Shouldn’t the text in our Siddur for Shema come from the actual text of the Shema in the Torah? Upon comparison of the two, it becomes immediately clear that a line has been added onto the text found in the Torah itself. In the Torah, immediately after the first verse of Shema Yisrael: Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is the One and Only, the first of the three paragraphs of the Shema begins: You shall love the Lord your God, etc. In the Siddur, however, the line “Blessed is the Name of His Glorious kingdom for all eternity” is added! Why does the Siddur-version of the Shema contain a line that’s not found in the Torah’s seemingly original version, and where does the line come from?
The Talmud (Pesachim 56a, cited in The Complete Artscoll Siddur, p. 91) relates that the first time the verse of Shema Yisrael was said was actually back in Egypt, when Jacob and all of his sons had reunited there. After Jacob showed concern that perhaps not all of his sons were loyal to God, they all affirmed their faith by proclaiming the verse of Shema Yisrael (Yisrael referred to their father Jacob, as opposed to the Jewish people as it does in the Torah and Siddur). Jacob responded with a declaration that he apparently personally composed: “Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity.” This line appears nowhere in the Torah itself, but the Talmud concludes that we must recite it anyway as part of Shema, in emulation of Jacob. Since it would be improper to add onto the Torah text that we recite, we say that line quietly. A couple of questions still remain: What motivated Jacob to say it originally, and, if the Shema that Moses would eventually record is based on the twelve brother’s proclamation, why did Moses omit it?
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (1895-1986) suggests that recitation of the line “Blessed is the Name…” serves to reinforce one’s commitment to God as a response to an environment that challenges that commitment. The pagan and immoral society that surrounded Jacob and his family motivated him to make this declaration. Moses, however, transcribed the Torah at the time after the Exodus when the Jewish nation wandered alone in the wilderness, when there was no potentially negative external influence, so he omitted it.
It’s enlightening to take notice of how Jacob chooses to counteract what he sees as a threatening environment. Jacob doesn’t actively campaign against what he opposes in a negative way. He does not make any proclamations about how foolish and misguided idolatry is, nor does he criticize the immorality that he sees around him. He instead emphasizes the positive, by reinforcing his and his family’s sense and awareness of God’s greatness (which can in turn lead to the rejection of immorality) without making any mention of the shortcomings of the other side. Jacob set the example, in front of all of his sons, of how to guide and educate one’s family in a healthy, respectful, and dignified way.