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Posts Tagged ‘Krias Shema’

Why Was Yaakov Avinu Reciting Krias Shema?

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

In this week’s parshah, Yaakov is reunited with his son Yosef after having being separated from him for 22 years. When they met, the pasuk says that Yosef fell on Yaakov’s neck and cried extensively. Rashi quotes a medrash that says that while Yosef did this, Yaakov did not fall on Yosef’s neck, nor did he kiss him. The medrash explains that Yaakov was reciting Krias Shema at that moment.

There are several questions that bothered the mefarshim regarding this episode. First, why did Yaakov feel the need to recite Krias Shema at this moment? Second, if it was indeed the appropriate time to recite Krias Shema, why did Yosef not recite it? The Taz and the Vilna Gaon (Orach Chaim 61:1) – based on the opinion of the Rush (Berachos 1:5) that one may interrupt the recitation of the Krias Shema to inquire about the wellbeing of one’s father, rebbe, or a king – ask why Yaakov did not pause to inquire about Yosef’s wellbeing, since he was a king. We find that Yosef was considered a king, for when Yosef came to visit his ill father, Yaakov sat up in bed (Bereishis 48:2) – and Rashi explains that he did so to show respect for the king.

The Gur Aryeh explains that when Yaakov met Yosef it was not the time to say Krias Shema. Rather, the reason that Yaakov was reciting Shema at this time was because it was the custom of tzaddikim that at a moment of simcha they would be mekabel ol malchus shamayim (by reciting the Shema) in an effort to channel that simcha toward accepting the yoke of Hashem. Additionally, Reb Yehoshua Leib Diskin says that the ultimate purpose of the middah of love is to love Hashem. Therefore, when one experiences an overwhelming measure of that middah, he should focus it on his love for Hashem. So Yaakov recited Shema in order to use the love he was experiencing toward Hashem.

The Taz and the Vilna Gaon answer that the halacha that one may interrupt Krias Shema to inquire about the wellbeing of one’s father, rebbe, or a king does not apply to the first pasuk of Shema – only to the rest of Shema. Since Yaakov was in the middle of the first pasuk of Krias Shema he was unable to interrupt himself, even to inquire about the wellbeing of his son the king.

Others understand that it was indeed the appropriate time to read Shema, and therefore Yaakov recited it. As for Yosef, the Sifsei Chachamim explains that he was exempt from the mitzvah of Krias Shema since he was osek b’mitzvah (involved in a mitzvah) of kibud av (honoring one’s father).

The Brisker Rav explains that the time to recite Shema had already begun and Yosef had already recited Krias Shema. Yaakov had not yet recited Shema, since until this point he was osek b’mitzvah of following the commandment of Hashem to descend to Mitzrayim. At this moment he had just arrived in Mitzrayim, and thus he was now obligated to recite Shema – which he did. While he was still reciting the Shema, Yosef approached.

Reb Yehoshua Leib Diskin suggests that throughout all the years that Yaakov and Yosef were separated, Yaakov was unable to have complete kavanah while reciting the words in Krias Shema, “u’vechal nafshecha” (which mean that one must be willing to sacrifice his own life for Hashem). This was because Yaakov knew that he was promised that he would have 12 sons that would all be shevatim. Since one was missing, he was unable to wholeheartedly say that he would give up his life while still not yet fully complete. Now that he sees that all of his sons are alive, he could once again recite those words with total sincerity. Therefore Yaakov recited Shema at the moment that he met Yosef.

With this explanation Reb Yehoshua Leib answers another question. In the very next pasuk Yaakov exclaims “amusah hapa’am – now I can die.” The Gemara, in Berachos 19, says that one should not open his mouth to the satan. In other words, do not make statements that invite trouble. Why would Yaakov make this strange statement? Reb Yehoshua Leib says that Yaakov was explaining why he recited Krias Shema at this point: because he could now have complete kavanah, and if it were necessary he would wholeheartedly give up his life for Hashem.

For questions or comments, e-mail RabbiRFuchs@gmail.com.

B’Siyata D’Shmaya

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

We were very excited about attending our dear nephew’s aufruf (ceremony in shul the Shabbos preceding a wedding). We didn’t know where we were being put up, but somehow the address sounded familiar. When we got to the house, I recognized it immediately. It was the Brooklyn office of the Hebron community in Israel. The bar mitzvah of my son, of blessed memory, had been Parshas Chayei Sarah, the Torah portion that describes how Abraham buried his wife Sarah in Hebron. His bar mitzvah theme had been “Hebron.”

I felt right at home.

Once we were settled in, I realized that I had forgotten my siddur. I looked around, but only found old sefarim (holy books) – but no siddur.

When it was time to bring in Shabbos, I couldn’t remember all the blessings by heart. I searched some more, but to no avail.

When we left after a beautiful Shabbos dinner, I realized again that I didn’t have a siddur to say “Krias Shema” (prayers before going to sleep). I kept looking, and repeating, “I have to find a siddur.”

Shabbos was over and we finally returned home. I found a shopping bag under my mailbox. I had no idea who had left it there. When I looked inside, I saw that it was a sefer. I lifted it from the bag. It was a siddur with my deceased son’s name engraved in Hebrew on the leather cover!

Enclosed was a note that read, “I found this siddur in my son’s room and thought you would want to have it.”

The note was from the mother of my son’s high school friend.

All of this occurred around the day of my son’s birthday. He would have been 24 years old. Receiving this siddur at this moment felt like a message from Above. I felt Hashem comforting me with love, giving me strength to get through the day.

It was a gift I will cherish.

Happy birthday, Zavel. I love you and miss you very much. May your neshamah (soul) have an aliyah, and may you continue to watch over me, our family, and Klal Yisrael. Yes, I will continue to daven with your siddur and take it with me everywhere I go. What a wonderful gift. Thank you.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/lessons-in-emunah/bsiyata-dshmaya/2010/03/03/

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