And it will be, if you will diligently obey My commandments which I enjoin upon you this day, to love the L‑rd your G‑d and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul: I will give rain for your land at the proper time . . . you will eat and be sated. Take care lest your heart be lured away, and you turn astray and worship alien gods and bow down to them. For then the L‑rd’s wrath will flare up against you . . . (Deuteronomy 11:13–17; recited daily in the second paragraph of the Shema)

Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter (1798–1866), founder of the illustrious Gerrer chassidic dynasty, once met a scoffer pushing his wayward agenda.

“I have broken every precept for decades now, and I have a wonderful life . . .”Rebbe,” he claimed, “I can prove that the Torah is false. The second paragraph of the Shema foretells terrible punishments for those who deviate from the ways of righteousness. I have broken every available precept for decades now, and I have a wonderful life, blessed with financial success, good health and a happy family.”

“The fact that you can ask such a question,” the rebbe responded, “implies that, at the very least, you have once read through the words of Shema?”

“Of course, rabbi, even a sinner like myself has visited a synagogue and prayed once or twice.”

“Then I’ll have you know,” the rebbe continued, “that whatever you have received in life until now is inadequate. Our G‑d is so forgiving and generous, that saying the Shema even once entitles you to rewards and happiness beyond even your wildest dreams.”