Day 12 – Berachos 13
תַּנְיָא סוֹמְכוֹס אוֹמֵר: כָּל הַמַּאֲרִיךְ בְּ״אֶחָד״, מַאֲרִיכִין לוֹ יָמָיו וּשְׁנוֹתָיו. אָמַר רַב אַחָא בַּר יַעֲקֹב: וּבַדָּלֵית. אָמַר רַב אָשֵׁי: וּבִלְבַד שֶׁלֹּא יַחֲטוֹף בַּחֵית.
It was taught in a baraita, Sumakhos says: One who extends his intonation of the word One [eḥad] while reciting Shema, is rewarded that his days and years are extended. Rav Aḥa bar Ya’akov said: This is only true if he extends the letter dalet, so the word eḥad is sounded in its entirety. Rav Ashi said: This is only so long as one does not pronounce the letter ḥet hurriedly.Berachos 13 – Sefaria
The Gemara teaches us that when saying Shema one should say the word Echad with more Kavana, especially the letter Daled and one should be careful not to swallow up the letter Ches.
We know that the Shema is our acceptance of the unity of Middas HaDin (Elokeinu) & Middas Rachamim (Hashem). We also know that the reason to enunciate clearly the letter Daled, is to have in mind that Hashem is our God in every direction. Daled being the numerical value of 4, represents the 4 directions.
This begs the question, why is the gemara making an extra point to make sure not to swallow the letter Ches in Echad?
The Pnei Menachem (Vayashev) gives a fascinating explanation.
We know, Yaacov Avinu had 12 sons, 8 from Rachel & Leah and 4 from Bilha & Zilpa
The Alef represents Yaacov, The Ches represents the 8 Sehvatim from Rachel & Leah and the Daled represents the 4 Shevatim from Bilha and Zilpa.
He explains, that the 8 Shevatim did not treat the 4 children of Bilah & Zilpa properly, rather they treated them as if they were slaves, as Bilha & Zilpa were originally maidservants. This mistreatment caused a lack of unity amongst the Shevatim and was detrimental to the concept of Echad.
Before Yaacov died he said Shema Yisrael and this was a sign that the Shevatim came back to a place of Echad. The Pnei Menachem explains that the reason we properly enunciate the Daled is to have in mind that the 4 sons of Bilha and Zilpa are just a part of Klal Yisroel as their brothers. For this same reason , we need to be careful not to swallow the Ches, as each and every one of the Shevatim was unique and we need them together in order to achieve Echad and then have true Malchus in our world.