Chapter 7

12 If you will heed: The word used here for “if” (eikev) literally means “heel.” This unusual phraseology invites a number of interpretations:

· Heeding God’s instructions will be closely followed by (“come at the heels of”) the reward detailed in the verses that follow.1 According to this interpretation, the verse would read: “On the ‘heels’ of your heeding….”

· The reward for heeding detailed in the verse that follow will be bestowed specifically for fulfilling those commandments that people typically neglect (“trample under their heels”).2 According to this interpretation, the verse would read: “If you heed even the ‘heel’-commandments….”

· The reward for heeding detailed in the verse that follow will be bestowed in the messianic future (the end or “heel” of history).3 According to this interpretation, the verse would read: “There will be reward in the ‘heel’-era for your heeding.”

· In the era immediately preceding the advent of the Messiah (when we hear the “footsteps” of the Messiah), the Jewish people will return fully to God. According to this interpretation, the verse would read: “In the ‘footstep’-era, you will heed….”4

What exactly is the reward for performing the commandments? Although the text appears to imply that the reward consists only of material blessing and plenty, this cannot be the case, since such a reward would not be commensurate with the tremendous, far-reaching effects of fulfilling the commandments. The sages point out that even the immeasurable, indescribable delight experienced by the soul in the afterlife is not enough to compensate for just one hour of performing God’s will in this world.5

By fulfilling God’s commandments, we connect with God in the most intimate way possible.6 It is this very intimacy that is the true reward for performing the commandments, as alluded to in the sages’ statement, “The reward for [doing] a commandment is a commandment.”7 This refers to the bond forged with God by the commandment itself, the even greater bond forged by the further commandments it leads to, and the deeper bond resulting from the increased quality with which the individual performs it the next time.

Hence, the material bounty promised here and elsewhere in the Torah for observing God’s laws is not an end in itself but rather simply the means by which God facilitates our further performance of His commandments.8 “The reward for [doing] a commandment is [that God will make it easier to do] another commandment.”

Similarly, the material bounty awaiting us in the messianic era is not an end in itself but rather the circumstance that will enable us to fulfill God’s will and perform the commandments in the most ideal way possible.9

There are, of course, many possible motivations for observing God’s commandments, many of them quite legitimate. But only if we observe the commandments out of simple devotion to God will we be as careful about performing the “lighter” ones as we are about performing the “heavier” ones. Our devotion to God will prompt us to seek to serve Him completely—fulfilling all His commands without distinction.

In this context, our awareness of which commandments are more vital and which are less so serves only to help us ensure that we are no less scrupulous and enthusiastic in observing the latter than we are in observing the former. Thus, it is specifically this uniform approach to fulfilling God’s will that focuses on the essential bond with God that performing the commandments effects.

In this light, the first three interpretations of this verse listed above can be seen as complementary aspects of the same idea. By being equally conscientious about the “light” and “heavy” commandments, we affirm that we are performing all of them out of pure devotion to God. In reward, God provides us with the material means with which to perform them more easily now, and will ultimately enable us to fulfill them completely by ushering in the messianic era.10

12 Then God, your God, will keep for you the covenant: As has been explained previously,11 a covenant is a pact made by two parties indicating that they are from now on two halves of one whole, and that, based on this inner bond, they agree to always behave lovingly toward each other, even if one or the other’s future behavior fails to justify such love. So, if God made such a covenant with us, swearing to our forefathers that He would always treat us with loving-kindness, why is this now being made contingent upon our performance of the commandments?

The answer is that if God would fulfill the terms of this covenant literally, bestowing His beneficence on us even when we do not deserve it, it could embarrass us, causing us to feel like little children whose parents overlook their infantile behavior because adult behavior cannot be expected of them. Or worse, repeatedly receiving undeserved beneficence could undermine our belief in Divine justice. We would thus live our lives in either existential shame or confusion. Certainly, then, this would be the very opposite of being kind and merciful.

Therefore, even though the gifts promised here are beyond our power to elicit through our own efforts, God nonetheless determined that their bestowal would be dependent upon our efforts. Furthermore, in order that this arrangement not appear arbitrary, He determined that the bestowal of His infinite beneficence be contingent upon human effort that specifically mirrors the infinite, unlimited nature of this beneficence.

By taking care to fulfill the seemingly less-important commandments with the same devotion with which we naturally fulfill the seemingly more-important ones, we demonstrate our absolute devotion to God. We show that what matters to us is that God said that He wants us to do these things, not our own evaluation of which things are more weighty than others.12

14 You will be blessed above all peoples: This phrase may also be read, “You will be blessed by all peoples.”

As mentioned previously, had the Jewish people entered the Promised Land directly from Egypt and not taken the forty-year detour in the desert, the Canaanite nations would have offered no resistance. They would have simply fled, and the Jews would not have had to battle them or engage them in any way.

Although such a scenario would have been simpler, it would not have effected any change per se in these nations. They would have remained struck with fear from without, but within they would have remained just as they always were. In contrast, the armed struggle against these nations and our eventual victory over them would lead them to acknowledge the superiority of Judaism over idolatry. This transformation of evil into good is clearly a greater victory over evil than is merely holding evil at bay.13

Chapter 8

4 The Clouds of Glory pressed them: We may sometimes feel overwhelmed by the concealment of God in this world, leaving us feeling distant from Him and spiritually lifeless. Rather than succumbing to despair, however, we should take this as a challenge to spur us on to exerting greater efforts to overcome the obstacles to Divine revelation. Such renewed resolve will in turn lead us to a deepened awareness and love of God. Indeed, it is precisely because feeling estranged from God can inspire us to seek Him with greater resolve that God sometimes hides from us, similarly to how parents will sometimes temporarily distance themselves from their children in order to make the children realize how much their parents mean to them.

This dynamic is alluded to in Ezekiel’s prophetic vision of the Divine chariot, in which he saw “a great cloud followed by a flaming fire”;14 the cold darkness of the cloud is often the precursor to the great fire of desire in our relationship with God.

The spiritual garments of the soul are its modes of expression: thought, speech, and action. The garments we weave by pursuing mundane, ephemeral, or selfish ends wear out all too quickly; the garments we weave by studying the Torah, praying, or performing God’s other commandments never tatter. It follows that mixing our personal agendas with our Divine pursuits undermines the quality and permanence of the garments we weave. But if we train ourselves to utilize our feelings of estrangement—our feeling of being “under the cloud”—to refine our intentions in the fire of Divine passion, the garments then woven out of our study, prayer, and performance of the commandments will be correspondingly pure and eternal.15

7-8 A land of wheat…: The Land of Israel, as we have said, is the archetypal setting in which the Jewish people are to transform the world into God’s home. The seven plants enumerated here as the distinctive ones grown in the Land of Israel represent the diverse facets of this transformation process:

Wheat is used primarily for human food, barley primarily for animal food. These two grains therefore represent our methods for working with the Divine and animal sides of our personalities. Wine—the consummate product of the grape—which releases inhibitions and “gladdens man’s heart,”16 represents the joy with which we should infuse our work with both our Divine and animal natures. Since Adam and Eve’s first clothes were made of fig leaves,17 figs represent our efforts to refine the “garments” of our souls, i.e., thought, speech, and action. The seed-laden pomegranate symbolizes the multitude of Divine commandments18 through which we refine the world around us. Thus, these five plants depict how we fulfill our task in the world, progressing from the easier work we have to do (manifesting our inner, Divine nature) to the hardest (refining the outside world).

The repetition of the word “land”—emphasizing the setting in which all this work takes place—alludes to an intensified variation of the paradigm of work described by the first five plants. This is the extra exertion we must invest in attaining our goal during the exile, when the effort required of us is far greater than that required in the Holy Land during times of open Divine revelation.

This intensified process and its results are alluded to by the last two of the seven plants: Olives are bitter tasting and produce their oil only when pressed hard. Date trees take a very long time to grow, reflecting the great amount of work required during the exile to produce spiritual fruits. However, both the light-producing oil extracted from olives as well as the sweet honey produced from dates allude to the great revelations of the inner dimension of the Torah that will accompany the messianic redemption. The supreme efforts required of us during the exile call forth much deeper and profounder dimensions of our relationship with God and our devotion to Him, and therefore elicit commensurately deep revelations of the Torah.

Obviously, the same dynamic applies to each of us in our own individual journeys toward our personal “promised land”: the greater the efforts we expend in attaining, sustaining, and promulgating Divine consciousness, the deeper we must dig into the core of our souls, and the more profound will be our resultant relationship with God and the Torah.19

15 That great and awesome desert: The Jewish people’s desert trek was a forerunner and metaphor of the existential state of exile, which is followed by the redemption and entry into the Promised Land. The Torah here describes the stages through which both the people as a whole can descend into their collective exile and we as individuals can descend into our own personal exiles:

The first error lies in overestimating the power of the secular, mundane world and underestimating the power of holiness. True, the Divine soul, the observant Jewish community, and the Jewish people in general often seem to be at a disadvantage in every way, but the truth is that nothing can really oppose holiness. Deluding ourselves into thinking that anything can is the first psychological descent into the mentality of exile.

Exaggerating the power of the unrectified world leads us to granting it dominion over the “religious” aspects of life as well. We become so afraid of the world’s power—we consider the desert so awesome—that we are scared to appear too religious, even in private.

This leads us to replace our natural religious fervor with enthusiasm for worldly pursuits. This is symbolized by the snake, whose venom is hot. Eventually, our enthusiasm for worldly things will consume our religious fervor altogether; this is symbolized by the burning sting of the serpent.

But sooner or later, devotion to worldly pursuits leaves us jaded and our enthusiasm for them spent. This leaves us cold and deadened to any kind of stimulation, just as the scorpion’s venom is cold.

When God tries to arouse us from this state with a thirst for true life, we will not be able to recognize what we are thirsting for. We will “thirst” but remain “parched.”

The way to avoid all of this, then, is not to begin this process altogether, by making the mistake of overestimating the weight of the world around us. By fostering our awareness of the power of holiness within us, we can avoid the pitfalls of exile and live up to our true destiny.20

17-18 My strength and the might of my hand have accumulated this wealth for me: It is clear to any intelligent person, especially to believing Jews—as were those who were about to enter the Land of Israel—that God is the source of all worldly success. True, God asks us to do our part by setting up a natural channel through which He can bestow His blessings. But there are also enough cases of unrewarded effort on the one hand and fortuitous “coincidences” on the other to make it clear that it is God’s hidden hand that ultimately determines whether or not our efforts will be crowned with success. Surely, then, the Torah is not seeking here to refute the preposterous claim that a person’s success is entirely his own doing!

Rather, the Torah is here addressing a more subtle error in perception. We observe that children often surpass their parents in many ways, even though they received all their talents and aptitudes from them. The reason that children can manifest capabilities their parents do not seem to possess is because these talents and aptitudes remained dormant in the parents and only became active in their children.

Similarly, God calls the Jewish people His “children,” and has indeed left it up to us to bring creation to its completion, granting us a measure of power that He—in the context of created reality—has relinquished. Thus, when we accomplish something real in this world, bringing it that much closer to its ultimate fulfillment, we may well ascribe this accomplishment to our own prowess.

Therefore, the Torah reminds us that just as children owe their superior powers to the parents from whom they inherited them, so should we recall that we owe all our power to accomplish great things in this world exclusively to God.21

Chapter 10

12 Only to fear God, your God: Although in some contexts, the “fear of God” mentioned in the Torah could arguably mean “the fear that God will (or could) punish you,” in most cases it is clear that “fear of God” refers to a palpable awareness of His presence; “fear,” in this context, is simply the fear that God would see you doing something that you would be embarrassed or ashamed to have Him see you do, a mere consequence of a much more significant intensity of Divine consciousness.

It is in this vein that the sages of the Talmud ask, referring to this verse, “Is the fear of Heaven, then such a small matter?” And they answer, “Yes, for Moses it is a small matter.”22

Of course, Moses is here addressing all the Jewish people. How was the apparent ease with which he attained fear of God relevant to the rest of the people—who were certainly not on his spiritual level? The answer is that indeed, every Jew contains within him a “spark” of the soul of Moses. Moses was the “shepherd” of the Jewish flock, charged by God with the task of conveying the Torah he received directly from Him to the people—in all its facets, both rational and supra-rational. In order to accomplish this feat, God made Moses’ soul a comprehensive one, in which the souls of all the people were rooted and which projected itself into the souls of all the people. This is the allegorical interpretation of Moses’ statement about “the people in whose midst I am.”23 And since, as we have noted,24 the souls of all the Jewish people were present at Mount Sinai and received the Torah from God through Moses, something of Moses’ soul is projected into the souls of all Jews throughout all time.

By virtue of this spark of Moses within us, every one of us can emulate him. When we reveal our inner Moses, the fear of God does indeed become relatively easy to attain.

Moses personified the ability to “know” God, as the Torah testifies: “There was no other prophet who arose among Israel like Moses, whom God knew face to face.”25 The Moses within us is thus our inborn ability to reach profound levels of Divine consciousness. Possessing this inner spark enables us all to contemplate and meditate upon God’s unlimited immanence and transcendence and thereby awaken ourselves to a profound awareness of His presence. Even though we may not be able to sustain this awareness constantly, the depth of its impression upon those of us who indeed contemplate it profoundly makes it relatively “simple” to reawaken this awareness at any time. Thus, “for [the] Moses [within us], it is indeed a relatively small matter.”26

Chapter 11


the First Two Paragraphs of the Shema

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (parashat Va’etchanan)

Deuteronomy 11:13-21 (parashat Eikev)

4 Hear, O Israel: Godis our God, God is one.

5 You willlove God, your God, with all your heart, and at the expense of your very soul, and with all your material means.

13 If you study My commandments continuously, as if I am commanding them to you today, out of love for God, your God, and in order to serve Him in prayer with all your heart and with all your soul,

14 I will give the rain of your land both in its proper time, the early rain and the latter rain, and you will gather in your grain, wine, and oil.

15 I will give grass to your livestock in your field,you will eat and be sated.

16 beware, lest your heart be misled and you neglect the study of the Torah, and you worship insentient gods and prostrate yourselves before them.

17 If you do, the wrath of God will be kindled against you. He will close off heaven and there will be no rain, and the ground will not give back its produce. You will perish quickly from upon the good land that God is giving you.

6 These words that I command you today…you will keep them upon your heart.

18 You must set these words of Mine upon your heart and upon your soul.

7 You must learn for the sake of your students. You will discuss them when you sit in your house, when you walk on the way, when you lie down, and when you wake up.

8 You must bind them as a sign upon your weaker arm and they must act as a reminder between your eyes.

You must bind them as a sign upon your weaker arm and they must act as a reminder between your eyes.

19 You must teach them to your children to speak with them when you sit in your house, when you walk on the way when you lie down and when you wake up.

9 You must inscribe this paragraph upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.

20 You must inscribe this paragraph upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.

21 In order that your days and the days of your children increase on the land that God swore to your forefathers to give them as the days of heaven above earth.

13 If you study My commandments continuously: This paragraph appears in the daily liturgy as the second paragraph of the Shema (the first paragraph being found toward the end of parashat Va’etchanan27). As can be seen in the comparison given here, it is similar to the first paragraph in many ways—and even seems to repeat it—but there are a number of significant differences:

· The first paragraph is couched entirely in the singular (each Jew is addressed individually), whereas the second paragraph is mainly couched in the plural (i.e., the Jews are addressed as a community).

· In the first paragraph, we are commanded to love God “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your means.” In the second paragraph, the third type of love—“with all your means”—is not mentioned.

· Unlike the first paragraph, the second paragraph raises the issue of reward and punishment.

· Unlike the first paragraph, the second paragraph discusses the eventuality of exile and how the Jew—even in such circumstances—can and should continue to serve God.

· In the first paragraph, the commandment to learn the Torah is mentioned before the commandment of tefilin, whereas in the second paragraph, the order is reversed: the commandment of tefilin precedes that of learning Torah.

· In the first paragraph, learning the Torah is mentioned with reference to teaching students, whereas in the second paragraph it is mentioned with reference to teaching one’s children.

These differences mirror the diverse aspects of our relationship with God described in parashat Va’etchanan and parashat Eikev.

The key to understanding the differences between these aspects of relationship lies in the word used to describe the type of love for God that appears only in the first paragraph of the Shema: “with all your means (מאד).” Every other time this word appears in Scripture, it is used as an adjective meaning “very” or “very much,” so that it might be translated here as “your very much,” or “beyond your own ability.” Thus, the contemplation that introduces the first paragraph of the Shema is one that will lead us to love God beyond our natural ability, while that presumed by the second paragraph will not.

As has been discussed at length, Moses asked God to grant us the unconditional gift of Divine “sight,” i.e., the direct perception of God’s transcendence. This request was not granted, so he instead exhorted us to “hear,” i.e., to contemplate and understand God’s transcendence intellectually. Moses then described how our relationship with God will unfold based on this meditation.

Nonetheless, since that which we are exhorted to “hear”—God’s transcendence—is the same as what Moses wanted us to “see,” this “hearing” is still relatively on the level of “seeing.”

Therefore, this expectation is still not realistic, at least on the popular level. Sustained contemplation on the fact that there is Something and Someone that so transcends everything we see and know that it renders our apparent reality null and void is simply too intense to demand of the average individual. The Torah therefore asks us to sustain consciousness of God’s immanence, the aspect of His Divinity to which we can all relate much more readily. It is indeed reasonable to expect us to remain aware that everything we see and know is continuously created and sustained by God. Relative to the first paragraph, this experience is true “hearing,” since we are now “hearing” what is normally “heard”—God’s immanence.

The implications of these two levels of Divine consciousness account for the differences in the two versions of life as described by these two similar but different passages.

Sustained contemplation of God’s transcendence—Moses’ vision for the Jewish people in the first paragraph of the Shema—is so intense that fulfillment of God’s will is a given; there is no need to mention reward and punishment, and the possibility of exile is of course not even considered. Furthermore, the intensity of this Divine consciousness enables us to transcend our innate finitude and love God “beyond your natural ability,” beyond our natural limits. When this is the case, we can all rely on ourselves and on our own personal experience of Divinity to ensure our commitment to God and His will.

Similarly, learning Torah—relative to performing the commandments—is a direct experience of Godliness, inasmuch as through learning the Torah we are granted a glimpse into God’s mind, as it were. In this context, therefore, it is given precedence over the fulfillment of the Torah’s commandments.

But the fact that this vision of reality is couched in the singular alludes to the fact that it is ultimately relevant only for select individuals, the spiritually gifted few who can indeed continuously sustain such a transcendent consciousness. In contrast, consciousness of God’s immanence in creation is the “consciousness for the masses”; therefore, the second paragraph of the Shema is couched in the plural.

Since, at this less-intense level of Divine perception, we are entirely aware of our own existence, we are therefore susceptible to mistakenly putting our own perceived priorities ahead of those of the Torah. It therefore becomes necessary to delineate the consequences both of heeding and ignoring God’s call. Since we are fallible, reliance on our own effort leaves room for the possibility of exile, and we need to look to each other for communal support to bolster our commitment to God’s will—another reason this paragraph is couched in the plural rather than in the singular.

Similarly, the experience of fulfilling God’s commandments, relative to Torah study, is an indirect experience of God; in this context, therefore, it is given precedence over the study of the Torah.

Thus far, the second paragraph seems to be a discouraging descent from the utopia depicted in the first paragraph. However, as we have seen before, there is often an advantage to the apparently lower scenario over the apparently higher one—in the present case, of “hearing” over “seeing.”28 Consciousness of God’s transcendence may indeed engender a more comprehensive and absolute dissolution of the will before God, but its disadvantage is that it is so beyond our natural consciousness that it cannot affect it or transform it. In contrast, since consciousness of God’s immanence, in contrast, must by nature infuse itself into the very fabric of our mundane lives, it strikes much deeper at the root of our natural consciousness and is far more effective in transforming it into Divine consciousness.

This explains, from another perspective, why exile is mentioned only in the second paragraph but not in the first. When our relationship with God is predicated solely on “sight,” its very perfection precludes compromise or provisional policies; it knows only of “either/or” logic. Thus, it cannot conceive of performing the commandments during exile; exile and any continued relationship with God seem mutually exclusive. When, however, our relationship with God is attained through “hearing,” it penetrates to our essential bond with Him; thus, in its context, the particulars of circumstance are inconsequential and we can continue our relationship with God even in exile.

For this reason, too, the first paragraph only speaks of teaching “students,” who can appreciate the value of the Torah, while the second paragraph also speaks of teaching “children,” who are still too immature to appreciate its value. In teaching the immature, we address their intrinsic relationship with the Torah rather than their conscious recognition of its worth.

Nonetheless, despite its applicability to only the select few and its inherent flaw, the higher vision of our relationship with God remains part of the daily liturgy, even preceding the recitation of the lower vision. This fact reminds us that despite our limitations, we should still aspire to the future day when we will be able to overcome them, and moreover, that we can now and again rise above our everyday selves and live life as if we belonged to the religious elite that live that way constantly.


As was noted, the sages inserted the ancillary statement “Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom forever and ever” into our twice-daily liturgical recitation of the Shema. The purpose of this insertion is to focus our consciousness on our direct perception (“sight”) of God’s immanence within creation. Thus, although the Torah itself only requires us to “hear” rather than “see,” the sages encourage us to “see” as much as we can—God’s immanence—in order that we benefit from the advantages of direct perception as well as from intellectual contemplation.29

Inner Dimensions

[13] If you study: The fact that the first paragraph of the Shema is couched in the singular indicates that it is addressing the unique, singular essence of the Jew (the yechidah of the soul), which—at least in the present order—lies latent, deep within our Divine consciousness and is not normally evident. This aspect of the soul, in which we all identify ourselves as “a veritable part of God,” knows nothing of the bounds of nature; therefore, when it does surface, it enables us to operate at a much higher level of Divine energy and existence. This is possible because of this aspect of the soul’s singular focus on God to the exclusion of all else.

In the second paragraph of the Shema, which is couched in the plural, we are addressed as a collection of various faculties and powers, i.e., at the levels below our unique essence. Therefore, the commandment to express love for God “beyond your natural ability” is not relevant.

16 Beware, lest your heart be misled and you neglect (literally, “you turn away”) and you worship insentient gods: The Ba’al Shem Tov interpreted this verse to mean that the moment a person turns away from God, he is already “serving idols.”30

Divine consciousness encompasses the awareness that God is the only true, intrinsic reality, and that everything else is contingent on His reality. As soon as a person allows this consciousness to lapse, he is ipso facto tacitly ascribing at least some independent reality to creation. Having lost sight of the fact that God is the sole autonomous force in the world, he succumbs to the illusion that he should respect lesser “deities,” whether these be celestial, natural, or societal forces (such as wealth, power, and prestige). This is a subtle but very real form of idolatry.31

20 You must inscribe: We have just described how the first two paragraphs of the Shema express the two facets of Divine consciousness that we are intended to maintain throughout our lives. By affixing a mezuzah—a parchment inscribed with these passages—to the doorposts of our homes, we affirm that everything we possess and all aspects of our lives are infused with this dedication to God.

The mezuzah is affixed to the right doorpost because the right side is associated with love,32 as is stated in the Song of Songs,33 “His right hand embraces me,” and maintaining Divine consciousness, as these passages assure us, inspires us to love God with and through all aspects of our lives.

Affixing the mezuzah to the doorpost of the home’s entrance—in addition to the doorposts of all inner doorways—is an affirmation that the ideals and Divine consciousness inscribed on the mezuzah are meant to accompany us when we leave our homes, as well. This heightened Divine consciousness protects us spiritually from the materialistic enticements of those aspects of the outside world that have yet to be rectified, and since every spiritual reality finds expression in physical reality, the mezuzah serves to protect us from physical harm, as well.34

A Closer Look

[20] You must inscribe: It is customary for the scribe to write God’s Name Shakai (שדי) on the back of the mezuzah. The mezuzah is then rolled up and positioned in its case with the word Shakai facing outward.35 This Name can be seen as an acronym for the words “Guardian of the Doors of Israel” (שומר דלתות ישראל).36

Although there is nothing wrong with encasing the mezuzot in ornamental or artistically crafted cases, one should never scrimp with the quality of the parchments in order to afford more expensive cases, since it is only the parchments that fulfill the commandment and produce the spiritual and physical effects the commandment is intended to provide. Hence the importance of ensuring that all the mezuzot affixed to the doorposts of our homes and places of work be written by skilled scribes in compliance with the strictest standards of Jewish law.

Inner Dimensions

[20] You must inscribe: The letters that spell the word mezuzah (מזוזה) allude to the unique ideal of the Jewish home:

זו and זה are the third-person feminine and masculine demonstrative pronouns (“this”), respectively. They thus allude to the male and female principles in creation, which are most fundamentally the cosmic groom and bride (God and the Jewish people), and which are reflected in the husband and wife in the physical home itself. The mem (מ) preceding these two pronouns alludes to the Written Torah, which was given to Moses (in the form of the Ten Commandments, which include the entire Torah37) at the end of 40 days (40 being the numerical value of the letter mem), and the Oral Torah, which, as recorded in its seminal form as the Mishnah, begins and ends with the letter mem. (The first word of the Mishnah is מאימתי [“from when”]38 and the last word in the Mishnah is שלום [“peace”].39) The word mezuzah thus alludes to the domestic harmony between husband and wife as well as to that between God and the Jewish people, which is ultimately possible only when their relationship is governed by the principles of the Torah.40