1) SEVEN DAYS WITHOUT A DREAM
QUESTION: Rebbi Yonah said in the name of Rebbi Zeira that anyone who sleeps for seven days without having a dream is called "evil."
Why is one called "evil" for not having a dream? Since one cannot choose whether or not to dream, why should he be held accountable for not dreaming?
Moreover, if there is something wrong with not dreaming, then why is one called "evil" only when he does not dream for seven days?
ANSWER: The VILNA GA'ON explains this statement exegetically:
"Anyone who sleeps for seven days without having a dream..." -- if one goes for seven days without realizing that this world is a temporary, ethereal existence, like a dream that has no lasting place in reality; "... is called evil" -- because he does not realize the purpose of his existence. A person must recognize that this world is only temporary and must direct his activities in this world towards the attainment of the real and eternal life of the World to Come.
One who goes for six days without coming to this realization is excused. For six days a person is involved in worldly pursuits, working hard to earn a living. However, if he goes for seven days -- including a Shabbos, the day on which one is free to pursue spiritual growth -- without realizing the purpose of this world, he is indeed evil.
2) THE TWO THEMES OF SHEMA YISRAEL
AGADAH: In the Mishnah (13a), Rebbi Yehoshua ben Korchah explains the order of the first two paragraphs of the Shema. "Why is Shema Yisrael read before v'Hayah Im Shamo'a? It is because it is necessary to accept upon ourselves Hash-m's sovereignty [by saying "Shema Yisrael..."] before we accept upon ourselves to fulfill His commandments [in v'Hayah Im Shamo'a]." The Mishnah makes it clear that the verses of Shema Yisrael express our acceptance of Hash-m as our King.
However, the Gemara here (14b) suggests an entirely different theme in Shema Yisrael. Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai says that it is appropriate to read Shema Yisrael before v'Hayah Im Shamo'a because Shema Yisrael instructs us to learn the Torah ourselves, while v'Hayah tells us to teach Torah to others (and one cannot teach the Torah before learning it himself, as Rashi points out). This implies that the theme of Shema Yisrael is that we must learn Torah. The Gemara continues and says that the two reasons do not disagree. Shema Yisrael contains both themes -- the acceptance of Hash-m's sovereignty and the requirement to learn His Torah.
The Torah-learning theme that Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai discusses is evident in a statement he makes elsewhere. "Rebbi Yochanan said in the name of Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai: One who reads Shema Yisrael morning and evening fulfills the injunction that 'the words of this Torah shall not depart from your mouth (Yehoshua 1:3)'" (Menachos 99b). That is, the Shema not only commands us to learn the Torah, but the reading of the Shema itself provides us with a minimal amount of Torah study. Another source that refers to the Shema as the archetypal Torah-learning is the Gemara that says, "When a child begins to speak, it is incumbent on his father to teach him two verses [in order to initiate him in the study of Torah]: 'Torah Tzivah Lanu Moshe' and 'Shema Yisrael...'" (Sukah 42a). (See also Berachos 5a, "One who reads Shema before going to sleep... as it says, 'Yagbihu Of,' and 'Of' means Torah....")
The two motifs in the Shema are reflected in the blessings of the Shema. In the morning, the Shema is preceded by two blessings. The first blessing ("Yotzer Or") describes the grandeur of the celestial bodies which bears witness to the exalted nature of their Creator. This blessing corresponds to the theme in the Shema of the acceptance of Hash-m's sovereignty, a lesson that may be learned through reflecting on the heavenly bodies (see Tehilim 19:2). In the second blessing ("Ahavah Rabah") we beseech Hash-m to teach us His Torah. This corresponds to the second theme of the Shema. The same two themes repeat themselves in the blessings that precede the evening recitation of the Shema ("Ha'Ma'ariv Aravim" and "Ahavas Olam").
The two themes can be viewed as parts of a single concept. Learning Hash-m's Torah is a direct means of attaining love for Him and accepting His sovereignty (see Rashi to Devarim 6:6; Sifri, Devarim #33). When we see the splendor of the Torah's laws and lessons, we appreciate the love that Hash-m has shown us by giving us His Torah, and we display our love for Him in return by accepting Him as our King.
3) THE THIRD PARAGRAPH OF THE SHEMA
QUESTION: The Gemara relates that the Jews of Eretz Yisrael used to recite an abridged version of the third paragraph of the Shema. The third paragraph, as we know it, is comprised of the passage that mentions the Mitzvah of Tzitzis and the Exodus from Egypt (Bamidbar 15:37-41). In Eretz Yisrael, they would say only the first six words of Bamidbar 15:38 ("Speak to the people of Israel and say to them") and the last three words of Bamidbar 15:41 ("I am Hash-m your G-d"). The Gemara concludes that our practice is to start the third paragraph just as they used to recite it in Eretz Yisrael. Once we have started the third paragraph, though, we complete the entire passage.
The RASHBA wonders how the Jews in Eretz Yisrael could recite only part of a verse? The Gemara earlier (12b) teaches the rule that "we may not make a break in any passage in which Moshe did not make a break." How, then, could they make a break in the passage of Bamidbar 15:37-41? (The Rashba gives an answer to this question.)
The CHASAM SOFER (Teshuvos OC #10) responds to the Rashba's question by asserting that they were not interrupting the passage at all. Rather, they were reciting a complete verse from an entirely different part of the Torah, for we find an entire verse comprised only of the words that they said, "Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, 'I am Hash-m your G-d'" (Vayikra 18:2)! Therefore, they were not cutting any particular passage short.
What, then, is the Rashba's question?
ANSWER: RAV ELIYAHU GUTTMACHER (in the back of our printings of the Gemara) answers that when the Gemara says that they said, "Speak to the people of Israel and say to them... I am Hash-m your G-d" (Bamidbar 15:38, 41) it means that they said the previous verse, which introduces the passage, as well (Bamidbar 15:37): "Hash-m said (va'Yomer) to Moshe, saying." If they indeed had intended to say the complete verse from Vayikra 18:2, they would have started with a different verse, "Hash-m spoke (va'Yedaber) to Moshe, saying" (Vayikra 18:1). This is also clear from Rav's statement that if one begins the passage he must "complete" it. He cannot be referring to Vayikra 18:2, because that passage is already complete. (Rashi, in DH Lo Yaschil, implies that they also recited the introductory verse, which proves that they were reading from the passage of Tzitzis and not from another section of the Torah.)
The Rashba, therefore, is justified in asserting that they read only part of a verse.