This week begins the 6th year of Ancient Ideas for the Modern Mind. Thank you to all of those who continue to support this project. May we share many more Divrei Torah for years to come!
In Parshas Eikev, Moshe continues to impart his wisdom upon Bnei Yisrael; giving over to them the most important lessons and messages they learned on their journey through the desert, and the information they needed to survive in Eretz Yisrael. Included in this week’s parsha, is a pasuk that I find to be among the most confusing in the entire Sefer.
“וְעַתָּה יִשְׂרָאֵל מָה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ שֹׁאֵל מֵעִמָּךְ כִּי אִם לְיִרְאָה אֶת יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לָלֶכֶת בְּכָל דְּרָכָיו וּלְאַהֲבָה אֹתוֹ וְלַעֲבֹד אֶת יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשֶׁךָ” “And now, Yisrael, what does Hashem, your God, ask of you? Only to fear Hashem, your God, and to go in all His ways and to love Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and soul” (Devarim 10:12). Hashem only wants us to do all these things; but these are far from simple things! And yet, Moshe makes it sound as if this is the easiest thing to do. We know from experience, it takes a considerable amount of time for someone to reach a level of complete love of Hashem where he is serving Him with all his heart and soul, so how can the Torah make it sound so simple? What is the meaning of this pasuk?
Rashi’s explanation on the Torah is meant to clarify confusing sections; however, on this pasuk, his explanation doesn’t seem to add anything and only seems to add confusion. There is a very famous statement from Chazal (See Brachos 33b) that everything in this world is controlled by Hashem except for fear of Hashem. (An interesting statement in its own right that needs explanation.) Rashi explains that we learn this statement out from the fact that our pasuk asks us to fear Hashem. The fact that Hashem is asking us to fear Him seems to prove this statement, but how do we know that everything else comes from Him too?
Following the logical steps in this thought process, the answer should be clear. Moshe says that all Hashem asks from us is to fear Him and to do the mitzvos. We’ve been reading this pasuk with the wrong emphasis; the pasuk is not just asking us to fear Hashem, it wants to tell us that this is really all we have to do! Everything else in our lives will be taken care for us by Hashem (referring to our wants and needs)! If we trust in Hashem, He will provide for us. However, He can’t force us to love Him, we still need to do that on our own. This is a proof to Chazal’s statement; everything is in Hashem’s hands except for our level of fear and love.
Understanding now how to read the pasuk should make it easier for us to fulfill it. With all Hashem does for us, He asks this one thing in return. While it remains difficult to accomplish, Hashem is reminding us that He will take care of everything else in our lives, thereby filling us with love and gratitude, giving us a ‘head start’ on fulfilling this pasuk, and letting us know that we have more time to work on these things since we don’t have to worry about anything else.
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