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Shabbat Parashat Vaetchanan | 5769

Ein Ayah: Kriat Shema as Testimony

(based on Berachot 2:8)


Gemara: Ulla said: Whoever reads Shema without tefillin is like one who speaks false testimony about himself.


Ein Ayah: The definition of false testimony is to testify about something that one did not see. Realize that grasping the Divine is outside the capabilities of human intellect. The foundation of the unity of His truth is beyond our comprehension, so how can one testify about it [as we do when we recite Kri’at Shema]. However, when one performs good deeds that emanate from this lofty learning [that is engendered in Kri’at Shema] it is considered as if he understood the picture of the knowledge of the Divine. After all, attaining the actions that flow from the study is one of its goals.

Therefore, when a person recites Kri’at Shema and dons tefillin, which is the action that most relates to it [as the mitzva is found in its first two sections], this is reliable testimony that he recognizes the truth about how the Divine concepts are supposed to impact on his actions. If he does not perform the action, then the testimony remains in the realm of abstract concepts. Since that realm is beyond his intellectual capabilities he is, therefore, in the realm he has chosen, like one who testifies falsely, as it is something that he does not see.


Broad-Based Service of Hashem

(based on Berachot 2:9)


Gemara: Rabbi Yochanan said: [Whoever reads Shema without tefillin] is like one who offers an olah sacrifice without a mincha (meal offering) and a zevach (shelamim sacrifice) without nesachim (libations).


Ein Ayah: The mincha and the nesachim that accompany korbanot (sacrifices) are from the vegetable family, whereas the korban itself is from the animal world, which is higher than the former. The altar upon which it is offered is made from the earth, which is mineral. This teaches us that we are obligated to serve Hashem with all of the natural powers that He kindly bestowed upon us. If we serve Him only with the higher powers and not the lower ones, we will not reach shleimut (completeness).

Corresponding to these elements, we find different levels of powers within the spirit of a human being. There are: the power of intellect and speech; the power of activity; and the power of lowly life. When one recites Kri’at Shema and uses for the basis of the acceptance of the service of Hashem only the higher power of speech and does not don tefillin, he fails to demonstrate that he is subjugating all of his powers, even the power of actions, which is physical in nature, to the service of Hashem. In this way, he is like one who brought an olah without a mincha and a zevach without nesachim. He is thus hinting that he is serving Hashem only with the highest powers and not those beneath them, which is missing the proper intention.

A chatat (sin offering) does not require a mincha and nesachim because the natural powers do not relate to sin and punishment, as they do not have free choice. For example, the power of digestion is something that just happens. It does not distinguish between forbidden and permitted food, and no commandment applies to it. However, regarding levels and spiritual advantages, for which the olah and zevachim are designed to purify one so that he can cling to Hashem in a better way, the natural powers can also take part and receive the present of holiness. This is reminiscent of Avraham, whom Hashem gave dominion over his 248 limbs. In other words, Hashem gave even success to even the physical powers, so that they will forever go in the direction of goodness and holiness.

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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of

R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga  Brachfeld



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