1) GOING SEVEN DAYS WITHOUT A DREAM
QUESTION: Rav Yonah said in the name of Rav Zeira that anyone who sleeps for seven days without having a dream is called "evil." Why is one called "evil" for not having a dream? One cannot choose to dream or not to dream, so why should he be held accountable for not dreaming?
14b2) THE TWO THEMES OF SHEMA YISRAEL
In the Mishnah on 13a, Rebbi Yehoshua Ben Korchah explains the order of the first two paragraphs of the Shema. "Why is Shema Yisrael read before v'Hayah Im Shamo'a? -Because it is necessary to first accept upon ourselves Hashem's sovereignty [by saying "Shema Yisrael..."] before we accept upon ourselves to fulfill His commandments [in v'Hayah Im Shamo'a]. The Mishnah makes it clear that the verses of Shema Yisrael express *our acceptance of Hashem as our King*.
However, the Gemara here (14b) suggests an entirely different theme in Shema Yisrael. Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai says that it is appropriate to read Shema Yisrael before v'Hayah Im Shamo'a because Shema Yisrael instructs us to learn the Torah ourselves, while v'Hayah tells us to teach Torah to others [and one cannot teach the Torah before learning it oneself -Rashi]. From this it would appear that the theme of Shema Yisrael is that we must learn the Torah. The Gemara continues and says that the two reasons do not disagree; Shema Yisrael underscores *both* themes -- accepting Hashem's sovereignty and learning His Torah.
The Torah-learning theme that Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai attested to is evident in a statement he made elsewhere. "Said Rebbi Yochanan in the name of Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai: One who reads Shema Yisrael morning and evening fulfills the injunction that 'the words of this Torah shall not move from your mouth (Yehoshua 1:3)'" (Menachos 99b). That is, the Shema not only *commands* us to learn the Torah, but it starts us on the way as well by providing us with a minimal amount of Torah study through reading the Shema itself. Another example of the Shema being the archetypal Torah-learning is, "When a child begins to speak, it is incumbent on his father to teach him two verses [in order to begin him in the study of Torah]: 'Torah Tzivah Lanu Moshe' and 'Shema Yisrael...'" (Sukah 42a). See also Berachos 5a, "One who reads *Shema* before going to sleep... as it says, 'Yagbihu Of,' and Of means *Torah*...."
The two motifs encapsulated in Shema Yisrael are reflected in the blessings of the Shema. In the morning, the Shema is preceded by two blessings: The first ("Yotzer Or") describes the grandness of the celestial bodies which constantly bear witness to the exalted nature of their Creator. This blessing corresponds to the theme in the Shema of the acceptance of Hashem's sovereignty, a lesson that may be learned through reflecting on the heavenly bodies (see Tehilim 19:2). In the second blessing ("Ahavah Rabah") we beseech Hashem to teach us His Torah. This corresponds to the second theme of the Shema. The same two themes repeat themselves in the blessings that precede the evening recital of Shema ("Ha'Ma'ariv Aravim" and "Ahavas Olam").
The two themes could actually be viewed as one and the same. Learning Hashem's Torah is a direct means to attaining love for Him and accepting His sovereignty (see Rashi to Devarim 6:6; Sifri, Devarim #33). When we see the beauty of the Torah's laws and its outlook on life, we appreciate the love that Hashem has bestowed upon us by giving us His Torah and we show our love for Him in return by accepting Him as our King.
3) THE THIRD PARAGRAPH OF THE SHEMA
QUESTION: The Gemara relates that in Eretz Yisrael, they used to recite an abridged version of the third paragraph of the Shema. The third paragraph, as we know it, is comprised of the passage dealing with the Mitzvah of Tzitzis and mentioning the Exodus from Egypt, the verses of Bamidbar 15:37-41. In Eretz Yisrael, they would say only the first six words of Bamidbar 15:38 ("Speak to the people of Israel and say to them") and the last three words of Bamidbar 15:41 ("I am Hashem your G-d"). The Gemara concludes that our practice is to start the way they used to start in Eretz Yisrael, and since we have started the third paragraph, we complete the entire passage.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
In the U.S.:
Tel. (908) 370-3344
Fax. (908) 367-6608
Toll free line for dedications: 1-800-574-2646