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Shabbat Parashat Vayeishev| 5771

Ein Ayah:The Freedom of Fearing Hashem

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 5:107)

Gemara: Rabbi Chanina said: All is in Heaven’s Hands except for the fear of Heaven.


Ein Ayah: The true shleimut (completeness) is to resemble Hashem to the extent humanly possible. A prerequisite of shleimut is total freedom, which is a sign of full ability. If there is something that is forcing someone, then he is not free and capable.

The highest level a person can reach is to possess fear of Hashem, which enables one to adorn himself with the full realization of Hashem’s Honor. Therefore, it must be connected to the high level of full free choice. Therefore, fear of Hashem was left to complete free will and is not dictated from Above, so that man can reach as close to Divine attributes as is humanly possible. 


Standardization of Kri’at Shema

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 5:109)


Gemara: One who recites Kri’at Shema and repeats it has done an improper thing. Rav Pappa asked Abayei: “[Why is it improper?] Isn’t it possible that the first time, he didn’t say it with sufficient kavana (concentration)?” He answered: “Is one having a friendly interaction while dealing with Hashem? If he does not concentrate the first time, we should hit him over the head with a hammer [figuratively] until he concentrates.” 


Ein Ayah: The true grasping of Hashem’s oneness [which we proclaim in Kri’at Shema] can be reached one level upon another. But the pure essence of this concept, as the Torah spells out, is something that the human mind cannot achieve [The translator is not clear on Rav Kook’s exact meaning in this previous sentence, which is also not translated literally, but the general idea should be understandable.] This is because Hashem’s oneness is the same as His essence, and only Hashem knows exactly what His essence is.

Therefore, the best way to go about accepting the yoke of the kingdom of Hashem (which is the point of Kri’at Shema) is to accept it from the perspective of what is written in the Torah, which is sufficiently deep. When one recites and repeats Kri’at Shema, he seems to show that he is adding to the level of the statement. It, therefore, cannot be an acceptance from the Torah, which does not lend itself to additions and repetitions. That is what makes it improper.

The extent to which the oneness of Hashem and the oneness of Israel bear testimony one on the other depends on Bnei Yisrael’s recognition of the oneness of the Torah. Even though one is supposed to try to advance his intellect to the extent that his personal capabilities allow, when it comes to acceptance of the yoke of Hashem, which is the essence of Kri’at Shema, he should suffice with doing so like everyone else, through the auspices of the Torah.

While it is not good for there to be differences between the qualities of different people’s Kri’at Shema, this is under the assumption that people are concentrating on the simple meaning of the words. If not, one is deserving of strong criticism. Such a basic understanding is not a matter of intellectual attainment but of a practical nature, and if he is missing it, it is a moral deficiency.


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