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The first paragraph of the Shema is in this week’s Torah portion of Vaeschanan. After declaring how we should love Hashem with all the facets of our being the Torah states, “And these words that I command you today shall be upon your heart” (Devarim 6:6). Rav Dovid Chait SHLIT”A, leaving an indelible impression on me, used to tell us in yeshiva, about this pasuk, that we have to view each day as if we received the Torah today on Har Sinai.
This is based on Rashi regarding the words “That I command you today;” these words shall not be in your eyes like an outdated decree (royal command in written form) which no one takes seriously, but rather like a newly given one, which is read eagerly by all. The Mizrachi, quoting Rashi’s source for the interpretation of this pasuk, in the Sifri, explains the reasoning behind why the pasuk is interpreted in this way: because the mitzvos aren’t just for those who Moshe was talking to on that day, but for every generation. Therefore, “today” must be referring to how fresh it should feel in our eyes. (Click here for Hebrew text.)
But how do we keep this freshness every single day? The reality is that the Torah manuscript is thousands of years old and the oral tradition is equally as ancient, from the time of receiving the Torah at Sinai. Even the fact that they are the blueprints of creation and handbook of mankind, created 2000 years before the creation of the world, which might make it sound more riveting and attractive, yet the psychology of man usually is “gone with the old and in with the new;” so how do we keep it alive and fresh? In fact, I remember visiting a non-observant friend of mine when I was in yeshiva and he asked what I do all day, do I spend the whole day learning how to read from the Torah scroll? I was astonished at the question and explained to him how I spend the whole day plummeting the depths and breadth of the Talmud, for the most part. He couldn’t imagine how anyone would and could spend the day learning Torah, something so old and seemingly outdated and ancient? How do we excite those that don’t see the practicality of a Torah way of life? And how do we instill in ourselves this level of freshness and enthusiasm that we have to look at the Torah as if it was handed to us at Har Sinai each and every day?
The Rashi at the beginning of this pasuk asks, “What is this form of love you are commanded [in the first pasuk, ‘You are to love Hashem, your G-D with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your possessions’]? He answers, ‘These words [that I command you today etc.’] For in this manner you will be aware of the Holy One Blessed Is He, and you will cling to his ways. The Gur Aryeh, which is the Maharal’s commentary on Rashi explains that Rashi was bothered by what relation the statement “And these word… on your heart” had to do with loving Hashem? Rather, the pasuk is telling us what is the love, in which way should it be expressed towards Hashem. The answer is, “And these words etc.” That through learning words of Torah one recognizes Hashem, His ways which are good, and recognizing His praise, which will bring one to love [Hashem]. (Click here fore Hebrew text.)
With this we can answer our question of how we can keep Torah observance alive and fresh every day. For if one has the attitude that through learning Torah, especially going into the profundity and fine subtleties of its great depth and vastness, in order to bring oneself to appreciate and love Hashem, then he will always be excited to start all over again as if it is new each day. This is because people want to express love. If they would know and understand that this is the means of showing the greatest love for the greatest entity in the world, universe, and beyond, who is a trusted and loving father and king for us then they would surely gravitate and never be exhausted from finding the means of gaining a greater appreciation of love for Hashem.
Helping ourselves and others show love for Hashem is the way to keep the acceptance of Torah fresh and alive in our hearts and minds every day.