“like symbols between your eyes”

After chanting the Sh’ma, “Hear O Israel: Adonai is our G-d, Adonai is One” from Deuteronomy 6:4, we frequently chant the V’ahavta, a prayer that contains the following words:

You shall love the Lord your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words that I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them to your children. You shall speak of them when you sit at home, and when you walk on the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand. They shall be like symbols between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9.

The instruction that Adonai’s words “shall be like symbols between your eyes” was the inspiration for the t’fillin box that some Jews wear on their foreheads while praying.

I, however, have always thought the instruction was metaphorical, not literal.  I believe we are to keep the words of Torah before us to help us find our way through life, like road signs that keep us moving in the correct direction.  There is support for my interpretation.  For example:

Happy is the man who . . . delights in the Torah of the Lord and meditates in  Torah day and night.

Psalms 1:1-2.  And this:

This Book of Torah shall not depart from your mouth; but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may guard and do all that is written; for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success.

Joshua 1:8.

One recent morning during prayers in the chapel, I looked up and noticed “scrolls” … that had been set before me . . . on which I could meditate . . . to help guide me as I find my way in life . . .

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