A change in the order provides a major lesson for all time!

The first paragraph of the Shema is in the singular. The second paragraph is in the plural, The order of the mitzvot is switched. Why?

UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis ,

Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
טוויטר

A change in the order presents us with a crucially important lesson for life.

Last Shabbat, Parshat Va’etchanan, we read the first paragraph of the Shema which is so very well known to us. In it we have the important mitzvah of ושננתם לבנך ודברת בם – we must teach Torah to our children. A bit later in the same paragraph, we’re given the Mitzvah of Teffilin – וקשרתם לאות על ידך. Now in the second paragraph of Shema which we will be reading in Parshat Eikev this coming Shabbat, we have, yet again, the mitzvah of tefillin – וקשרתם לאות על ידכם and that is followed by ‏ולמדתם אותם את בניכם לדבר בם. First Teffilin and then Talmud Torah.

So my question is this: Why is it that in the first paragraph, the teaching of Torah precedes the mitzvah of Teffilin, whereas in the second paragraph, first, we have the mitzvah of Teffilin followed by the mitzvah to teach Torah.

Now we know of course that the first paragraph of the Shema is in the singular. It therefore, addresses each and every one of us in our own individual capacities. The second paragraph is in the plural, indicating that we fulfil the mitzvot of Hashem as an integral part of Am Yisrael as a collective, with a responsibility to all of Am Yisrael.

Allow me therefore to suggest the following: When a child is born, the parents immediately have the mitzvah of ושנתם לבנך – to teach Torah to their child. To instil within the heart and the mind of that child an appreciation of Torah values and eventually as suggested by the first paragraph, the child will grow up.

As girls reach the age of 12 and boys reach the age of 13 when they put on Teffilin, they become members of the adult community of Am Yisrael and they embrace fresh responsibilities. But that’s not the end of the story.

The second paragraph of the Shema picks it up from there. First of all, Teffilin and after that, yet again, Talmud Torah. Indicating that as an adult, the study of Torah must always continue.

In this spirit, we say in our davening every evening, ‘כי הם חיינו וארך ימנו ובהם נהגה יומם ולילה – that the words of Torah are our lives and they are the length of our days’ – they are there to inspire and to guide us throughout our lives.

Let no one therefore think, God forbid, that there comes a time in one’s life when one ‘graduates’ from Torah study, or from a commitment to keep the law of Hashem. Quite the contrary: Talmud Torah needs to be a part of our lives both as children and thereafter, throughout our entire existence.

And thanks to Torah, we have the keys to a meaningful life filled with joy and happiness always.

Shabbat shalom



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