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Parshas Eikev

Who is Your Favorite Artist?

By Rabbi Label Lam

And now Israel what does HASHEM your G-d ask of you? Only to fear HASHEM, your G-d, to go in all His ways and to love Him, and to serve HASHEM, your G-d, with all your heart and all your soul. (Devarim 10:12)

Based upon this verse our sages understood the following important principle of life: “Everything is from heaven except for the fear of heaven”. What does that mean? The Sefas Emes explains that HASHEM’s interaction with the world is unlike that of a regular king of flesh and blood. An earthly monarch has as part of his egoistic job description to impose fear upon his subjects while demanding through taxation that they pay the price tag of his policies.

In sharp contradistinction, HASHEM, the King of Kings generously showers endless varieties of continuous goodness upon His world. His subjects are the beneficiaries of boundless blessings more hidden than revealed. What is expected in return? What is our job? It is our only real task to develop, on our own, something called “Yira”, a true recognition. How is this accomplished? How does one stir a stilled heart to awaken to the authenticity of this overwhelming experience?

The Rambam asks, “Which is the way love Him and to fear Him?” He answers rather poetically, “At the moment when a man contemplates His deeds and His awesome and grandiose creations and he sees within them His inestimable wisdom which is without limit, immediately he loves and praises and intoxicated and desires with a great and overwhelming desire to know the greatness of HASHEM. (Hilchos Yesode’ HaTorah 2:2)

These days with the encyclopedic explosion of scientific knowledge about the universe one might expect that there would be more and more “Ahava”-love and “Yira” –fear of HASHEM than ever before.

However, Vaclav Havel- poet and president the Czech Republic, observed, “We may know immeasurably more about the universe than our ancestors did and yet it increasingly seems they knew something more essential about it than we do, something that escapes us.”

Since life is an open book test and the entire cosmos is on display and equally available to all, then how come some people “get it”- a jolt of “Yiras HASHEM” and others “walk on by” blithely unaware remaining eminently unimpressed? That’s the $64,000 question!

Years back I went with a friend on Shabbos to visit Rabbi Mordechai Schwab ztl. He invited us to sit and chat. It was an awesome treat. His eyes kept darting up to the heavens, resetting his orientation. At one moment he stared lovingly at a dumb-cane plant in the corner of the room as if he was noticing its large ornate leaves for the first time. Chuckling quietly to himself, he asked rhetorically in the most innocent and child-like way, “Who painted this?” It was stunning!

When Chana was finally granted a child she too declared, “There is no (tzur) rock like our G-d!” The Talmud plays on the word “Tzur”- rock and says there is no “tzair”- artist like our G-d!

Gazing at a sunset or a cloud filled sky, a child’s face, a finger, a fly or anything, my wife and I have a running joke. “I ask, “Who’s your favorite artist?” She says, “HASHEM! I say, “Mine too! I guess that’s why we got married to each other!” The Rambam spells it out, “At the moment when a person contemplates His deeds…” The deeds are already perceived and understood as “His”. Scientific inquiry alone is inadequate. An important question must be asked and answered first! The seriousness of this question cannot be overstated! It’s no joke! However you phrase it: “Who painted this?” “Who is your favorite artist?”

DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and



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