Divrei Torah

The Divrei Torah in this section have been translated by Rav Reuven Ungar, Director of Alumni Affairs

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The Recitation of the Shma in the Exile

By: Rav Aryeh ben-Yaakov
Mashgiach of Yeshivat Hesder Sha'alvim

In the course of the Parshiot of Vayigash/Vayechi, Chazal inform us of two  recitations of the Shma. The initial recitation transpired when Yaakov met  Yoseph (46:29). This happened when Yaakov initially made contact with  Egyptian soil. Prior to his death, Yaakov gathered his children; they  recited the Shma while he responded by blessing The Name (Baruch Shem Kevodo  Malchuto Le'Olam Vaed). The gemara (Masecet Pesachim 56a) and the Rambam  (Hilchot Kriyat Shma, 1:4) derive halachot from this encounter.

What links the events recorded in the Torah with the recitation of the Shma?

The exile contains two components. A. Leaving and distancing oneself from  the Land of Israel. B. Being submerged in the exile and subservience to  foreign nations.

The Jewish People must realize that despite being in a difficult position,  our internal holiness is not impinged. We are still entrusted with our task  of advocating the Oneness of The Name; subsequently we are not truly  subservient to the foreign nations.

Chazal reveal to us that Yaakov desired to convey the end (kaytz) of the  exile to his children. Yaakov intended to explain the secret of the  exile-despite the external exile from the Land of Israel, we maintain our  exalted internal state. The Presence of Hashem accompanies us wherever we  go. This lessens the bitterness of the exile.

Thus, while beginning the exile to Egypt (the prototypical exile), Yaakov  recited the Shma to ensure that we remain steadfast in our mission of  advocating the Oneness of The Name.  Prior to leaving this world, the  children of Yaakov recite the Shma; they express our internal link with  Hashem that ensures the survival of the Jewish People.

Precisely Yaakov is the forefather who instituted the prayer of Ma'ariv.  Tefillat Ma'ariv is classified as an optional prayer. To pray at night-  symbolic of the exile- is derived from Yaakov, who understood that we are  eternally connected to Hashem, despite times of darkness and distance from  The Land. From the darkness the descendants of Yaakov  call out "Hashem  Elokeinu, Hashem Echad!"


Categorized under: 1: Parshat Shavua > Vayigash
2: Parshat Shavua > Vayechi
Uploaded: 1/9/2006 9:59:44 AM