Shiur #46: The Difference Between the Passage of Shema and the Passage of Vehaya Im Shamoa – Part II

  • Harav Baruch Gigi
I. The Difference Between the Two Passages
 
Although we read the passage of Shema and the passage of Vehaya im Shamoa in immediate succession, this is not the way they are written in the Torah. The passage of Shema is located in chapter 6 of the book of Devarim, whereas the passage of Vehaya im Shamoa is found in chapter 11. These two passage create a framework consisting of the first two of the Ten Commandments, and serve as a foundation for the rest of commandments, as will be explained.
 
Moshe's main speech in the book of Devarim – because of which the book is called Mishneh Torah, "a repetition of the Torah" – extends from chapter 5 to chapter 26. This oration opens with an account of the revelation at Mount Sinai and the Ten Commandments that were given there, as they are the essence of the Torah. In the continuation of his speech, Moshe relates to the first two commandments in chapters 6-11, in the framework between the passage of Shema and the passage of Vehaya im Shamoa. The chapters that follow, from chapter 12 to chapter 26, deal with the comprehensive system of mitzvot.
 
The first two of the Ten Commandments, which the people of Israel heard directly from the mouth of God, are the basis for the other commandments and for the mitzvot in general. They establish the existence of the One who commanded them and the acceptance of His yoke, so that with them one can approach the mitzvot themselves. In these chapters between Shema and Vehaya im Shamoa, Moshe emphasizes the dangers facing the people who will be living in close proximity to the nations of Canaan, who worship other gods. In his words, Moshe speaks of the obligation to exercise caution and not intermingle with the pagans, so as not to learn from their ways and adopt their views.
 
It suffices to bring as an example the first six verses of chapter 7, in order to illustrate the danger and the caution that it necessitates:
 
When the Lord your God shall bring you into the land where you go to possess it, and shall cast out many nations before you, the Hittite, and the Girgashite, and the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Perizzite, and the Chivite, and the Yevusite, seven nations greater and mightier than you; and when the Lord your God shall deliver them up before you, and you shall smite them; then you shall utterly destroy them; you shall make no covenant with them, nor show mercy to them; neither shall you make marriages with them: your daughter you shall not give to his son, nor his daughter shall you take to your son. For he will turn away your son from following Me, that they may serve other gods; so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and He will destroy you quickly. But thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars, and dash in pieces their pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire. For you are a holy people to the Lord your God: the Lord your God has chosen you to be His own treasure, out of all peoples that are upon the face of the earth. (Devarim 7:1-6)
 
When we read the two passages of Shema and Vehaya im Shamoa as part of the mitzva of Keriat Shema, we read, as it were, the framework of these chapters in Devarim, chapters 6 to 11. The introductory words in chapter 6, Shema, join with the concluding words in chapter 11, Vehaya im Shamoa, and it is as if we have read the entire unit.
 
II. The Experience of the Revelation at Mount Sinai
 
The preface to Moshe's speech, chapter 4, describes the revelation at Mount Sinai itself. This chapter has two emphases: one from the experience of the revelation itself, and the other from the insights and conclusions that follow from it.
 
This is what is stated about the experience of the revelation:
 
Only take heed to yourself, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes saw, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your children and your children's children; the day that you stood before the Lord your God in Chorev, when the Lord said to me, “Assemble to Me the people, and I will make them hear My words that they may learn to fear Me all the days that they live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.” And you came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, with darkness, cloud, and thick darkness. And the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire; you heard the voice of words, but you saw no form; only a voice. And He declared to you His covenant, which He commanded you to perform, even the ten words; and He wrote them upon two tables of stone. (Devarim 4:9-13)
 
The insights and conclusions:
 
To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord, He is God; there is none else beside Him. Out of heaven He made you to hear His voice, that He might instruct you; and upon earth He made you to see His great fire; and you did hear His words out of the midst of the fire… Know this day, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath; there is none else. (Devarim 4:35-39)
 
And you shall keep His statutes, and His commandments, which I command you this day, that it may go well with you, and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days upon the land, which the Lord your God gives you forever. (Devarim 4:40)
 
On the eve of the entry into Eretz Yisrael and the encounter with the nations of Canaan, Moshe emphasizes the eternal guarantee for caution against intermingling among them and adopting their views:
 
1. "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God" = acceptance of the yoke of the kingdom of heaven. "The Lord is one" = there is none else beside Him.
 
2. "And it shall come to pass, if you shall hearken" // "And you shall keep His statutes, and His commandments," "Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside, and serve other gods" = "For you saw no manner of form." "That your days may be multiplied… upon the land" = "And that you may prolong your days upon the land, which the Lord your God gives you forever."
 
The daily recitation of the Shema, with these two passages, Shema and Vehaya im Shamoa, prepares the people who are entering the land and meeting pagan peoples to internalize the unity of God and His exclusivity.
 
The words of the passage of Shema stem from the revelation at Mount Sinai, which is engraved as a mitzva in the consciousness of every member of Israel. When a person recites the words, "the Lord is one," he refers to the first commandment: "I am the Lord your God."
 
III. “Lest When You Have Eaten, and are Satisfied…”
 
However, another danger stands before the people of Israel as they enter the land, particularly should they be blessed with a good life. The blessing that the inhabitants of the land hope for is:
 
And He will love you, and bless you, and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your body and the fruit of your land, your corn and your wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the young of your flock, in the land which He swore to your fathers to give you. You shall be blessed above all peoples; there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle. (Devarim 7:13-14)
 
This blessing stems from the goodness of the land that the people are about to enter:
 
For the Lord your God brings you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, springing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey; a land wherein you shall eat bread without scarceness, you shall not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you may dig brass. (Devarim 8:7-9)
 
It is precisely then that the danger looms:
 
Lest when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage… And you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.” (Devarim 8:12-17)
 
Dealing with this danger requires a variety of means, which find expression across the length of Parashat Eikev. The main means is planted deep within the section of Vehaya im Shamoa.
 
The abundance of blessing in Eretz Yisrael is not self-evident and is not automatic, as is the case in the surrounding countries. The blessing in Eretz Yisrael is absolutely conditioned on God's will and is directly influenced by His eyes, which are constantly watching over His land, each and every day:
 
For the land, where you are going to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from where you came out, where you did sow your seed, and did water it with your foot, as a garden of herbs; but the land, where you are going to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinks water as the rain of heaven comes down; a land which the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. (Devarim 11:10-12)
 
There are three situations in our world – the wilderness, the land of Egypt, and the Eretz Yisrael.
 
1. The wilderness: By nature, man cannot survive in the wilderness, as he will find nothing to eat or drink (see carefully Devarim 8:15-16). Under these conditions, it is easy to attribute the abundance and blessing to God, who bestows of His great goodness, manna from heaven and water from the flint.
 
2. The land of Egypt. Naturally, man can manage and satisfy his needs in the land of Egypt by sowing and watering the fields with the abundant water that flows the entire length of Egypt.
 
            The sense of "My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth" feels natural in Egypt, because God bestowed His blessing there in a way that does not depend at all on human behavior. God, as it were, planted the potential for abundance in the nature of Egypt, and now man merits this abundance in an unconditional manner. This reality gives man a sense of control over his destiny and success.
 
On a deeper level, of course, this feeling of success is wrong, for Egypt's nature was implanted in it by the good hand of God that is stretched out over His world and all of His creatures. Nevertheless, it seems that things are directed in this manner: Humanity, which lives its natural life with its daily routine, was not meant to experience the reality of God every step along the way. Therefore, God provides its maintenance in a free-flowing manner, without the need to turn to Him and without the need for prayer. This manner of maintenance and life is what enables man's sense of control and ownership over his welfare and success.
 
3. Eretz Yisrael: On the one hand, Eretz Yisrael is a civilized place, altogether different from the wilderness. In it there is no manna from heaven or water from a flint. It has wells and springs in its valleys and hills. One who works the land plows and sows and hopes to harvest his crop and eat from the fruit of his labor. On the other hand, in Eretz Yisrael, rain from heaven is needed so that one may see a blessing in his labor, as the wells and springs are filled from the rain that falls from heaven. The eyes of God, which are constantly set on His land from the beginning of the year to the end of the year, give the blessing of rain to the fields, and greatly impact upon the wells and springs.
 
Eretz Yisrael poses a great challenge: It is similar to Egypt in that one must plow, and sow and water, but it is also similar to the wilderness, as God sets His eyes on His nation and on His land, nourishing them from His wide open hand. Sometimes, a person sets his eyes on the toil of his hands and says in his heart: "My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth." Sometimes, he contemplates the matter and internalizes the fact that without the rain from heaven, the land would not bring forth its blessing: "And He will shut up the heaven, so that there shall be no rain, and the ground shall not yield her fruit." At such times, he takes to heart that it is God who gives him all his wealth.
 
This is the purpose of the passage of Vehaya im Shamoa, and hence the obligation to recite it twice every day, when you lie down and when you rise up. When he reads this, a person impresses into his consciousness that his success in Eretz Yisrael is connected to his standing before God and his acceptance of His yoke and the yoke of His mitzvot.
 
God's good eyes directed at His land and His people depend on obedience to and fulfillment of His mitzvot. It would appear, however, that this does not suffice. The blessing of the land and the abundance that falls from Him upon it require a fundamental recognition of the source of all the good. A person must be armed with a clear awareness that there is no good without the good of God and that He alone is good and benevolent to all.
 
The passage of Vehaya im Shamoa emphasizes this dependence of man on God's blessing of His land. This is one of the foundations of man's prayer and his turning to God – out of a sense of total dependence on His grace.
 
The Ramban emphasizes this point:
 
"The idea of prayer… it is part of God's grace towards us that He hears and answers whenever we call out to Him… and that we should pray to him in a time of trouble, and that our eyes and our hearts should be directed to Him alone, as are the eyes of slaves to the hand of their masters.[1] (Ramban, strictures to the Sefer Ha-Mitzvot)
 
IV. Two Types of Love
 
The two passages, Shema and Vehaya im Shamoa, represent then two aspects of the love of God: Love that is not dependent on anything else and love that impacts upon God's relationship with us.
The fundamental love of God of the passage of Shema is love for its own sake that is not dependent on anything else. The essence of this love is openness to a passionate spiritual connection between man and God. Love that does not depend on anything else is the love that we discussed in the chapters dealing with the love of God, and it involves the seeking of truth because it is true and not because of any ulterior motive.[2]
 
The passage of Vehaya im Shamoa, in contrast, focuses on man's connection to God by way of the fulfillment of the mitzvot that He commanded us, and on the dependent connection between observance of the mitzvot and God's relationship with us and the land.
 
The encompassing framework of the passages of Shema and Vehaya im Shamoa greatly emphasizes this point. This connection of dependence finds striking expression in the opening verses of Parashat Eikev:
 
And it shall come to pass, because you hearken to these ordinances and keep and do them, that the Lord your God shall keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers, and He will love you,[3] and bless you, and multiply you. He will also bless the fruit of your body and the fruit of your land, your corn and your wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the young of your flock, in the land which He swore to your fathers to give you. You shall be blessed above all peoples; there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle. And the Lord will take away from you all sickness; and He will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which you know, upon you, but will lay them upon all them that hate you. (Devarim 7:12-15)  
 
The passage of Shema represents the ideological position that derives directly from the revelation at Mount Sinai and from the recognition of God's unity. From this, man seeks the love of God and devotion to Him.
 
The passage of Vehaya im shamoa represents the coping with the earthly and environmental challenges that man encounters during his lifetime. From this, man is required to recognize God's goodness and benevolence to His creatures, as an important step on the path to perfect love.
 
V. Two-Fold Hearkening
 
The gemara in Berakhot states:
 
R. Zera, or as some say, R. Chinena bar Pappa, further said: Observe how the character of the Holy One, blessed is He, differs from that of flesh and blood. A mortal can put something into an empty vessel, but not into a full one. But the Holy One, blessed is He, is not so; He puts more into a full vessel but not into an empty one. For it says:[4] "And He said, If hearkening you will hearken," implying, if you hearken [once] you will go on hearkening, and if not, you will not hearken. (Berakhot 40a)
 
In this context, Rashi writes:
 
"And it will come to pass if hearkening you will hearken" – if you hearken to the old, you will hearken to the new. Similar is the meaning of: "If forgetting you will forget" (Devarim 8:19): If you have begun to forget, your end will be that you will forget all of it. (Rashi, Devarim 11:13)
 
In the spirit of what we have seen, we can explain this as follows: The first hearkening is the hearkening the focus of which is in the passage of Vehaya im Shamoa, utilitarian love oriented toward attaining God's blessing. From it, a person will come to the more fundamental hearkening, the pure hearkening, which seeks the love and devotion of "And you shall love the Lord your God." This is the hearkening that cries out: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord is one." This is the acceptance of God's kingship that emphasizes "There is none else beside Him."
 
(Translated by David Strauss)
 
 

[1] See also Talmidei Rabbeinu Yona, Berakhot 2b, s.v. eizehu.
[2] See Rambam, Hilkhot Teshuva, chap. 10.
[3] According to these verses, God's love is also conditioned on Israel's hearkening. With regard to God's love of Israel as well, we can point to two different courses: Israel's love for God in the passage of Vehaya im Shamoa parallels God's love for Israel in the passage of Eikev; whereas Israel's love for God in the passage of Shema parallels the verses in the passage of Va'etchanan:
For you are a holy people to the Lord your God: the Lord your God has chosen you to be His own treasure, out of all peoples that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people, for you were the fewest of all peoples; but because the Lord loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, has the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Devarim 7:6-8)
[4] The verse cited here is from Shemot 15:26 from the story of the incident at Mara; see Sukka 40a, which seems to base this exposition on the verse in Devarim 28. Rashi, however, in his commentary to the passage of Vehaya im Shamoa brings this exposition from our verse: "And it will come to pass, if hearkening, you will hearken to My commandments."