When we fulfill the mitzvah of reciting the Shema Yisrael the minhag is to place one’s hand over one’s eyes. Many interpretations are given for its meaning. We want to suggest a new reason in which lies the mission statement of our relationship with Hashem.
The meforshim bring that the word שמע is gematriah 410 which corresponds to the years that the first Bais Hamikdash stood intact. We can add to this that the gematriah of שמע and the first letter of ישראל add up to 420 which correspond to the years that the second Bais Hamikdash stood before its destruction. What is the meaning of the fact that these two Mikdashos are hinted to in the words of שמע ישראל? Continuing with this theme, we find that the remaining letters of the word ישראל spell לראש. What is the connection between the letters לראש and the years that the two Mikdashos stood?
In the Torah, the end letter of שמע, ayin, and the end letter of אחד, dalet are written enlarged which indicates for us to take special notice. What is the message of these two letters in this passuk?
The passuk says שמע ישראל ה’ אלקינו ה’ אחד. Why does the Torah repeat Hashem’s name יהו’ twice? Wouldn’t it have been sufficient to state שמע ישראל ה’ אלקינו אחד?
To answer these questions let us explain a passuk (Tehillim 84,12) שמש ומגן יהו’ אלקים: a sun and a shield is יהו’ and אלקים. The Baal Hatanya explains (Shaarei Yichud V’emunah chp.4) that the name יהו’ pairs with the sun and the name אלקים pairs with the shield. Every name of Hashem manifests a different aspect and channel through which Hashem conducts and sustains creation. The name יהו’ is the unlimited power source from which He created all existence from absolute nothingness בריאה יש מאין . This is an ongoing process that is constant every second. The name Elokim is Hashem’s display of the constriction of His light of creation, thereby enabling making His endless power appear to take on different forms of vessels, from the highest form of spirituality found in the most upper worlds to the low single physical blade of earthly grass. These names have a relationship similar to the comparison of the sun and its shield (see Rashi Bereishis 18,1). The sun corresponds to the light of יהו’ which symbolizes the unlimited and unrestrained infinite power of Hashem. אלקים which is gematriah הטבע, nature, acts as a shield to יהו’ in the same manner that the sun has a shield in order to enable us to benefit from its light. Without the shield and constriction of the light, vessels capable of receiving it would be non-existent.
Therefore Man must not be deceived by the appearance of the shield, the so-called nature of the universe, for it is merely concealment which is continuously being fueled and sustained by the camouflaged energy of יהו’. This is the meaning of the passuk in our parsha (Devarim 4,39) וידעת היום והשבות אל לבבך כי הויה הוא האלקים that you are obligated to know that it is יהו’ who is the real life force of אלקים which reflects every varying aspect and level of creation.
The seforim tell us that Adam Harishon prior to the chait of partaking from the Aitz Hadaas, possessed a completely different set of eyes than what he had after the chait. There is the עין השכלי, the eyes of intellect (Sanhedrin is called עיני העדה) which can perceive the wisdom of Hashem in creation כולם בחכמה עשית. Adam was able to view the world through the lens of אור הגנוז, the Hidden Light, which exposed the façade and the “shell” of the external world of nature, allowing him to hone into the יהו’ of the sun. That is why the word השכלי is gematriah 365 symbolizing the orbit of the sun of the of 365 days a year of the solar calendar. עין השכלי is gematriah מלכות עה”כ the kingdom of Hashem. Looking at the world with these eyes one fully understands that everything in creation is only a vessel to manifest the glory and kovid of Hashem’s kingdom on earth.
However, after the chait Adam acquired a second pair of eyes called עין בשרי an eye of the flesh which focuses on just seeing nature with all its laws. That is the reason that the passuk says that after they ate from the Aitz Hadaas ותפקחנה עיני שניהם which can be interpreted to mean “both sets of eyes” were now opened. From then on, Man now has the option to experience the world with either set of eyes. The choice of which one to use at any moment is very challenging and daunting. We are constantly hassled by our enemy עשו who strives to blind this עין השכלי and make it inoperable (see Keli Yakar 32,25). He pushes us to buy into and select the “עין הבשר service” as hinted in the acronym ותפקחנה עיני שניהם which spells עשו. If we can train ourselves to see Hashem behind the shield and not be tricked by the luring packaging on the outside, our daily lives would be transformed into a relationship with Hashem that would possess greater intimacy, meaning, and fulfillment.
For this reason, there are two mitzvos daily that aid us in putting on those lenses of יהו’. It is the recital of שמע ישראל which is called קבלת עול מלכות שמים taking upon yourself the yolk of heaven. It is called a yoke for it is nothing less than bondage to listen to Hashem and His commands. The custom to close your eyes when you accept this yoke is to demonstrate that if one will look at the world of nature while reciting your obedience to Hashem, it will be a very weak and wavering commitment. After all, nature possesses its causes and effects that seem to be true most of the time, at least we think so. However, we are failing to realize that nature is only a concealment of the light of Hashem behind which He camouflages Himself. Only Hashem is the source of everything you see and therefore you owe your allegiance and gratitude to Him alone and not servitude to nature which is likened to a hatchet in the hands of the woodchopper הנה כגרזן ביד חוצב (Yom Kippur night). So when a Yid renews daily his servitude to Hashem he must block out from his vision any other existence that came into being from אלקים and to focus only on יהו’ the source and sustainer of all existence. שמע ישראל ה’ אלקינו Every Yid has to hear clearly that יהו’ is the source of אלקים and they are really both אחד one emanating from Hashem.
The enlarged letters of עין דלית in the words of שמע ואחד address this concept. The letter ayin means eye. The letter דלית means there is not. When you say the Shmah one must ensure that his eyes are not, meaning close your eyes, the עין בשר. One instead must open up his עין שכלי his eyes of wisdom and intelligence to perceive the יהו’ in everything and enter the דלת, the closed door of nature which leads to contact the inner light of Hashem.
The third parsha of Shma contains the parsha of Tzitzis. This also aids us to see the world with the internal eye of intellect. The word tzitzis means to look. The blue string of the tzitzis reminds one of the Kisay Hakavod and it teaches that revealing Hashem’s glorious kingdom in the world is our sole purpose and destiny. When Adam ate from the Aitz Hadaas the passuk says ותפקחנה עיני שניהם וידעו כי ערומים הם ויתפרו עלי תאנה both sets of eyes opened for them. When this occurred they then realized their shocking nakedness of losing their former built-in usage of the עין השכלי and how from now onwards they will be constantly challenged with the moral danger of exclusively using the wrong pair of lenses. The word עירמם naked is gematriah שכלי. They understood then very clearly that because of their deep descent they needed to remind themselves constantly of the devastating fallout from their former selves and their now distanced relationship with Hashem. The passuk says וידעו כי עירמים is gematriah מלכות. They knew very well that their task of revealing Hashem’s kingdom has been made more difficult and laden with constant hurdles. They, therefore, made for themselves clothing from the very leaves of the tree from which they ate to constantly remind them of their original shock in discovering their nakedness of acquiring two sets of eyes so that they would strive hard to use only the עין השכלי .
The passuk says in the mitzvah of tzitzis ועשו להם ציצית. The word ועשו is not a command but rather a suggestion from Hashem that they should on their own make for themselves tzitzis in order that they too should be constantly reminded that they possess the constant choice of which type of spectacles they desire to use. Choosing the correct one will save you from revealing your nakedness and loss of the intended relationship of love and loyalty to Hashem. This is why the mitzvah of tzitzis was stated in the ועשו form comparable to the term ויעשו להם חגרת that they made for themselves aprons to cover over their nakedness after the chait of Aitz Hadaas. Note that the acronym of ותפקחנה עיני שניהם וידעו כי ערומים הם is ועשו. On their own, they made protections for themselves to help direct them to have the correct lenses through which they will experience the universe.
The minhag is that when we say the words Shma Yisrael we are already holding the tzitzis in our hands even though we are not yet reading the third parsha of Shmah. Why such alacrity? The answer is the tzitzis is the symbol of וראיתם אותו וזכרתם את כל מצוות ה’. We must remember our bondage to Hashem which can only happen if our lenses are primarily those of שכל. Adam and Chava when they realized that they have now two sets of eyes, they made חגרת which is gematriah תורה which contains the 613 mitzvos. ציצית with the five knots and eight strings are our חגרת to remind us to strive to use exclusively the lenses of intellect in order not to drown in the world of עשו and nature טבע, which also means to drown! Holding on to the tzitzis in the קבלת עול מלכות שמים of the Shmah will help us in making our acceptance of bondage to Hashem more realistic by committing to try our utmost not to look at the world with eyes of flesh but rather with eyes of intellect. This is why many meforshim interpret the word שמע to mean understand. To accept the yoke of serving Hashem we must utilize the eye of wisdom, not the eyes of flesh that will hijack us away from our true calling.
These two letters of עין דלית which instruct us not to look merely with our physical eyes is also reflected in the mitzvah of blowing shofar on Rosh Hashanah. This day is the sixth day of creation when Adam was created by Hashem blowing the life of neshama into his body. It is the day of Hashem’s coronation as king which is mentioned throughout the davening and is signified by the blowing of the shofar. The passuk says תקעו בחדש שופר blow on Rosh Hashanah the Shofar which the essence of the mitzvah is to understand parallel to the recital of שמע ישראל. Adam on that sixth day of creation, from the moment he was created, saw the universe through the lens of יהו’. He was placed in Gan Eden, a habitat void of masks of nature. However, on that very same day, Adam lost that level and was unworthy to live with that recognition of Hashem. Every Rosh Hashana Am Yisrael fixes somewhat the original dimensions of Adam that permeated his being immediately after Hashem blew within him life. תקעו the command to blow shofar is gematriah 574 the same number equal to עין דלית (including the two words). Every Rosh Hashana we bring ourselves closer to that former level of Adam when he had only one set of eyes, the עין שכלי. Every שמע ישראל by which we commit ourselves to not rely on and believe in merely what our flesh eyes see helps to bring this tikkun about. And so the process continues until Moshiach comes, the time when the tikkun will reach its final destination of עין בעין יראו בשוב ה’ ציון (Yeshaya 52,8). It is then when the eye of the flesh will be transformed into seeing with the eye of שכל of יהו’.
The seforim tell us that on Shabbos we can get a glimpse of our future lenses that will become part of our instincts. As the passuk says by the manna ראו כי נתן לכם השבת that on Shabbos you can really see differently from the week. Shabbos also helps in the tikkun in restoring Man’s original vision of יהו’ and recognition that Hashem is the source of all existence. That is also why ביום השבת is gematriah שמש ומגן יהו’ letting us know that even though during the week the sun had a shield of Elokim and nature took over our cognizance of יהו’ the source of it all, nevertheless on Shabbos there is the facilitation to realize that only יהו’ the sun is the desired perception, and Hashem “lends us the lens” via our neshama yesairah to see the world without its mask.
Now let us introduce the topic of Tisha B’av and the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash with a story retold by the Ramah. Subsequent to the destruction of the first Bais Hamikdash, Ptolemy a famous great philosopher, was walking among the ruins of the Bais Hamikdash whereupon he met Yirmiyahu Hanavi and he was weeping. He approached Yirmiyahu and inquired why was he crying over these stones and wood when now they are a thing of the past. Yirmiyahu asked him, “You, Ptolemy are known as a great philosopher. Tell me, do you have any questions that you did not find the answers to?” Ptolemy listed off the questions and Yirmiyahu answered all of them one by one. After finishing Ptolemy stood there amazed, and exclaimed, “I have never met a person like you who possesses so much wisdom and intellect.” Yirmiyahu then said this is the answer to your question why am I crying over this wood and stones. It is they who have gifted me with the wisdom and great intellect that you are so amazed at.
Yirmiyah was relating to us that the Mikdash was a source of יהו’ revelation with constant miracles which don’t display themselves through אלקים and nature. Another fact is that outside of the Bais Hamikdash we do not pronounce the name of Hashem with the vowels. However, in the Bais Hamikdash it was permitted. The Medrash also says that the source of Hidden Light of Hashem which was created and concealed on the first day of creation was at the place the Bais Hamikdash was built. Since the world was created with chachmah (see Targum Yerushalmi on the word בראשית בחכמתא). The Bais Hamikdash is a manifestation of this chachmah. When one would go to the Bais Hamikdash, he would automatically be filled with chachmah and recognize with an absolute that all physical objects are rooted in the spiritual without any exception. The Shechinah of Hashem could be felt and experienced from head to toe. There the mask of nature was removed, and the awareness of the awesomeness of Hashem prevailed and embodied every limb.
As long as we possessed the infusion from the Bais Hamikdash every time we visited there, the Bais Hamikdash was there for us. However, when we followed our hearts’ cravings for the material and physical, our hearts became stone and we walked away from the Mikdash experience unaffected and unchanged. The generation’s lenses that were fixed to their eyes were made of flesh. Very rarely did they wear the spiritual lenses. When they came to the Bais Hamikdash they were not willing to remove their glasses. With a heart of stone and eyes of flesh, even the little chachmah that seeped into them by osmosis did not see any fruition. In this scenario, it would have been better not to go, for Chazal say that chachmah and insight without actualization in deeds is detrimental to one’s spirituality. Possessing spiritual lights without vessels to utilize and actualize them will lead to a spiritual shutdown.
The first two Mikdashos are hinted in the words שמע ישראל that שמע is 410 corresponding to the years of the first, and שמע י 420 years corresponding to the second. The years are alluded to in the Shmah Yisrael to convey that for this amount of years שמע Am Yisrael possessed the acronym שאו, מרום עיניכם (Yeshaya 40,26) lift up the “eyes that ascend” and not the eyes that look below with an earthly perspective. This is the trait of Klal Yisrael as Balak said to Billam עם יצא ממצרים הנה כסה את עין הארץ. The Sfas Emes interprets this to mean that Yisrael left Mitzrayim and they learned therefore to cover up the looking upon earthliness and nature.
The letters remaining from ישראל are לראש. That the goal of Am Yisrael is to gravitate towards the head, not the body for in the head lays the neshama. Once this became our shortcoming, the Bais Hamikdash was no longer serving its purpose to build its visitors with chachmah and daas to get closer to the heavens instead of the earth.
At the start of the mamar we were troubled by the extra name of יהו’ in the passuk of Shmah. Now we can say that since the שמע ישראל alludes to the two Mikdashos, the first two names of Hashem also refer to the first two Mikdashos. The first Mikdash had the dwelling of the Shechinah whose presence removed the mask of nature thereby leaving one with an intense feeling of יהו’. The second Bais Hamikdash was missing the aron, luchos and the Shechinah, and therefore the יהו’ experience was compromised and it was called אלהינו compared to the first. The third Bais Hamikdash will possess the greatest revelation of the Shechinah and it is described as יהו’ אחד an experience of unity than we have never seen and felt.
The next time we cover our eyes when we say שמע let us try to commit ourselves to its meaning and that is to gain awareness about ourselves and notice that we just might be wearing the wrong lenses. We must carry the second pair of עין שכלי lenses in order to enable us to put them on at least once in a while so we can get our heads straight and get involved with rebuilding the יהו’ experience. ותחזנה עינינו בשובך לציון ברחמים The Radamsk Rebbi interpreted this to mean that when the final geulah will come then we will truly “see” with the world unmasked not like at the present time.