The Way of G-d
Part 4: "Divine Service"
Ch. 4: "Shema Yisroel and Its Blessings"
Your having fully accepted the yoke of G-d's Kingdom upon yourself in the
first paragraph of "Shema Yisroel" would naturally lead you to accept the
idea of serving the King Himself (known as "accepting the yoke of His
mitzvot"). And that's exactly the thrust of the second paragraph of "Shema
Yisroel" (Deuteronomy 11:13-21).
The *third* paragraph (Numbers 15:37-41) harkens us back to the idea of
fulfilling G-d's will when it cites the mitzvah of wearing tzitzit (the
tassels tied to the ends of certain garments), since we're told to "look
at (our tzitzit) in order to remember all of G-d's mitzvot and to do them"
(v. 39). Curiously enough, though, the third paragraph ends by citing the
exodus from Egypt.
What has that to do with all we've learned so far about the profound role
that "Shema Yisroel" plays in our lives? Well, it's cited because the
exodus was not only a primal, momentous episode in our people's national
and spiritual history, it also affects us to this very day, as we'll see.
But we'll have to backtrack again to understand how that's so.
As we discussed early on, Adam and Eve's sin changed the fundamental
architecture of the universe in that wrong gained a degree of power it
hadn't had till then, and it was then able to stifle goodness (see 1:3:8).
So it became necessary for there to be a group of people who'd dedicate
their lives to G-d and the pursuit of goodness. As we learned, Abraham's
family came to serve that function (see 2:4:3), but they weren't yet able
to develop into a nation both because they were too few in number and
because they hadn't yet achieved their spiritual potential.
And so they had to suffer the pangs of exile and subjugation in Egypt. For
by undergoing that they came to be purified the way gold is by going
through a smelter, to be fully-formed the way diamonds come to full luster
when crushed into formation, and to be strengthened the way oaks are by
having to withstand cruel winds.
There finally came a time when G-d manifested His will and presence over
the Jews (who had become a nation by then in number, too) by fending off
the evil that suffused Egypt then, and by purging the Jewish Nation of it.
G-d thus elevated our ancestors from their low spiritual state and drew
them close to Him. And they were therefore permanently unshackled from
evil (and from Egypt itself) and were able to function as an entire nation
that would be attached to G-d and exalted by Him. This came to be a
permanent state of inner rectification which all the goodness we'll
eventually earn is a consequence of.
That's why we're charged to remember the exodus each and every day, and to
recount it. Since by doing that we fortify the rectification of the exodus
process, intensify its illumination, and see to it that its benefits are
transmitted to us this every day.
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org.