the Oneness of G-d
By Rabbi Joshua Hoffman
I n this week’s parsha, we find the verse, “Hear Yisroel the Lord our God the Lord is One“ (Devarim 6:4). This statement is a declaration of the unity of God. We raised the question, in an earlier Netvort, why this important principle occurs so late in the Torah, and explained, based on Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik’s insight, that the unity of God points to his uniqueness, and our declaration of His uniqueness also expresses the need for each person to actualize his own unique character. In the book of Devarim, Moshe expresses his own uniqueness, as articulated by the rabbis when they said that while the section of rebuke in the book of Vayikra was said by God, the section of rebuke in the book of Devarim was said by Moshe. The Ramban says that this distinction applies to the entire book of Devarim. While this comment of Ramban needs to be understood (see Yaakov Elman’s article in the volume Hazon Nahum), one thing we can draw from it is that Moshe, in his farewell address to the people, brought out his own unique character. Therefore, that address was a fitting background to call on the people to bring our their own unique character, as well. The paragraph following the declaration of Shema contains the mitzvah of the love of God. Here, too, one can ask why this mitzvah occurs so late in the Torah. After all, the love of God is a central component of the Torah. It is what characterized our patriarch, Avraham, who God referred to as “oheiv” – the one who loves me, and this is a level of devotion that his descendants are called on to emulate. Why, then, is it commanded here, rather than at an earlier point in the Torah? The Sifrei tells us that the way to attain the love of God is through studying His Torah. In fact, the commandment to study Torah follows directly after the command to love God. The book of Devarim is referred to as Mishneh Torah, a repetition of the Torah. The Ramban says that the mitzvos here are mentioned in the context of Eretz Yisroel, which the people were then on the brink of entering. There are, in Eretz Yisroel, circumstances effecting the fulfillment of mitzvos that are different than those elsewhere. In regard to the commandment to study Torah, Eretz Yisroel is the optimal place for its fulfillment. As the rabbis tell us,”avirah de’arah machkim” – the air of Eretz Yisroel makes one wise. Rav Dovid Cohen, the Nazir of Yerushalayim, pointed out that this statement occurs in the gemara specifically in regard to the process of Torah study. Since the mitzvah of the love of God is fulfilled through Torah study, and Eretz Yisroel is the optimum setting for the study of Torah, it is fitting that this mitzvah is mentioned in the book of Devarim, which is geared toward the generation about to enter the land.