V’eschanan: The Lesson of the Shema


This week’s lesson is dedicated In honor of

Mrs Mussie Bronstein, Shlucha to Altamonte Springs, FL,

for success in all her work and nachas from her family.

Every morning and evening we read two passages, shema and vehaya im shamoa. What are the different lessons of these two passages? And how does this relate to the critical question of who is responsible for educating our children - the school or the parents?

Lesson Contents:

A. G-d or his commandments?

In this week’s Torah portion, we read the “Shema” – (“Hear O Israel…”) (Source 1) which we recite daily. After the portion of Shema, we recite the “Vehaya Im Shamoa” (Source 2), an excerpt from the next week’s Torah portion. In the Talmud, Rabbi Yehoshua explained that the reason these paragraphs are read in this order is: For a Jew must first accept G-d’s heavenly yolk, and only afterwards can one take upon oneself the yolk of G-d’s commandments  (Source 3). The Midrash explains this with a parable (Source 4).

B. Study or Action?

The Rebbe notes how in the first paragraph (Shema)  the command to study Torah precedes the general commandment to fulfill G-d’s mitzvahs, whereas in the second paragraph (Vehaya Im Shamoa) the order is reversed (Sources 5 & 6), and explains how this is expresses the concept behind the great talmudic debate over the greatness of study vs. action (Source 7).

C. To study or to teach?

In the Shema it says “. . And you shall recite them…”, while in Vehaya Im Shamoa it says “To recite them”. These words are almost identical, yet their meaning differs greatly (Sources 8 & 9). The first paragraph (Shema) refers to the father, and the second to the children and students.

The Rebbe expounds: the behavior of a parent must be consistent with what the child is taught in school. Every parent should invest a half-hour daily towards strengthening the household’s ways of Torah and mitzvahs, and the parent should serve as an example to this end for the entire family.

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