Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Parashat Balak

In his D’var Torah this week, the Chief Rabbi discusses what our sages proposed as the fourth paragraph of the Shema.

There were nearly four paragraphs of the Shema.

The Gemarah in Mesechet Brachot (12) tells us that originally, our sages wanted to add a fourth paragraph, and what was that going to be? Parashat Balak; our portion of this week.

And why didn’t they include it? Because of Tirchah De’tziburah. It would have been too long, because it would have been part of ‘Hadevarim Ha’eileh’, ‘these are the things’ that you must say every morning and every evening and it would have added on 5, 6, 7 minutes to our prayers – that would be too much to expect people to have to pray.

‘The Gemarah in Mesechet Brachot (12) tells us that originally, our sages wanted to add a fourth paragraph, and what was that going to be? Parashat Balak…’

So the reason why this fourth portion was left out is not because of its content. No, it still remains eminently suitable, it’s just because it was too long.

So we must ask the question, what is so suitable about it?

The first paragraph of the Shema is all about ‘Kabbalat Ol Malchut Shamayim’, ‘The acceptance of the yoke of the Kingdom of God’ – it’s about our faith in Hashem.

The second paragraph is about ‘Kabbalat Ol Mitzvot’, our commitment to perform Mitzvot as our way of expression of our belief in Hashem.

The third paragraph is ‘Vihiyitem Kedoshim’, for us as a nation to be holy and for us as individuals to lead a sacred existence.

‘That’s what Bil’am thought: That he could micromanage what was happening to the people of Israel and control our destiny…’

And then, there would have been a fourth paragraph, describing how we think that we’re in control.

That’s what Bil’am thought: That he could micromanage what was happening to the people of Israel and control our destiny. But actually, it was God who was putting every word in his mouth, the Almighty deciding exactly what he would and would not do.

So it is from what would have been the fourth paragraph of the Shema that we learn the lesson, it’s not just Emunah, ‘faith’, in God that is important, in addition to our faith, we need Bitachon, to ‘trust’ in the Almighty, and with our trust may He always bless us.

Shabbat Shalom