Tag Archives: Shema

Does it Snow in Hell?

Day 14 – Berachos 15

אָמַר רַבִּי חָמָא בְּרַבִּי חֲנִינָא: כָּל הַקּוֹרֵא קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע וּמְדַקְדֵּק בְּאוֹתִיּוֹתֶיהָ מְצַנְּנִין לוֹ גֵּיהִנָּם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״בְּפָרֵשׂ שַׁדַּי מְלָכִים בָּהּ תַּשְׁלֵג בְּצַלְמוֹן״ — אַל תִּקְרֵי ״בְּפָרֵשׂ״ אֶלָּא ״בְּפָרֵשׁ״, אַל תִּקְרֵי ״בְּצַלְמוֹן״ אֶלָּא ״בְּצַלְמָוֶת״.

On this same topic, Rabbi Ḥama, son of Rabbi Ḥanina, said: Anyone who recites Shema and is punctilious in enunciating its letters, Gehenna is cooled for him, as it is stated: “When the Almighty scatters [befares] kings over it, it will snow in Tzalmon” (Psalms 68:15). Do not read befares, When He scatters, but befaresh, When he enunciates. When one enunciates the name of God with precision, God will fulfill the verse: It will snow in Tzalmon, on his behalf. Do not read beTzalmon, in Tzalmon, but betzalmavet, in the shadow of death, a reference to Gehenna. As reward for enunciating God’s name precisely, God will cool Gehenna for him.

Berachos 15 – Sefaria

The Gemara discusses the importance of not swallowing up the words in Shema and the importance of saying each word clearly. The Gemara then goes on to say that anyone who says each word slowly and clearly, Gehinnom will be cooler for them.

I found this difficult to understand, if one is saying every word of Shema clearly, he is presumably a Tzadik. So why is he going to Gehennom?

The Tzlach (Rav Yechezkel Landau, popularly known by his more famous work – Noda B’Yehuda) and the Gra (Imrei Noam) explain that this does not mean that it will be colder for Reshaim in hell. Rather, Tzaddikim go to Gehennom on their way to Gan Eden to take out any Jewish Reshaim that may be there, while there they suffer a little for the sake of the Rasha. This suffering is alleviated due to their slow pronunciation of the Shema. This concept is also found in the writings of the Arizal (Pri Eitz Chaim – Krias Shema Perek 3

(This may explain the tradition that Reb Nachman of Breslov said he will pull his Chassidim out of gehennom by their payos – Chayei Moharan #122) 

8 + 4 = 1

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. 

Quality & Quantity

Day 10 – Berachos 11

The Gemara is discussing the Berachos said before reciting the Shema. There is a dispute whether you say Ahava Raba or Ahavas Olam. Tosafos says that because there is a dispute, during Shacharis, one should say Ahava Raba and during Maariv one should say Ahavas Olam.

What is the difference between Ahava Raba and Ahavas Olam? Furthermore, why is Ahava Rabba said in the morning and Ahavas Olam at night?

I heard from my father, in the name of Rav Yosef Engel that the difference is one between the quality or the quantity of the love of Hashem for us.

Let’s explain.

In the morning, the world is bright and we see all the blessings of Hashem clearly, we say Ahava Rabba, that Hashem has a lot of love for us. However, as it becomes darker and we do not see so clearly the blessings of Hashem – in fact it appears to be very dark, we say Ahavas Olam. This reflects the eternal & deep love that Hashem has towards us.

Even if things are looking very dark – we recognize that Hashem still loves us and we say the Shema.

The Earliest Time to Say Shema

Day 1 – Berachos 2

We learn that the time for Shema ranges from the time poor people begin to eat until dawn. With the advent of electricity, poor people do not eat so early anymore.

However, it has become popular for the elderly to eat dinner early, between 4-5 PM, as they have less digestive enzymes, this helps decrease nighttime indigestion – as noted here

Can we rely on this early dinner time to allow the Shema to be recited as early as 4-5 PM?