Parshas Vaeschanan.


The laws of reciting Shema.


1. The Torah commands all Jewish men to read two paragraphs of Shema morning and evening. The third paragraph, speaking about tzitzis, has been added primarily because of last sentence that mentions the exodus from Egypt which we also should remember day and night. The blessing instituted after Shema also mentions the exodus from Egypt. The women are not obliged to read Shema, but it is desirable, that they say at least the first verse. If they read the entire Shema they will receive a reward for it. According to some opinions, women are obliged to say the blessing after Shema so that they also recollect the exodus from Egypt.


2. The morning Shema is read after it gets light enough so that one can recognize a semi-familiar person at a distance of 7 feet. This is usually about 50 minutes before sunrise. The latest time to say the morning Shema is when one quarter of the day passes, approximately 8:30 AM. Obviously, if the one’s congregation prays too late, he should say Shema on time before the prayers. The earliest time for evening Shema is when one can see three average starts on the sky. One should try to say Shema before midnight but if this he did not, it can still be said until dawn. The exact earliest and latest times for morning and evening Shema vary and good Jewish calendars mention them for each day.


3. One has to understand at least the first verse of Shema: “SHEMA YISRAEL ADONOY ELOHEYNU ADONOY ECHAD” – Listen, O Israel (this is a call to the entire Jewish people as Moshe once addressed our ancestors) Hashem (the main name of the Creator whose simple meaning is that He is outside of time – He was, He is and He will exist for ever; during the reading we pronounce another name ADONOY, meaning the Master – Adon) our God (the Creator associates Himself with our nation saying that He is our God, but in the future He will be accepted by the whole world) Hashem (was, is and will be, the Master of everything) is One (the Creator is absolutely One, He does not consist of separate parts and He along is the sole ruler over the universe, there are no other independent forces).


4. Shema should be read carefully with great concentration, one also needs to pronounce the words clearly. If one word ends with a certain letter and the next one begins with is, we need to pause between the two words, so that each letter is heard clearly. It is preferable to read Shema in the original since the translations to other languages are usually inadequate.


5. Before pronouncing Shema we need to keep in mind to fulfill the mitzvah from the Torah. In the end of the third paragraph of Shema we need to keep in mind to fulfill the commandment to remember the exodus from Egypt. After the three paragraphs we immediately say the first word of the next blessing – “Emes”. The reason for this is that the word “Emes” – “true” is appropriate not only as the beginning of the blessing but also as a conclusion of Shema. The one who is saying Shema in a congregation does not continue at this point but rather waits till the leader of the congregation finishes Shema and says “ADONOY ELOHEYCHEM EMES”.


The laws of Mezuzah.


1. The Torah commands us to affix a Mezuzah on every doorpost in our dwellings except for the bathroom doors. The Mezuzah is hung on the right doorpost. In some cases of inside doors in a house that has many entrances, which side is the right one will depend on the direction from which we enter. In such a case, there are complicated laws regarding determining the side where to affix the Mezuzah. The answer may depend on the direction in which the door opens, the relative importance of the two rooms it connects and the regularity of entering from each direction. The exact rules are far beyond the scope of this book, and before affixing the Mezuzahs one should ask a Rabbi. Similarly, one should consult a Rabbi regarding entrances from a balcony, a closed yard and a big walk-in closet.


2. There are different opinions regarding whether the entrance without doors requires a Mezuzah. Therefore, one should affix it without a blessing. Certainly the one who affixes all his Mezuzahs at once will make one blessing that will also cover the Mezuzah on this entrance.


3. The Mezuzah is affixed above 2/3 of the height of the entrance and below the distance of a handbreadth from the top. However, it is preferable to fasten the Mezuzah right above the 2/3 of the height of the entrance. The Mezuzah is affixed with nails or strong glue.


4. According to the law, the one renting an apartment outside the land of Israel does not need to affix the Mezuzahs until he lives there for 30 days. However, according to some opinions, if the lease is written for at least a month, one is immediately obligated to fasten the Mezuzahs. At any rate, the custom of most people is not to even live one day without Mezuzahs. Some people affix the Mezuzahs immediately without a blessing, and at the end of 30 days take one for a checkup and attach it back with a brocha.


5. The Mezuzah is checked twice in seven years.