May you and your family have a joyous Sabbath. If you observe the Sabbath, I pray your meal, your family togetherness, and your prayers be especially joyful.
My meditation this Shabbat concerns a line from the blessings preceding the Shema:
Enlighten our eyes in your Torah, attach our hearts to your commandments, and unify our hearts to love and fear your name.
What a thing to pray. All three parts are a lesson for us.
One, we need our eyes enlightened in Torah. This could be a prayer for enlightenment in studying Torah. It could also be a prayer to be enlightened in life through Torah. Either way it is something we need. We should pray to understand God’s instruction in the Bible. We should also pray to see the world through the truth of the Bible. Just one example should suffice — we should see people as the Bible describes them, as images of God, and not as inconveniences or rivals.
Two, we need our hearts attached to the commandments. The idea is that God’s commandments become habits. This is not to say that we lose devotion or intentionality in performing them. It is simply that we make God’s ways our ways so much, that they become natural. They become part of the heart and not something we must concentrate on with the head. This is a preview of God’s promise for the Age to Come when the Torah will be written on our hearts (Jer. 31:33). Here is an example to challenge us — we should be so in the habit of avoiding gossip and slander that it is natural to speak positively and not to shame others.
Three, we need to have our hearts unified around the love and fear of HaShem. The footnote in the Artscroll Siddur says:
Man’s likes and needs propel him in many directions. We ask God to unify our emotions and wishes to serve him in love and fear.
Yeshua taught the same thing when he said:
If your eye is single, your whole body will be full of light. (Matt. 6:22).
May HaShem grant us that kind of focus, that we would not be pulled in multiple directions, but focused on a single objective: loving God.
This Shabbat, take out your Siddur, turn to the blessings before the Shema. The paragraph that begins “Ahavah rabbah ahavtanoo” or “With abundant love have you loved us,” read it and say it with kavanah (devotion, intention).