In this week’s parsha we recount receiving the Torah directly from HaShem at Har Sinai. There’s an interesting Medrash which tells us that every morning and night when we proclaim “Shema Yisrael HaShem Elokeinu HaShem Echad”, we’re alluding to the first two dibros which we read in this week’s parsha.
If we were to look closer at the first two Parshios of Kriyas Shema, we come upon some peculiar discrepancies. In the first parsha of “V’ohavta”, the pasuk says,”v’hayu hadevarim haeleh asher anochi mitzavcha hayom al levavecha”, “And these matters that I command you today will be on your heart”. In contrast, the pasuk in the second parsha of “v’haya” reads, “v’samtem es divorai eileh al lvavchem”, “and place these words of mine on your heart”. The obvious implied difference is that the first parsha seems to speak of a situation where the words of Torah will automatically be on a person’s heart, while in the second parsha it implies that placing the words of Torah on our hearts will require an action of actually putting them on our heart. The question becomes, why did the pesukim change its wording? What’s the difference between the first parsha and the second parsha of Kriyas Shema which warrants a change in the implication of its precise wording?
There’s another Medrash which says that when Klal Yisrael heard the first two dibros, the words of Torah stuck to their hearts. The message of “I am HaShem your G-d”, and “You shall not have any other gods” instantly become a defining trait intrinsic to the essence of the Jewish people. It wasn’t simply a commandment on us to act. It didn’t exist outside of us, rather HaShem made these two commandments become embedded in our core, deep down in the recesses of our Jewish consciousness. These commandments changed us from who we were; and effectively made us Klal Yisrael.
Love by itself isn’t sustainable. It’s like a building without a strong basis and foundation, it’s bound to be wobbly and unstable. Eventually, if the wind blows strong enough, it’s bound to fall. In every aspect of life where we try so hard to love, the love itself needs to have a strong base. It’s no wonder that in certain societies which socially call infatuation and lust “love”, the divorce rate is bound to be higher. Love isn’t simply attraction. It needs a core and foundation. This is something that every chassan teacher teaches a chassan, and every kallah teacher teaches a kallah. The beginning of marriage is supposed to be used to build foundations. It’s the reason why there’s a specific Mitzvah during the first year of marriage to spend more time with your spouse.
But how are we supposed to build? What point is trying to be stressed during that first year of marriage?
The answer can be found in the first parsha of Kriyas Shema. The first parsha begins with the commandment to love HaShem. But we know that love by itself isn’t really sustainable. It needs a foundation. So, what’s that foundation? The foundation is in the immediately preceding proclamation of “Shema Yisrael haShem elokenu HaShem Echad”. The foundation is in recounting the first two dibros. To recognize that there is only One G-d. Recognizing and proclaiming oneness is the precursor and foundation to loving HaShem.
The same is true with the love between husband and wife. The entire first year of marriage is dedicated to realizing that your spouse is the only one. It’s to recognize your oneness together. Only with that essential and tantamount building block can a love truly manifest. Only when one realizes that there truly is no other can he begin to really cherish the one for him.
This is also the difference between the first two parshiyos of Kriyas Shema. The first parsha speaks about the love between us and HaShem. The second parsha deals with the Mitzvos themselves. The first parsha therefore says “v’hayu”, that the words of Torah will automatically be placed on his heart. The reason being that if a person establishes a true love of HaShem, he won’t need to do any action of putting the words of Torah on his heart. It will happen automatically. He’ll become one with His Creator, and as a result become One with the Torah as well. The second prasha deals with the reality that not all of us have achieved such a lofty level of true love for HaShem. As a result, we need to act. If we still love other things in this world and haven’t directed our love solely towards HaShem, then we’re not truly one with the Torah. But there still is hope. The pasuk tells us that even if the words of Torah aren’t automatically placed on our hearts, we can still put them there. By learning and reviewing we place those words of Torah on our hearts.
This is the real lesson we learn from the first two dibros- a lesson in how to love. Love isn’t something which just happens, created out of nowhere. True love doesn’t mean “love at first sight” when sparks fly. It needs a foundation. It needs to have a deep base, so that even when a strong wind pushes the building itself will never go down.
My rebbe told me a story years ago when I had just become a chassan. He told me that Rav Yaakov Yosef Herman was once sitting with his wife when his daughter had just gotten married. The way they were sitting at the table struck his daughter as somewhat peculiar. The daughter and her husband sat together while Rav Herman sat at the opposite end of the table vis-à-vis his wife. His daughter remarked playfully, “Tatteh, you see you’ve been married so long and are so far apart, yet me and my husband just got married and are so close together”. Rav Yaakov Yosef Herman looked at her and smiled. He replied, “You who just got married need to be sitting next to each other to feel together. But my wife could be on the opposite side of the world and I’ll still feel as if she’s right here by my side.”
Love takes work. Like a precious plant it needs to be cared for to germinate. The first step is to realize the oneness and exclusion. The first two dibros are the most important because they establish this connection. They proclaim HaShem’s oneness at the exclusion of all others. This is the platform for “v’ohavta”. This is the platform for true love.