten Commandments and commanding them through Moshe about some of the mitzvot, which were like primary categories of the mitzvot of the Torah, as our Rabbis introduced with proselytes who come to convert to Judaism, and Israel accepted upon themselves to do all that He commanded them through Moshe, and He entered into a covenant with them regarding all this – from that point on they became a nation to Him, and He became their God, as He stipulated with them from the outset: "Now therefore, if you will hearken to My voice, and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own treasure from among all peoples"; and He said: "And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." Now they were holy and worthy that a sanctuary be among them so that He may rest His Shekhina among them. Therefore, He commanded them first about the Mishkan, so that He should have a house among them sanctified to His name. There He will talk to Moshe and command the people of Israel. Now the principle desire for a Mishkan is for a place to rest the Shekhina, which is the ark, as He said: "And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the kaporet." Therefore, He spoke first about the ark and the kaporet, as it is first in standing. The mystery of the Mishkan is that the glory that had rested on Mount Sinai should rest upon it in a hidden manner. As it is stated: "And the glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai," and it is written: "Behold, the Lord our God has shown us His glory and His greatness." So too it is written about the Mishkan: "And the glory of the Lord filled the Mishkan." (Ramban, commentary to Shemot 25:1)
 
This revelation has both a personal aspect and a communal aspect. The Temple is the public face of this revelation. The recitation of the Shema, and especially its first passage in which a person declares the unity of God and accepts upon himself the yoke of His kingdom, is the way a person makes God present before him at all times. This is the personal aspect, when you lie down and when you rise up, and in every place.
 
Chazal taught:
 
"Go forth, O you daughters of Zion, and gaze upon King Shelomo, even upon the crown with which his mother has crowned him in the day of his wedding, and in the day of the gladness of his heart." "On the day of his wedding" – this refers to the day of the giving of the Torah. "And in the day of the gladness of his heart" – this refers to the building of the Temple; may it be rebuilt speedily in our days. (Ta'anit 4:8)
 
"The day of his wedding" and "the day of the gladness of his heart" are one sequence. It is rooted in the revelation at Sinai and it continues in the Temple, in the permanent revelation.
 
The same applies to the individual. Gladness of heart stems from the permanent sense of the declaration, "The Lord or God, the Lord is one," which is a continuation of "I am the Lord your God" of Mount Sinai into the fixed daily reality of each person. That same reality is what lies between the declaration of God's unity in the morning and the declaration of His unity in the evening. As the Rambam writes at the beginning of Hilkhot Keri'at Shema (1:2), the perfect declaration of God's unity includes "[the concept of] the unity of God, [the commandment of] loving Him and the study of Torah, it being a fundamental principle upon which everything is based" – love of the truth because it is the truth, the fierce love of cleaving to Him.
 
The commandment to love God in Shema is an absolute command. The full expression of this command is love that endures until one's dying moment and the release of one's soul, as R. Akiva said:
 
He said to them [his disciples]: All my days I have been troubled by this verse, "with all your soul," [which I interpret,] "even if He takes your soul." I said: When shall I have the opportunity of fulfilling this? (Berakhot 61b)
 
This man, who proclaims God's unity, loves Him, and studies His Torah, is a man of high standing; all are his disciples who imbibe his teachings. Therefore, the Sages expound in the Sifrei: "'And you shall teach them diligently[2] to your children' – these are the disciples." A master who teaches his children-disciples and constantly shares words of Torah with them impacts upon all those who are connected to him.
 
This man, who proclaims God's unity and cleaves to Him, does not need promises of reward and punishment; he does what is true because it is true, and ultimately the glory will arrive. He does what he does for its own sake, without ulterior motives or calculations, because he desires cleaving to God itself.
 
IV. The Focus of the Passage of Vehaya Im Shamoa
 
The passage of Vehaya im shamoa is directed to the masses of Israel, who cannot reach the level of great love described in the passage of Shema. As the Rambam writes in Hilkhot Teshuva:
 
This is a very high level which is not merited by every wise man. It is the level of our Patriarch, Avraham, whom God described as, "he who loved Me," for his service was motivated only by love. God commanded us [to seek] this rung [of service] as conveyed by Moshe, as it is stated (Devarim 6:5): "And you shall love the Lord your God." (Hilkhot Teshuva 10:2)
 
In contrast to the passage of Shema, the passage of Vehaya im Shamoa is a pillar of fear,[3] which turns to man and presents him with the service of God and observance of His commandments on the utilitarian plane:
 
And it shall come to pass, if you shall hearken diligently to My commandments… that I will give the rain of your land in its season… Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived… so that there shall be no rain. (Devarim 11:13-17)
 
This is what the Rambam writes in the continuation of that chapter in Hilkhot Teshuva:
 
Anyone who occupies himself with the Torah in order to receive reward or in order to protect himself from retribution is considered as one who is not occupied with it for its own sake. [In contrast,] anyone who occupies himself with it, not because of fear, nor to receive a reward, but rather because of his love for the Lord of the entire earth who commanded it, is one who occupies himself with it for its own sake.
Nevertheless, our Sages declared: A person should always occupy himself with the Torah even when it is not for its own sake, for out of [service which is not intended] for its own sake will come service that is intended for its own sake.
Therefore, when one teaches children, women, and most of the common people, one should teach them to serve out of fear and in order to receive a reward. As their knowledge grows and their wisdom increases, this secret should be revealed to them [slowly,] bit by bit. They should become accustomed to this concept gradually until they grasp it and know it and begin serving [God] out of love. (Hilkhot Teshuva 10:5)
 
The Rambam explains this idea in more explicit manner in his Commentary on the Mishna:
 
Our Patriach, Avraham, achieved this level; he served God out of love. We, too, must aspire to move in this direction.[4] However, our Sages knew that this is a very difficult goal and that not every man can comprehend it. And even if one comprehends it, one may still reject it, failing to apprehend that it is a true principle of faith. As it is human nature not to do anything except to achieve profit or to avoid loss, most men would regard any other action as useless and meaningless. Under these circumstances, it is difficult to say to one who is studying Torah, "Do certain things and refrain from doing certain other things but not out of fear of Divine punishment and not in order to acquire a reward." This is an exceedingly difficult thing to do because most men have not achieved such truth that they are able to be like our Patriarch Avraham. Therefore, in order that the masses stay faithful and do the commandments, it was permitted to tell them that they might hope for a reward and to warn them against transgressions out of fear of punishment. It was hoped that they might be urged to strengthen their intentions so that they would ultimately grasp the truth and the way toward perfection, just like the child in the analogy which I cited above. It was for this reason that the Sages charged Antigonos of Sokho with indiscretion. They had him in mind when they said: "O wise ones, be careful with your words" (Pirkei Avot 1:11). The masses, after all, do not lose out altogether when they do the commandments out of fear of punishment and out of hope for reward, only that they are not perfect. It is best for them insofar as it strengthens and habituates them in loyalty to what the Torah requires. Out of this effort they may be awakened to the knowledge of the truth and serve God out of love. This is what the Sages meant when they said: "A person should always occupy himself with the Torah even when it is not for its own sake for out of [service which is not intended] for its own sake will come service that is intended for its own sake." (Rambam's Commentary to the Mishna, Introduction to Chapter Chelek)
 
V. Serving God "With All Your Might"
 
It may be argued, then, that the passage of Vehaya im Shamoa is a truer reflection of the reality of most people, whereas the passage of Shema reflects the ideal that one must aspire and strive for. The Rambam presents this as two stages in the service of God: One starts with the love of good and fear of bad, and gradually moves on to love of the truth because it is true, and the yearning to cleave to God.
 
Therefore, the essence of the passage of Shema is acceptance of the yoke of the kingdom of heaven – declaring God's unity, loving Him, and studying His Torah – whereas the essence of the passage of Vehaya im Shamoa is accepting the yoke of the mitzvot. The love in the opening verse of this passage is the love of keeping the mitzvot because of the good that will arrive in its wake.
 
This also explains the difference between the absolute demand made in the passage of Shema and the more moderate demand made in the passage of Vehaya im Shamoa. Even one who serves God out of love for the benefits that such service will bring can serve God with all his heart and with all his soul, because he wishes to achieve the hoped for benefit. But only one who serves God out of pure love can serve Him with "all your might," however that expression is to be understood.
 
According to one explanation, "all your might" means "all your money." It is very difficult for one who is serving God for the benefit that will be accrued to sacrifice his money, which he views as necessary and as the primary benefit derived from his service. Even according to the second explanation, which appears in the mishna in Berakhot 54a – "Whatever treatment He metes out to you, give thanks to Him" – this is difficult for one who serves in order to receive a reward. One who serves God for some benefit is incapable of thanking God for every treatment that He metes out to him, and therefore the words "with all your might" do not appear in the passage of Vehaya im Shamoa.
 
R. Chayim of Volozhin, in his Nefesh Ha-Chayim, offers a different explanation:
 
Therefore, in the first passage of the Shema, it is written: "And with all your might," whereas in the passage of Vehaya im Shamoa, it does not say: "And with all your might." For the passage of Shema is written entirely in the singular, and the individual who is capable of doing so must fulfill, "This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth" (Yehoshua 1:8), literally. Therefore it says: "And with all your might" – that is, with all your money, as it is written in the mishna at the end of Berakhot. In other words, such a person should not occupy himself with his livelihood at all. But the passage of Vehaya im Shamoa is written in the plural. And the masses are almost forced to occupy themselves at least a little with earning money for their sustenance. Therefore, it does say there: "And with all your might." (Nefesh Ha-Chayim, part I, chapter 8, in note)
 
VI. The Worship of God as Part of Society
 
As we emphasized above, the passage of Shema focuses on declaring God's unity and loving Him, whereas the passage of Vehaya im Shamoa focuses on the yoke of the mitzvot to be performed in the context of the reality of life. A man of faith can fulfill the first mission on his own, but to fulfill the second mission he needs to be integrated in society:
 
Love of God is a matter for the individual who strives to attain it through self-perfection, while the acceptance of the yoke of mitzvot and their fulfillment is only conceivable in human society. Crusoe living on his desert island isolated from human society could indeed have implemented the exhortation of "You shall love the Lord your God," but could not have fulfilled: "If you shall diligently hearken to My commandments," which, for the most part, relate to the life of man amid society and his bonds with his family, friends, the state and the human race. For this reason it is stated: "And you shall love" in the singular, but: "And if you shall diligently hearken to My commandment" in the plural. (Nechama Leibowitz, Studies in Devarim, pp. 114-115)
 
In his summary of the positive commandments in his Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, the Rambam emphasizes that that there are sixty necessary mitzvot that fall upon a person to perform, these being the essence of the yoke of the mitzvot, the essence of the covenant. The condition for fulfilling those mitzvot is integration in human society:[5]
 
And when you consider these two hundred and forty eight positive commandments, you find that sixty of them are necessary. And this is on condition that the person whom we said is obligated in these sixty necessary commandments lives like most people. That is, that he lives in a house, and eats foods that are commonly eaten by people, i.e., bread and meat, and engages in commerce with other people, and marries a woman and has children… And the sign for these sixty necessary commandments is: "There are sixty queens" (Shir Ha-Shirim 6:8)
 
(Translated by David Strauss)
 

[1] While it is true that it is not stated in this passage that one must love God in order to serve Him, there nevertheless seems to be an essential connection between love and service.
[2] The term ve-shinantam emphasizes the professional act of instruction, both the pedagogical requirement of sharpness and clarity, "that the words of the Torah should be clear and ready in your mouth" (Kiddushin 30a), and the idea that a teacher must be connected to God and His Torah, like an angel, so that people will seek him out for instruction.
[3] The fear under discussion here is the fear of punishment, the lower form of fear, as opposed to the higher form of fear, the fear of God's grandeur, which stems from the aspiration for pure love.
[4] The Rambam emphasizes the obligation to aspire to this goal, because he is well aware that reaching this objective is by no means a simple task.
[5] These words of the Rambam are of great importance from various perspectives, but this is not the forum in which to expand upon them.