The Blessings of the Shema (Part 13)
"The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched
– they must be felt with the heart."
The third blessing continues: “True, You are the First and You are the Last, and other than You we have no king, redeemer or savior. You redeemed us from Egypt, our G‑d, and from the house of slavery You liberated us.”
The final section of our blessing switches its focus from affirming everything that we declared in the Shema to the redemption from Egypt, which is a Torah obligation to remember each day. The word “true” is repeated several times in the blessing to emphasize the centrality of the Exodus.
By declaring that
Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik (1853-1918) was a famed Rabbi of Brisk in Belarus and one of the greatest scholars of his generation, renowned for his exacting and rigorous approach to understanding and elucidating the Torah. He explains that there are two dimensions to slavery. The first one is that a slave is the property of his master. Even when he is not physically involved in working, he still belongs to his master who can do with him as he wishes. The second dimension to slavery is that the slave sees no fruit from his labors despite the fact that he is put to work. Everything he produces is owned by his master. This reality is the cause of enormous mental anguish. Accordingly, the phrase, “You redeemed us from Egypt, our
When describing to Moshe Rabbeinu how He was going to free His chosen nation from slavery,
To live an existence that offers no hope for the future is possibly the most dismal reality of all. Even under the most appalling circumstances, a Jew must never abandon the anticipation that “G-d’s salvation can come at the blink of an eye” (Midrash Lekach Tov for Esther 4:17). Rabbi Yisrael Spira (1889-1989) was the saintly and revered Rebbe of Bluzhov, a great-grandson of the Bnei Yissachar and a Holocaust survivor who spent the war years in the Janowska and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. He would try to give emotional and spiritual support to his fellow inmates. He would tell them that the Hebrew word for slave is “avadim,” which is spelled ‘ayin’ ‘bet’ ‘dalet’ ‘yud’ ‘mem.’ These letters form the acronym for the Hebrew phrase, “David Ben Yishai Avdecha Meshicha — Your slave David the son of Yishai is the chosen one (the Messiah).” Then he would tell them that even in their present impoverished spiritual state and subhuman physical conditions — even while deeply-mired in their reality of being “avadim” — we find allusions to the eventual freedom we await with the coming of the Messiah.
To be continued…