Ekev- What does G-d want from you?

In this parasha, Moshe continues his speech to the Jewish people, reminding them that the Land was not being given to them because of their righteousness but because of the wickedness of the people G-d was driving out before them. Ramban commented that the denial of merit referred to the generation in the wilderness who were constantly rebellious.

 

Moshe listed all their errors and at the end of it all, as if to leave behind all the wrongdoing of the past, he concluded with the question “Now,Israel,what does the Lord your G-d require of you?” He answered “Fear G-d and walk in His ways,and love Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul,to observe G-d’s commandments and decrees, which I command you today for your benefit.”

 

Nechama Leibowitz wrote that this passage contains the essence of the whole Torah, the statement of the will of G-d on one leg! The phrasing implies a minimum requirement. Moshe might have  implied that it was a small matter for him, but it is certainly difficult for the ordinary man. Leibowitz quoted from Albo who wrote that fear of G-d is a general principle, embracing all the commandments of the Torah. He wrote that Avraham was not called G-d fearing until he had been through his trials. It is extremely difficult to attain this quality, however it can be achieved by observing the commandments of the Torah. Albo also wrote that it is very difficult for a person to attain the required degree of fear, love and service with all his heart and soul. G-d makes it easier for man by commanding him instead to “merely” observe His stautes and commandments, thereby achieving the same degree of perfection.

 

R’Eli Munk quoted from Maharsha who explained that there are 2 kinds of fear of G-d. The first is a fear of punishment, and the second is an intellectual fear, the awe of Divine grandeur. David also said “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. Albo wrote that this meant that the best and and essential part of wisdom is to attain the fear of G-d.

 

R’ Munk wrote that there are also 2 kinds of love, great love and eternal love. Great love(ahava raba) is sparked by pleasure and joy in the service of G-d, whereas eternal love (ahavat olam) is a spiritual and intellectual love. Rambam characterised it as “when a person contemplates the immense works of G-d’s creation and sees His infinite wisdom, so far surpassing man’s, he will at once love Him, praise Him, and glorify Him, and feel a longing for his great Name”.

 

This passage ends with “for your benefit”. R’ Munk interpreted this with the phrase:  G-d says “what I ask of you is not for Myself, but only for your own good”. 

 

 

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