We read in the Mishnah: “The workers may recite the Sh’ma on top of the tree or on top of the wall of stones…”
May I recite the Sh’ma while waiting on the platform for the subway in Manhattan or for the train to New Jersey? Does it matter that the subway is underground, and the NJ train is mostly above ground? May I say it in my heart during a work meeting? Maybe the issue is that I can recite it anywhere – a long as I am audible to myself so that I can “hear” the words. And so I do …
Why does this question matter? What meaning can it possibly have? It seems to me that the issues of where one is permitted to say the Sh’ma have to do with intent and the ability to concentrate. We read earlier about how to deal with interruptions. Now we read about places where one might be potentially distracted or even in danger.
And yet just as I felt and thought that the answer to “when” is ALWAYS, I feel and think that the answer to “where” is EVERYWHERE. What place could there possibly be where one would not want to be able to say the Sh’ma? Rabbi Akiba said it with his last dying breath.
And while we also read that the performance of certain mitzvot are grounds for an exemption (say, a man consummating his marriage to a virgin) I think that other mitzvot are grounds as well. To me even an interruption where the only visible action is the opportunity to gaze into the eyes of a loved one is a mitzvah worthy of exemption. What is the difference between acknowledging that all is ONE while reciting the Sh’ma and seeing the holy neshamah of the other (through those very windows to the soul, the eyes) as a reflection of this very Oneness?