Strengthen the Faith by Chaim Metzger


In this week’s Parsha, Yaakov says to his sons,,“Assemble yourselves and I will tell you what will happen at the end of days” (Bereishit 49:1). Rashbam says that Yaakov assembled his sons in order to tell them what portions they will acquire in Eretz Yisrael and the extent of their military strength. Riccanti, on the other hand, maintains that Yaakov wanted to tell them what would happen to them because of their involvement in the sale of Yosef. Chazal (Pesachim 56a) propose that he wanted to tell his sons when Mashiach would come, but, as he was about to do so, his divine inspiration left him and he was unable to reveal the information. Yaakov thought that Hashem left him because one of his children was unworthy. His sons realized this and, to calm their father, they declared, “Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad,” “Hear, Yisrael, Hashem our God is the only God,” showing their firm belief in Hashem. Yaakov, seeing he had nothing to fear, responded, “Baruch Sheim Kevod Malchuto LeOlam Va’ed,” “Blessed be his name of glorious kingship forever,” thanking Hashem for his righteous sons.

It is noteworthy that although the words of Yaakov’s sons made it into the Torah (Devarim 6:4), Yaakov’s own words did not. In fact, many authorities maintain that Baruch Sheim is an integral part of Keriat Shema which, if said without proper Kavannah, necessitates repeating Shema. Why, then weren’t these crucial words included in the Torah?

Rav Moshe Feinstein explains that the reason is found in the meaning of the phrase. When somebody says Baruch Sheim, he is strengthening his belief in Hashem. The generation that left Egypt and received the Torah needed no such Chizuk, because they had personally witnessed so many miracles. They knew without a doubt that Hashem was the one and only God. We say Baruch Sheim after saying Hashem’s name in vain because this helps increase a person’s fear of Hashem and will hopefully prevent him from making a similar mistake in the future. On this basis, it is understandable why we say Baruch Sheim quietly after saying Shema. It would be embarrassing to us and disrespectful to Hashem to say Baruch Sheim out loud right after Shema, since this would indicate that our recital of Shema was not done properly.

Rav Moshe quotes a parable from the Gemara to explain this. The Gemara compares our recitation of Baruch Sheim to a princess enticed by the smell of stew. The princess’s servants don’t know whether they should serve it to her and thereby embarrass her with peasant food or withhold the stew and cause her grief. The servants resolve this by giving it to her secretly, sparing her the shame but nevertheless fulfilling her desire. This is similar to saying Baruch Sheim. We want to have the strengthening effects of Baruch Sheim, but we are embarrassed to say it. However, on Yom Kippur, we say it out loud because it is the day on which we acknowledge our faults and shortcomings. On this day, we need all the Emunah we can muster. We should all try our best to strengthen our faith in Hashem and be like the generation that left Egypt, such that we no longer require the recitation of Baruch Sheim. 

-Adapted from a Devar Torah found in Darash Moshe 

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