In this parsha we read the well known passage of Shma, which we are commanded to recite twice daily. Many questions can be asked about this passage, but we will only ask to explain the second verse (Devarim 6:5): “You shall love Hashem your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might”. What is the meaning of these three terms and what is the difference between them?




Obviously even a cursory discussion of Shma would require a whole book. We decided to concentrate on just one verse since it seems to be the most difficult one to understand even on the level of Peshat (simple meaning). Three terms are mentioned in this verse: Levavcha (your heart), Nafshecha (your soul) and Meodecha (usually translated as your might). We will first discuss the basic meaning of these expressions of love that is required from us. This can also help us every time we recite Shma, so we can concentrate on what we are saying.


The Talmud[1] tells us that loving Hashem with one’s whole heart means serving Him with both[2] our yetzer hatov (good inclination) and yetzer hara (evil inclination). Right before this, the Talmud mentions that the righteous people are ruled by their yetzer hatov, the wicked – by their yetzer hara, while average people are ruled by both. The GR”A[3] explains that the righteous use even their physical desires only to serve Hashem. Thus even their partake of food, family relations and other ordinary activity is sanctified[4]. On the other hand the wicked people do everything through their yetzer hara. Even when they learn Torah, their main desire is to become famous or to show off or to find mistakes in other people’s teachings. When they give tzedakah, they do it only to become known as righteous and generous people[5]. At last, average people are “ruled” by both their yetzer hatov and their yetzer hara. Indeed we are required to strive to love and serve Hashem with all our hearts and with all our desires.


The second expression is: “with all your soul”. Our soul shell desire Hashem’s closeness more than anything else in the world. Our soul should be our main component that only uses the body to serve it. Then our thoughts and decisions will come from the soul[6] with which we are commanded to love Hashem[7]. 

The third expression used is Meodecha. This word is very hard to translate. Its’ closest grammatical root is the word “Meod” – which means “very”. We are required to love Hashem very very much, as much as possible with our whole being, might and with all our possessions[8]. Moreover, in this world Hashem may not always give us the things we wanted, He may punish us even though at times we may not understand why. Still we are required to love Him regardless which “Mida[9]” (quality) He uses in His Rule over us.


The Zohar (2:27a) teaches us that the three types of love described here are related to the qualities of our forefathers[10]. The love with one’s whole heart including the “right” and the “left” quality of the “heart” corresponds to Avraham and Yitzchak – the forefathers that represented “kindness” and “judgment”. Loving with one’s soul corresponds to Dovid, the author of Psalms. Indeed, the soul of Dovid and of his descendant, Melech Hamoshiach is a collective soul that includes our entire nation[11]. Loving with one’s might and possessions corresponds to Yakov[12], who gave us all his property for Hashem[13]. According to this, the correspondence of the qualities with which we are commanded to serve Hashem is as follows[14]:




Quality of love

Avraham and Yitzchak[15]

Chesed and Gevurah

With both “sides” of one’s heart



With all of one’s might and possessions



With one’s soul, even if one has to die


May we deserve to truly love Hashem, becoming close to Him so that our souls will only desire to cling to the Living G-d and may we deserve to live till the times when Moshiach will come and this will become the aspiration of every living being!


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[1] Brochos 61b.


[2] Indeed this is hinted by the way the word “heart” is written here with two letters “beis” – levavecha instead of libecha – with one “beis” (see Chizkuni Devarim 6:5). The right and the left sides of the heart are usually associated with the yetzer hatov and the yetzer hara.


[3] See Imrey Noam and his Agada commentary to Bava Basra 73a and Brochos 61b. See also Tanya, the beginning of Likutey Amarim.


[4] See also Ramchal, Mesilas Yesharim, 26 where he explains the last reachable level of sanctity – Kedusha.


[5] See also Zohar 1:25b, that indeed this is characteristic to one of the types of erev rav.


[6] Even though it is assumed that we think using our brain, indeed the soul’s capabilities of thinking are far greater than anything our bodies can offer. This is why for example during the sleep, one can sometimes much more Torah than while awake (see the GR”A on Mishley 19:23). When the soul is given greater “freedom” from the bodily constrictions, it can actually achieve far greater heights than when it’s “trapped” inside the body.


[7] See further Ramban, Devarim 6:5. In the classical example of total self-control, one is ready to even give up his life for Hashem.


[8] The word “Meod” also hints to possessions as the Talmud tells us. The reason for this is that usually possessions are measured quantitatively (see Ramban, Devarim 6:5).


[9] The word Mida is also related to the word Meod.


[10] See our words to parshas Vayerah.


[11] Note that it was Dovid who revealed in his Psalm 25 that it’s possible to “use” one’s soul in order to bring out the sparks of holiness from the unclean worlds. Ideally this is the psalm to be pronounced during tachanun (see Zohar 2:202b), with the concentration of “mesiras nefesh” – giving away one’s soul for Hashem. However most Sidurim bring a different psalm because of the great danger involved in pronouncing Psalm 25 without proper concentration (see Arizal, Shaar Hakavonos, Nefilas Apaim, Drosh 2, see also Zohar 3:121a). Because of this danger Sefardim who do pronounce the 25th psalm, do not fall or bend during tachanun, (see Ben Ish Chai, first year of learning, parshas Ki Tisa, 13).


[12] Indeed the word “meod” has the same letters as Adam and gematria 45, the expansion of the Divine Name that corresponds to Tiferes – Yakov’s Sefira (see our word in parshas Naso regarding expansions of the Divine names, see also Rav Chaim Vital to the Zohar 2:27a).


[13] See Midrash Tanchuma, Vayechi, 6.


[14] Note that the forefathers are also hinted two verses later: “You shell say these words … while sitting home and while walking on the road, and when lying down and when getting up”. Four actions are mentioned here – sitting, walking, lying and standing. They correspond to the four times of the day and four prayers instituted for those times by Avraham, Yitzchak, Yakov and Dovid (see our word to parshas Vayerah).


[15] Note that Rav Yitzchak Aizek Chaver (in his commentary to Aderes Eliyahu from the GR”A, Devarim 1:9) and Baal Haturim (Devarim 6:5) have a slightly different arrangement, by which Dovid is not counted here, and instead Yitzchak corresponds to loving with all of one’s soul. After all, it was Yitzchak who was prepared to give up his life for Hashem.