Ch. 49, Class 3

Continuation of Chapter 49

ובזה יובן טוב טעם ודעת לתקנת חכמים, שתקנו ברכות קריאת שמע: שתים לפניה כו׳, דלכאורה אין להן שייכות כלל עם קריאת שמע, כמו שכתבו הרשב״א ושאר פוסקים

This will enable one to understand the eminently reasonable explanation of the Rabbinic enactment (Mishnah, Berachot 1:4) ordaining the recitation of the blessings of the Shema: two blessings preceding it, and so on.3 For at first glance it would appear that they have no connection whatever with the recital of the Shema, as Rashba4 and other halachic authorities have stated.

In this, they are unlike other Rabbinic blessings pronounced over mitzvot, where each such blessing refers explicitly to the mitzvah itself (as for example the blessing “…to put on the tefillin”).

ולמה קראו אותן ברכות קריאת שמע, ולמה תקנו אותן לפניה דווקא

Why, then, were they termed “Blessings of the Shema?” And why was it ordained that they be recited specifically before it when they are in no apparent way connected to it?

The Alter Rebbe explains that the purpose of these blessings is to serve as a preparation to the Shema. The main objective of the Shema is attaining a “love of G‑d with both one’s inclinations” — so that not only the divine soul, but the animal soul and Yetzer Hara also come to love G‑d. And for this one must first meditate on the contents of the blessings of the Shema, which describe the self-nullification of the angels and other creatures.

Thus, the blessings preceding the Shema are indeed similar to other blessings. Just as the Sages instituted blessings to be recited before performing any other particular mitzvah in order to make the person a fit receptacle for the beneficent flow he receives from its performance, so, too, did they institute the blessings preceding the Shema in order for one to properly perform that mitzvah.

אלא משום שעיקר קריאת שמע: לקיים בכל לבבך כו׳, בשני יצריך כו׳

But the reason is that the essence of the recital of the Shema is to fulfill the injunction, “with all your heart…,” that is,5 “with both inclinations…” — that a Jew should love G‑d with the whole of his heart, even with his animal soul and evil inclination,

דהיינו לעמוד נגד כל מונע מאהבת ה׳

that is to say, to withstand anything that hinders [him] from the love of G‑d.

ולבבך: הן האשה וילדיה, שלבבו של אדם קשורה בהן בטבעו, כמו שאמרו רז״ל על פסוק: הוא אמר ויהי, זו אשה, הוא צוה ויעמוד, אלו בנים

For “your heart” alludes to one’s wife and her children, to whom a man’s heart is, by his very nature, bound. So have the Sages, of blessed memory, commented6 on the verse:7 “For He spoke and it came to pass,” that this refers to one’s wife; “He commanded, and it stood fast,” that this refers to the children,

I.e., it is G‑d’s command that imbues a man’s nature with the bond to his wife and children. These are “your heart,” the things to which his heart is bound — and they are not to hinder his divine service.

ונפשך ומאדך: כמשמעו, חיי ומזוני

and by “your soul and might” is understood, literally, your life and sustenance; they, too, should not act as an impediment to spiritual service;

להפקיר הכל בשביל אהבת ה׳

all are renounced for the love of G‑d.

Thus, neither the things found “within” — the animal soul and evil inclination, nor those things “without” — one’s wife, children and sustenance, should hinder a person from those matters which lead to the love of G‑d.

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FOOTNOTES

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3. Concerning the possibility that “and so on” alludes to the blessings which follow the Shema, the Rebbe notes:

“This is not [found] in Tanya. More important, the answer to this is not given. On the contrary, at the end of his question the Alter Rebbe explicitly says, ’specifically before it‘; he does not mention ’after it,‘ even by indicating this with ’and so on.‘ This is especially significant because there is a connection to ’after it,‘ for the latter blessings speak of accepting the Heavenly Yoke and the Exodus from Egypt (and these themes refer to the recitation of the Shema, as explained at the end of ch. 47).

”’And so on,‘ then, is intended either to include the recitation of the evening Shema, or it alludes to the conclusion of the above-quoted Rabbinic text: ’two before it… and in the evening.‘ Essentially both answers are the same. And although later on the Alter Rebbe specifies the morning blessings, the same can be understood from them regarding those in the evening.“

4. Quoted in Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim ch. 46.

5. Berachot 54a.

6. Shabbat 152a.

7. Tehillim 33:9.