ב"ה

 
 
Hear O Israel

Dear Student,

Thank-you for joining us for Lesson Four, “Hear O Israel.”

In this lesson, we explored the Shema prayer and the blessings that precede it.

Despite G‑d’s manifestation in the world, we explained, G‑d is ultimately transcendent. This is the meaning behind the -kadosh- praise by the angels (in the first blessing before the Shema)—they yearn to experience the transcendent element of G‑d. Reading the account of the angels, in and of itself, inspires us to seek higher.

The second blessing, beginning with the words ahavat olam—eternal / worldly love, describes G‑d’s deep interest in humans and our mission. Considering G‑d’s transcendence, this is remarkable. All this, we explained, is reflected in the term Havayah Elokeinu in the Shema.

Thinking out this, inspires the individual to reciprocate G‑d’s love and go above and beyond for Him. This is reflected in the numerous descriptions for love of G‑d in the verse “Ve’ahavta.”

Finally, we studied the second and third paragraphs of the Shema—Vehayah and Vayomer.

Vehayah articulates the importance of doing mitzvot. The message: mitzvot are a way to channel one’s love for G‑d. Do them with passion and excitement.

Vayomer recalls the story of the Exodus, which, we explained, symbolizes restriction. The opportunity that Shema presents us with—to connect intimately with the transcendent element of G‑d—allows us to break beyond our natural inhibitions and grow exponentially.

I look forward to next week TUESDAY, as we conclude our journey through the prayer book by analyzing the climactic Amidah prayer.

Happy Shavuot!

Rabbi Yitzchok Kahan

 

The History and Meaning of Adon Olam

Prayer in the 18th Century

The Significance of Tefillah