Try to imagine life without the word because. You got paid this week because you came to work each workday morning. They let you walk out of the store with a bag of food because you paid for it in coin, paper or plastic. As a rule, you are loved by those whom you love, are cared for by those for whom you care, are treated nicely by those whom you treat nicely.

Can we rise above this tight little world of “because”? Maimonides speaks of a kind of person who “does the truth because it is true,” meaning that there is no “because.” There is a place, Maimonides is saying, where things are by virtue of what they are, not as a means for something else.

Indeed, we encounter glimmers of this world of truth in our utilitarian lives. A parent loves and cares for their child “because he/she is my child”—i.e., for no reason. Yet by and large we live our lives in the land of “because,” so that even when we talk about the world-of-truth aspects of our lives, we still find it hard to avoid the terminology of our natural “because” reality (“does the truth because it is true”; “I love her because she is my child”).

The Shema is a collection of 20 biblical verses enumerating the fundamentals of Judaism. When a Jewish baby is born, we bring children to recite the Shema at his cribside. On his deathbed, the Jew recites the Shema. In between, we say these verses twice every day, morning and evening.

The Shema consists of three sections. The first two sections—Deuteronomy 6:4–9 and 11:13–21—declare the oneness of G‑d and our duty as Jews to love Him, to study the Torah and teach it to our children, bind tefillin on our arm and head, and affix mezuzot to the doorposts of our home. (The third section—Numbers 15:37–41—speaks of the mitzvah of tzitzit and of the Exodus.)

The interesting thing about the Shema’s first two sections is that the second is basically a repetition of the first. There is one primary difference. In the first section of the Shema we are simply told to love G‑d and perform these mitzvot as our affirmation of G‑d’s oneness. In the second section—which forms part of this week's Torah reading of Eikev (“Because”)—we are also informed of the rewards of fulfilling the mitzvot (“I will give the rain of your land in its due season . . . and you shall eat and be sated . . . In order that your days be multiplied . . . upon the land”) and warned of the consequences of transgression (“He will stop up the heavens . . . you will soon perish from the good land”). Other than that, however, the second section repeats the verses of the first, with only minor differences in wording and syntax.

If being a Jew meant breaking free of egotism and temporality of our “because” world, we would have only the first section of the Shema. If the essence of Jewishness were the development and perfection of the reality into which we were born, we’d have only the second section. We have both, because our mission in life is both.

G‑d wants us to rise above the narrowness of our humanity, and at the same time remain trapped within it. He wants us to touch Truth, and at the same time remain enmeshed in the needs and machinations of our selfhood. G‑d wants to be one—He wants to be everywhere.

Also see Does G‑d Give Us Candies? Six Reasons Why and the From the Chassidic Masters section of this week’s Parshah summary.