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Vedibarta Bam And You Shall Speak of Them
Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, Shabbat Bereishit

A Resounding "Baruch Sheim"

by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky
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  Garments of Linen, Garments of GoldIs G-d Fair?  

On Yom Kippur we recite a certain part of the prayer in a different way than it is done throughout the entire year. When the pasuk, "Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem echad" is recited throughout the year, it is said aloud and the second pasuk, "Baruch sheim kevod malchuto le'olam va'ed" is said quietly. On Yom Kippur night and throughout the entire day, the "Baruch sheim" is said bekol ram - with a loud voice. Why the distinction?

In the Torah, only the passage of "Shema Yisrael" is mentioned. There is no mention of the passage "Baruch sheim." There are two reasons given for its origin. One is in the Gemara (Pesachim 56a) and the other in Midrash Rabbah (Devarim 2:36).

The Gemara in Pesachim says that when Yaakov was readying himself to leave this world, he called for his sons and said, "Gather together, for I shall tell you what will befall you in the end of days." Yaakov wanted to reveal to his sons "keitz hayamin" - "the end of the withdrawal of Hashem's right hand from battle against the enemies of the Jewish people." This means that when the Jews are in exile, Hashem's hand, so to speak, is drawn behind his back in a state of withdrawal to take action. However, in the Messianic era Hashem will return His right hand to the forefront, which means metaphorically that He will destroy the enemies of the Jewish people and return the Jews from their exile.

Yaakov wanted to reveal to his children the historical date of this epochal event, but the Shechinah - Divine Presence - departed from him and he was unable to do so. He turned to his sons and said, "Perhaps, heaven forbid, there is a blemish among my bed." He feared that the Divine Presence had departed from him because one of his children did not believe in Hashem's absolute unity and, therefore, was not worthy of receiving this prophecy. His sons answered him reassuringly, "Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem echad" - "Hear O Israel - also referring to their father who was called 'Israel' as well - just as there is only one Deity in your heart, so too there is only one Deity in our heart." At that moment Yaakov said, "Baruch sheim kevod malchuto le'olam va'ed" - "Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever."

The Gemara then relates that the Sages grappled with the propriety of our also uttering this proclamation. They were in a dilemma. Should we recite it as a part of the Shema? Perhaps this is not appropriate since Moshe did not state it in the Torah as part of the Shema. Should we not recite it? Perhaps this too is incorrect since Yaakov did say it as part of Shema Yisrael. To resolve this dilemma the Rabbis enacted that we recite the statement quietly.

According to the Midrash, the Baruch Sheim prayer was instituted after Moshe came back from heaven. When Moshe ascended to heaven, he heard the ministering angels say to Hashem, "Baruch sheim kevod malchuto le'olam va'ed," and he brought down this declaration to Klal Yisrael. The Midrash asks, "If so, why does Klal Yisrael not make it publicly, i.e. aloud?" Rabbi Assi replied, "This can be compared to a man who stole jewelry from the royal palace which he gave to his wife, telling her, 'Do not wear it publicly, but only in the house.'" But on Yom Kippur, when Klal Yisrael are as holy as the ministering angels, they do recite "Baruch sheim kevod malchuto le'olam va'ed" - out loud.

Now, according to the Midrash it is well understood why we say it quietly throughout the year while on Yom Kippur we say it aloud. According to the Gemara, however, there are a few points that beg explanation. Firstly, when the sons pronounced "Shema Yisrael," what did Yaakov mean by responding "Baruch sheim...?" Secondly, if it is improper to say it loud throughout the year, why is Yom Kippur an exception?

Perhaps this can be explained homiletically in the following way:

When a Jew finds himself in a troublesome situation, he often cries out "Shema Yisrael." Suddenly he reaffirms his faith in Hashem and begins to pray to Him religiously. When a member of a family is sick, G-d forbid, the family knows that help can be found by coming to shul to say a prayer and by offering charity. Many resolutions to strengthen the ties between man and Hashem are made in trying moments.

Yaakov was not surprised to hear his sons pronounce "Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem echad" when they stood around his bed knowing that he was about to depart from them physically. However, Yaakov used the opportunity to convey an important legacy: "Do not only express your absolute faith in Hashem in times of anxiety and distress, but at all times and for ever and ever, I pray you will remember to bless His glorious kingdom."

Yom Kippur is the one day in the year when many of the estranged and alienated are gripped with a sense of fear of this day of judgment and come to shul begging forgiveness and resolving to alter their ways for the better. Today they proclaim wholeheartedly and firmly, that "Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem echad" - "The G-d of Israel is the One and Only" and it is to Him that I pledge my allegiance and my obedience. They do this loudly to accentuate that they will proudly carry the banner of Torah and Yiddishkeit.

Simultaneously, when one also declares today loudly "Baruch sheim kevod malchuto le'olam va'ed," it should mean "The allegiance I expressed in Shema Yisrael to Hashem the One and Only, is not limited to today, while tomorrow business will be again as usual. Rather, it is a strong resolution to do everything to make sure that His glorious kingdom will be blessed by me for ever and ever."

Dear friends, we are here in shul today pure and noble as angels. We emulate the angels by not eating or drinking and by separation from all things physical and corporeal. When uttering this angelic prayer in a loud voice, let us resolve, to follow the instruction our patriarch Yaakov gave his sons: to maintain our conviction and dedication to Torah and Yiddishkeit throughout the entire year.

  Garments of Linen, Garments of GoldIs G-d Fair?  
     Sichos In English -> Books -> Parshah -> Vedibarta Bam And You Shall Speak of Them

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