Positive Mitzvah Ten

Recite the Shema' each evening and morning

Devarim 6:7 You shall teach them thoroughly to your children and you shall speak of them while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you retire and when you arise.

Hashem commanded us to recite [read] the Shema' twice every day. It consists of the three sections of Scripture: "Shema" (4-9), "And it shall be if you hearken" (11:13-21), "And Hashem said" (BaMidbar 15:37-41).

For the first section contains the mitzvot of the unity of Hashem and love for Him, Baruch Hu, as well as the study of the Torah, which is the peg on which everything depends.

In the second section there is the acceptance of the yoke of the other Mitzvot, while in the third section, which is about the tzitzit, there is the remembrance of all the Mitzvot; and it is a religious duty to mention the exodus from Egypt, as Scripture states, "that you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt, all the days of your life" (Devarim 16:3).

The ordinances pertaining to this Mitzvah are explained in Berachot, where it is shown that the reading of the Shema is ordained by the Torah. (Berachot 21a)

The Tosefta says: "Just as the Torah has ordained an appointed time for the reading of the Shema', even so have the Sages appointed a time for Prayer" (Berachot; Tosefta 3:1); that is to say, the times of Prayer are not ordained by the Torah, but the duty of Prayer itself is imposed by the Torah, as we have explained,1 and the Sages [only] appointed the times of Prayer.

This is what the Sages mean when they say (Berachot 26b): "[The Men of the Great Assembly] appointed Prayers to correspond with the daily Burnt-offerings"; that is to say, they fixed the times of Prayer to correspond with the times at which [the daily Burnt-offerings] were brought.

When our Sages arranged the content of the Siddur, they included the Shema' in the morning and evening prayers. The Hebrew word Shema' - gives us a hint about our three daily prayers. The first letter Shin (shin) stands for Shacharit - the morning prayers. The second letter Mem (mem) stands for Minchah - the afternoon prayers. The third letter (ayin) stands for Arvit (Maariv) - the evening prayers.

1. See Positive Mitzvah 5