In this chapter we have examined how the first blessing of the Shema serves to repudiate some beliefs which are foreign to the Jewish religion. However, there is another goal that all the blessings of Shema share.
“Seven times a day I praise You because of Your righteous statutes” (Tehillim 119,164). Based on this verse, the Great Assembly determined that seven blessings should be recited before and after the morning and evening Krias Shema (Brachos 11a). But why did they understand this verse to refer to blessings surrounding the Shema?
Throughout history, many Jews have been put to death for being Jewish. As is well-known, these martyrs always uttered the words of the Shema with their last breath. The Shema proclaims the fundamental Jewish tenets: that G-d’s Oneness is indisputable, that everything He does is absolutely good, and that all of His statutes are righteous. While at times this may be difficult for us to understand, due to our limited perception of reality, the absolute truth of this statement is deeply embedded in the heart of every Jew.
When faced with enemies who will stop at nothing to destroy the Jewish people, Jews have always found the strength to face their fate al kiddush Hashem – to die proclaiming Hashem’s Oneness. However, the Great Assembly understood that the willingness to die by the Shema is not enough. We have to live by the Shema; we need to face each day with an awareness of Hashem’s Oneness. They instituted the requirement that we praise and thank Hashem for the privilege of saying Shema when our lives are not at stake.
These seven blessings before and after the Shema give us a daily opportunity to express our joy in proclaiming the Oneness of Hashem.
A bride and groom express the joy of their union with seven blessings under the wedding canopy. So, too, we express our joy in acknowledging Hashem’s Oneness through the Shema by saying seven blessings before and after its recitation each day.
Text Copyright © 2008 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org