A wise reader of my last post pointed out that the third paragraph of the Sh’ma (vayomer) is not contained within tefillin, and he is indeed correct, though you might think otherwise from reading my post.  So let me clarify, with an eye to the literacy that I alluded to before.

The parshiot or passages written on the parchment within tefillin are as follows:

Kadesh – Exodus 13:1-10

1 The Lord spoke further to Moses, saying, 2“Consecrate to Me every first-born; man and beast, the first issue of every womb among the Israelites is Mine.” 3 And Moses said to the people, “Remember this day, on which you went free from Egypt, the house of bondage, how the Lord freed you from it with a mighty hand: no leavened bread shall be eaten. 4 You go free on this day, in the month of Abib. 5So, when the Lord has brought you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall observe in this month the following practice: 6“Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a festival of the Lord.7 Throughout the seven days unleavened bread shall be eaten; no leavened bread shall be found with you, and no leaven shall be found in all your territory. 8 And you shall explain to your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I went free from Egypt.’ 9“And this shall serve you as a sign on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead—in order that the Teaching of the Lord may be in your mouth—that with a mighty hand the Lord freed you from Egypt. 10You shall keep this institution at its set time from year to year.

(א) וַיְדַבֵּר יְקֹוָק אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר: (ב) קַדֶּשׁ לִי כָל בְּכוֹר פֶּטֶר כָּל רֶחֶם בִּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בָּאָדָם וּבַבְּהֵמָה לִי הוּא: (ג) וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל הָעָם זָכוֹר אֶת הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר יְצָאתֶם מִמִּצְרַיִם מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים כִּי בְּחֹזֶק יָד הוֹצִיא יְקֹוָק אֶתְכֶם מִזֶּה וְלֹא יֵאָכֵל חָמֵץ: (ד) הַיּוֹם אַתֶּם יֹצְאִים בְּחֹדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב: (ה) וְהָיָה כִי יְבִיאֲךָ יְקֹוָק אֶל אֶרֶץ הַכְּנַעֲנִי וְהַחִתִּי וְהָאֱמֹרִי וְהַחִוִּי וְהַיְבוּסִי אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ לָתֶת לָךְ אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבָשׁ וְעָבַדְתָּ אֶת הָעֲבֹדָה הַזֹּאת בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה: (ו) שִׁבְעַת יָמִים תֹּאכַל מַצֹּת וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי חַג לַיקֹוָק: (ז) מַצּוֹת יֵאָכֵל אֵת שִׁבְעַת הַיָּמִים וְלֹא יֵרָאֶה לְךָ חָמֵץ וְלֹא יֵרָאֶה לְךָ שְׂאֹר בְּכָל גְּבֻלֶךָ: (ח) וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר בַּעֲבוּר זֶה עָשָׂה יְקֹוָק לִי בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרָיִם: (ט) וְהָיָה לְךָ לְאוֹת עַל יָדְךָ וּלְזִכָּרוֹן בֵּין עֵינֶיךָ לְמַעַן תִּהְיֶה תּוֹרַת יְקֹוָק בְּפִיךָ כִּי בְּיָד חֲזָקָה הוֹצִאֲךָ יְקֹוָק מִמִּצְרָיִם: (י) וְשָׁמַרְתָּ אֶת הַחֻקָּה הַזֹּאת לְמוֹעֲדָהּ מִיָּמִים יָמִימָה:

V’haya ki y’vi’acha – Exodus 13:11-16

11“And when the Lord has brought you into the land of the Canaanites, as He swore to you and to your fathers, and has given it to you, 12 you shall set apart for the Lord every first issue of the womb: every male firstling that your cattle drop shall be the Lord‘s. 13 But every firstling ass you shall redeem with a sheep; if you do not redeem it, you must break its neck. And you must redeem every first-born male among your children. 14 And when, in time to come, your son asks you, saying, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘It was with a mighty hand that the Lord brought us out from Egypt, the house of bondage. 15 When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord slew every first-born in the land of Egypt, the first-born of both man and beast. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord every first male issue of the womb, but redeem every first-born among my sons.’ 16 “And so it shall be as a sign upon your hand and as a symbol on your forehead that with a mighty hand the Lord freed us from Egypt.”

(יא) וְהָיָה כִּי יְבִאֲךָ יְקֹוָק אֶל אֶרֶץ הַכְּנַעֲנִי כַּאֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לְךָ וְלַאֲבֹתֶיךָ וּנְתָנָהּ לָךְ: (יב) וְהַעֲבַרְתָּ כָל פֶּטֶר רֶחֶם לַיקֹוָק וְכָל פֶּטֶר שֶׁגֶר בְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה לְךָ הַזְּכָרִים לַיקֹוָק: (יג) וְכָל פֶּטֶר חֲמֹר תִּפְדֶּה בְשֶׂה וְאִם לֹא תִפְדֶּה וַעֲרַפְתּוֹ וְכֹל בְּכוֹר אָדָם בְּבָנֶיךָ תִּפְדֶּה: (יד) וְהָיָה כִּי יִשְׁאָלְךָ בִנְךָ מָחָר לֵאמֹר מַה זֹּאת וְאָמַרְתָּ אֵלָיו בְּחֹזֶק יָד הוֹצִיאָנוּ יְקֹוָק מִמִּצְרַיִם מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים: (טו) וַיְהִי כִּי הִקְשָׁה פַרְעֹה לְשַׁלְּחֵנוּ וַיַּהֲרֹג יְקֹוָק כָּל בְּכוֹר בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מִבְּכֹר אָדָם וְעַד בְּכוֹר בְּהֵמָה עַל כֵּן אֲנִי זֹבֵחַ לַיקֹוָק כָּל פֶּטֶר רֶחֶם הַזְּכָרִים וְכָל בְּכוֹר בָּנַי אֶפְדֶּה: (טז) וְהָיָה לְאוֹת עַל יָדְכָה וּלְטוֹטָפֹת בֵּין עֵינֶיךָ כִּי בְּחֹזֶק יָד הוֹצִיאָנוּ יְקֹוָק מִמִּצְרָיִם:

Sh’ma Yisrael – Deuteronomy 6: 4-9

4 Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. 7 Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead; 9 inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

(ד) שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְקֹוָק אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְקֹוָק אֶחָד: (ה) וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת יְקֹוָק אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשְׁךָ וּבְכָל מְאֹדֶךָ: (ו) וְהָיוּ הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם עַל לְבָבֶךָ: (ז) וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּרֶךְ וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ וּבְקוּמֶךָ: (ח) וּקְשַׁרְתָּם לְאוֹת עַל יָדֶךָ וְהָיוּ לְטֹטָפֹת בֵּין עֵינֶיךָ: (ט) וּכְתַבְתָּם עַל מְזוּזֹת בֵּיתֶךָ וּבִשְׁעָרֶיךָ:

V’haya im shamoa – Deuteronomy 11:13-21

13 If, then, you obey the commandments that I enjoin upon you this day, loving the Lord your God and serving Him with all your heart and soul, 14 I will grant the rain for your land in season, the early rain and the late. You shall gather in your new grain and wine and oil— 15 I will also provide grass in the fields for your cattle—and thus you shall eat your fill. 16 Take care not to be lured away to serve other gods and bow to them. 17 For the Lord‘s anger will flare up against you, and He will shut up the skies so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its produce; and you will soon perish from the good land that the Lord is assigning to you. 18 Therefore impress these My words upon your very heart: bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead, 19 and teach them to your children—reciting them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up; 20 and inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates— 21 to the end that you and your children may endure, in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to assign to them, as long as there is a heaven over the earth.

(יג) וְהָיָה אִם שָׁמֹעַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶל מִצְוֹתַי אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם הַיּוֹם לְאַהֲבָה אֶת יְקֹוָק אֱלֹהֵיכֶם וּלְעָבְדוֹ בְּכָל לְבַבְכֶם וּבְכָל נַפְשְׁכֶם:(יד) וְנָתַתִּי מְטַר אַרְצְכֶם בְּעִתּוֹ יוֹרֶה וּמַלְקוֹשׁ וְאָסַפְתָּ דְגָנֶךָ וְתִירֹשְׁךָ וְיִצְהָרֶךָ:(טו) וְנָתַתִּי עֵשֶׂב בְּשָׂדְךָ לִבְהֶמְתֶּךָ וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבָעְתָּ: (טז) הִשָּׁמְרוּ לָכֶם פֶּן יִפְתֶּה לְבַבְכֶם וְסַרְתֶּם וַעֲבַדְתֶּם אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים וְהִשְׁתַּחֲוִיתֶם לָהֶם:(יז) וְחָרָה אַף יְקֹוָק בָּכֶם וְעָצַר אֶת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְלֹא יִהְיֶה מָטָר וְהָאֲדָמָה לֹא תִתֵּן אֶת יְבוּלָהּ וַאֲבַדְתֶּם מְהֵרָה מֵעַל הָאָרֶץ הַטֹּבָה אֲשֶׁר יְקֹוָק נֹתֵן לָכֶם:(יח) וְשַׂמְתֶּם אֶת דְּבָרַי אֵלֶּה עַל לְבַבְכֶם וְעַל נַפְשְׁכֶם וּקְשַׁרְתֶּם אֹתָם לְאוֹת עַל יֶדְכֶם וְהָיוּ לְטוֹטָפֹת בֵּין עֵינֵיכֶם: (יט) וְלִמַּדְתֶּם אֹתָם אֶת בְּנֵיכֶם לְדַבֵּר בָּם בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּרֶךְ וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ וּבְקוּמֶךָ: (כ) וּכְתַבְתָּם עַל מְזוּזוֹת בֵּיתֶךָ וּבִשְׁעָרֶיךָ: (כא) לְמַעַן יִרְבּוּ יְמֵיכֶם וִימֵי בְנֵיכֶם עַל הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע יְקֹוָק לַאֲבֹתֵיכֶם לָתֵת לָהֶם כִּימֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם עַל הָאָרֶץ:

These are the four places in the Torah where we find the instruction to bind [them] as a symbol upon your hand and have [them] be a symbol between your eyes, the words which have led to tefillin.  The two passages from Exodus place the command for tefillin within the context of God’s bringing us out from Egypt – from slavery to freedom, from Pharaoh to God.  We might say dayenu – if God had only brought us out of slavery to the desert, it would have been enough.  We might say dayenu – if God had built a relationship with our ancestors based on how God took us out of Egypt with a mighty hand, that would have been enough to cultivate a commitment to God.  But we don’t stop there.   We need to build a relationship with God that isn’t just the absence of slavery, or even the acknowledgement of the heroic rescue from that lack of freedom. Instead, we discover our own positive relationship with God – a relationship rooted in the love and faith that we hear in the first paragraph of the Sh’ma.

Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might – with the tefillin affixed on your arm facing your heart, with the tefillin between your eyes resting near the place where your thoughts and feelings reside, with the tefillin wrapped around your arm indicating your strength and your power to impact the world.  Bind them as a sign so that your children will know; integrate this love into every aspect of your life, as your go about your day, as your wake up and as you go back to sleep.  Do not forget this unshakeable love.  This love of God is ol malchut shamayim – accepting the yoke of the kingdom of heaven.  A yoke is not something to be taken lightly.  An ox is harnessed to  a yoke in order to plow a field or carry a heavy load.  The yoke empowers the ox to accomplish more than he could without it and it gives him direction, but it is also a burden.  It is restrictive.

We accept God as the Ruler of heaven, we take on the ol malchut shamayim.  Just as the ox could carry as heavy a load without the yoke, we could not be in this covenantal relationship with God without give-and-take, without accepting limitations to our actions so that we might receive God’s presence.  Such a covenant, like any serious, committed relationship, comes with great potential benefits and responsibilities. This last passage in tefillin, Deuteronomy 11:13-21, doesn’t let us forget the potential consequences of veering away from what we have accepted.  We accept ol mitzvot – the yoke of mitzvot, of commandments that may reflect our love of God and our gratitude for God’s taking us out of Egypt.  Lest we forget and be tempted to veer away from those obligations, let us be reminded through the tefillin that we bind, as a symbol of that relationship with God, upon our arm and between our eyes.