And With All Your Strength
Rabbi Chaim Moshe Palarz
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Based upon the Sefer Tiferes Torah in Parshas Va’eschanan,
by HaRav HaGoan Rebbi Shimshon Dovid Pincus זצק"ל
The Midrash Tanchuma in Parshas Noach asks a question, “Why in the first paragraph [of krias shema] do we add u’b’kol m’odecha and in the second paragraph [of krias shema] we say only b’kol l’vavechem (with all of your hearts) u’b’kol nafshechem (and with all of your souls), and we don’t say u’b’kol m’odecha? See also what is written on this question in the beginning of the second sha’ar (gate) of the Nefesh HaChaim [Sefer written by R. Chaim Volozhin].
In trepidation, Rav Pincus himself posits his own answer to this question. According to the Ramban, u’b’kol m’odecha means with all the m’ode, that is m’ode m’ode; with all [your] strength. Indeed, there were righteous people that fulfilled this according to its simple meaning, as the following story about the Chazon Ish ז"ל illustrates. They once found the Chazon Ish ז"ל lying on the floor next to his bed. He said that he usually left himself enough strength after learning to make it to his bed. Today however, he learned a little bit more than usual and he did not have enough strength to make it to his bed! This is the simple meaning of u’b’kol m’odecha, not just m’ode m’ode, rather with all of [your] m’ode m’ode (strength). The Targum Onkelos however, does not translate u’b’kol m’odecha this way; rather he translates it with all of your property. This is because that there is no requirement in halacha to serve with all of your strength, so what we are left to learn is that it is necessary to give up all of your money in order not to transgress a negative prohibition. Rav Pincus stresses though, that the simple meaning is with all of [your] m’ode m’ode (strength).
There is a tradition from the GRA (Goan from Vilna) that everything in the Torah can be fulfilled according to its simple meaning, even though the simple meaning is very different. For example, the holy Rebbi Zundelז"ל was seen walking in Yerushalayim outside of the walls and counting houses in order to fulfill the pasuk “sovu tzion v’hakifooha, sifroo migdaleha“ (“walk about zion and encircle her, count her towers” Tehilim 48:13) even though there is certainly no mitzvah or law that says to do so. Similarly, they tell of Rebbi Chaim Volozhin ז"ל that he would lie down on the floor after his students would leave his house in order to fulfill the language of the Rabbis of blessed memory “hevi misabake ba’afar ragleyhem” (“sit in the dust of their feet” Pikei Avos 1:4). His actions are even more of a novelty since they did not have a source in the Torah. The source was a Rabbinic one, and there isn’t even a virtuous act involved here. He merely fulfilled the pasuk according to its simple meaning. Even more so here, with u’b’kol m’odecha, certainly the understanding of it is according to its simple meaning - with all of [your] m’ode m’ode [strength]. In addition, even though there is no legal obligation, surely it is the intention of the Torah that the simple meaning be followed. This is the inheritance of the special few that fulfill the Torah in keeping with its simple meaning, according to the rule “sh’ain mikra yotzai miday pshuto” (that the Torah does not leave its simple meaning), and serve Hashem, especially in the area of the learning of the Torah, until the last drop of their blood.
Thus, it is clear why u’b’kol m’odecha is written in the first paragraph [of krias shema] and not in the second paragraph. It fits in very well with the message of the first paragraph that we need to love Hashem with all of our strength, while in the second paragraph we find the condition of blessings and curses, that if we don’t serve Him properly we will be punished “… and Hashem will get angry at us and close the heavens …”. It is therefore impossible to write that if we don’t love Hashem with all of our strength we will receive punishments and curses.
Another reason why u’b’kol m’odecha is written in the first paragraph [of krias shema] and not in the second paragraph is that the first paragraph is written in the first person “b’kol l’vavechem (with all of your hearts)” and “u’b’kol nafshechem (and with all of your souls),” so it follows that it says u’b’kol m’odecha (also in the first person), that this is the inheritance of the special few. On the other hand, the second paragraph that is written in the plural does not say “u’b’kol m’odechem, for it is not possible to command such a thing on a group.
One that merits to serve Hashem with all his strength will certainly do so from exalted heights.