After listing all the occasions that Klal Yisroel sinned before Hashem,
Moshe issued them a challenge – to devote themselves to Hashem and His
mitzvos. He reminded them that despite all their failings, they still
maintained their status as Hashem’s Chosen Nation. The wording of Moshe’s
challenge to Klal Yisroel, however, is quite puzzling – and is the subject
of much discussion in the gemorah and among our meforshim (commentaries).
Moshe began his charge to the Jews by stating, (Devarim 10:12) “V’atah
Yisroel, muh Hashem Elokecha shoeil maeimach ki im liyirah – and now, what
does Hashem your G-d ask of you – only to fear Him? Moshe was telling his
people that after all that transpired, Hashem’s love for them remains
unchanged (see Rashi), and all they need to do is to have to proper level
of Yiras Shamayim (fear of G-d).
NO SMALL REQUEST
The gemorah (Brachos 33b) wonders why Moshe conveyed Hashem’s request for
the Bnei Yisroel to have yiras shamayim as a minor matter. Isn’t living
one’s life with the fear of G-d a lifelong and difficult goal to attain?
The Gemorah answers this question by stating that as far as Moshe was
concerned, fearing Hashem was second nature. He therefore presented this
matter to the Jews from his perspective – which was that he was only
asking a simple request of the B’nei Yisroel.
This answer, however, seems quite difficult to understand. Surely Moshe
Rabbeinu realized that he was addressing the Jews who were not on such an
elevated level. In fact, Moshe was in the best position to understand the
spiritual level – having dealt with the many complaints of the Jews in the
AN ADDITIONAL QUESTION
Perhaps more puzzling is the fact that in that very phrase, Moshe made
several additional requests of the Bnei Yisroel after posing the initial
call for the Jews to fear Hashem. In fact, Moshe’s statement runs two full
pesukim (Devorim 10:12-13) and includes the charge for the Jews to:
* Love Hashem
* Emulate His ways
* Serve Him with all our hearts, and …
* To keep all the mitzvos.
So, not only did Moshe present Yiras Shamayim as a small and simple
request, but he added on the most fundamental components of our faith –
and told the Jews to keep each and every one of the mitzvos!
This two-pasuk segment is all the more surprising, coming on the heels of
such a protracted rebuke of Klal Yisroel, and close to the death of Moshe.
Why were these critical matters – to fear Hashem, and follow His
commandments – presented as such a seemingly simple request?
TWO ANALOGIES, IF I MAY
Think of the amount of time that you spent preparing for your Bar or Bas
Mitzvah speech, or for reading the Parsha on the week of your Bar Mitzvah.
It would surely total many dozens of hours. During that time, you went
over every part of the speech or parsha. You were trained in how to stand,
how to deliver the speech, where to pause, when to smile – until you got
it just right. Then, you practiced – again and again.
When the moment came, and you were ready to begin, I am certain that your
teacher or parent gave you one last, final tip or two;
“Just relax and look around the room”
“You will be great, enjoy the moment”
“Read the words slowly.”
If you enjoy playing sports, perhaps another analogy may work better.
You have been working on your baseball swing all summer long in sleep-away
camp. You practice again and again and work on the fundamentals. Finally,
you get a turn at bat in a big spot in a Color War baseball game. Your
coach or counselor pats you on the back and says,
“Keep your eye on the ball”
“Just make contact, don’t swing for the fences”
So, in both scenarios; after all the time you spend preparing for that
moment, it all comes down to a simple instruction or two.
Moshe realized that he was about to depart from this world. He reminded
the Bnei Yisroel of their failures over the forty years in the midbar. He
protected their dignity by couching his criticism in coded form. But he
did not spare them as he informed them of the many details of their
As it came time for Moshe to sum up all that his children need to do – and
pass on to future generations – Moshe gave them the most basic instruction.
Once you will have internalized the proper level of Yiras Shamayim, Moshe
was saying, all the other mitzvos will follow. Surely Moshe understood
that this was not as simple for the Jews to follow these instructions as
it was for him. However, Moshe wanted to teach his children the secret to
living a spiritual Torah life was to begin with a rock-solid fear of
May we fortunate to follow these simple – and profound – instructions and
lead meaningful Torah lives.
Rabbi Horowitz is the founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam in Monsey, NY, as well as the founder and Program Director of Agudath Israel's Project Y.E.S. (Youth Enrichment Services), which helps at-risk teens and their parents. He is a popular lecturer on teaching and parenting topics in communities around the world, and is the author of several best-selling parenting tape and CD sets. For more information on Rabbi Horowitz's parenting tapes, visit http://www.rabbihorowitz.com/ or call 845-352-7100 X 133.