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prayer pings #31 night and day

The obligation of saying Shema does not end with the Shema.

Chazal teach in Berachot 12a that in order for us to fulfill the obligation of Kriyat Shema we have to say the subsequent paragraph of אמת ויציב (in the morning) or אמת ואמונה (in the evening). They explain that this is based on the verse in Tehillim 92:3, לְהַגִּיד בַּבֹּקֶר חַסְדֶּךָ וֶאֱמוּנָתְךָ בַּלֵּילוֹת, "To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning and Your faithfulness in the nights" .

Is this just Chazal's way of ensuring we continue on in the siddur? Or is there more going on here?

On the surface, our verse from Tehillim is a proof text in the Gemara because it instructs us to praise God day and night, which is done through our remembering of Yetziyat Mitzrayim in this final blessing of the Shema. But when we look deeper, we see that with אמת ויציב or אמת ואמונה, we uncover the true impact that Kriyat Shema has on who we are as people .

Based on this verse from Tehillim, we see that when we say Shema in the morning and in the evening, we are declaring God's chesed in the daytime and His faith in us in the nighttime. But day and night are not mere references to time; they are words that point to real life experiences. We who say the Shema are people who do not just recognize, but also praise God when we are surrounded by light or enshrouded in darkness.

This is why our obligation is not complete until we say אמת ויציב or אמת ואמונה: It is with these words that we remind ourselves that what we just said alters who we are. The act of Kriyat Shema builds the tools inside of us to access God בַּבֹּקֶר ובלֵּילוֹת, sometimes even when we do not realize it.

The next time you say Shema and אמת ויציב or אמת ואמונה, focus on how these words transform you. What does it mean for you to speak of God's chesed and His faithfulness in moments of light as well as in moments of darkness?

~Rabbanit Alissa

Wed, August 21 2019 20 Av 5779