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Beit Midrash Series Ein Ayah

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 9:230)

Kri’at Shema for its Own Sake

Various RabbisShvat 5773
478
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Gemara: When they were taking out Rabbi Akiva for execution, it was time for Kri’at Shema. They were scraping his skin off with sharp metal combs, and he was concentrating on accepting the yoke of the heavenly kingdom with love [by saying Kri’at Shema]. His students said to him: "Our master, this far?" He said to them: "My whole life I was disturbed about this pasuk of ‘with your whole soul,’ i.e., even if He takes your life. I would say: ‘When will the opportunity present itself to me that I should fulfill it.’ Now that I have the opportunity, should I not fulfill it?"


Ein Ayah:The goal of accepting the yoke of the heavenly kingdom daily can be understood as preparatory – one must have the feeling entrenched in his soul so that it will be there when he needs it. If so, if a person’s dedication to Hashem ends up being tested and he clearly passes the test, as Rabbi Akiva did, one would think that there would no longer be a need to perform the act of acceptance.
However, Rabbi Akiva taught us that the goal is not simply preparatory, but it is a wonderful goal in and of its own. When one sincerely accepts Hashem’s dominion until his very last ounce of strength is spent, he sanctifies and elevates himself ever closer to Hashem in an unsurpassed manner. Therefore, it is clear that one who took the opportunity to do this every day and in the most profound manner would seize the opportunity to add to this spiritual elevation by doing so when he acts upon his dedication to Hashem in the ultimate way – with "all his soul" and with love.


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